For most of us, the recent pandemic is over, only now are we seeing the tremendous impact on our society. Especially for the survivors and those who lost loved ones, and those still suffering from the effects of surviving infection. An English lesson that is worth listening to!
Today’s English listening topic contains a lot of interesting English language, vocabulary and phrases. The lesson also picks up on a topic I think we will all hear more about in the coming months. Especially as the rules about talking about the pandemic on social media relax. We are all about to learn that the impact of the pandemic is much more than we could ever imagine.
As rules, that many thought necessary to manage risks, are removed or relaxed. As we let "the dust settle", which means to allow things to return to normal after a period of intense activity. We are now understanding the impact on our communities and society at large.
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People have lost loved ones, children have missed schooling, industries have changed, we have incurred huge societal debts. People still carry the life-changing impact of recovering from infection. It’s a lot to process.
- Tremendous: Very great in amount, scale, or intensity.
- Survivors: People who remain alive or continue to exist, especially after facing dangerous situations or hardships.
- Intense: Having a very strong effect or felt very strongly.
- Communities: Groups of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
- Rash: A lot of red spots on the skin that is usually itchy and uncomfortable.
- Syndrome: A group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms.
- Appetite: The natural desire to eat food.
- Chronic: (of a disease or condition) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate.
- Fatigue: Extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.
- Symptom: A physical or mental feature that is regarded as indicating a condition of disease.
Hi there. Today let's talk about a health issue, which is very current in the UK, which is a current concern. And this health issue is a relatively new one as well, so it's not one that's fully understood. What I'm talking about, if you've come across it, is the phenomenon known as 'long Covid'. There seem to be a small percentage of people in the UK and I expect across the world too, who are seemingly suffering the after effects of catching Covid. Covid for them is not over in a few days. It's part of an ongoing health issue.
I have worked with people with this difficulty in my therapy practice. It certainly seems to be a phenomenon and one that's poorly understood. So let's talk about this today in the podcast. And this will also give you some good practice at health related words and phrases. Is long Covid recognized as a health issue in your country? And what is the understanding where you live of this very new health condition?
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So we're all familiar with the Covid 19 pandemic. Probably more familiar than we want to be with it! But what most of us are finding is that concern has lessened over recent months. Case numbers may rise or fall, but it's believed that the Omicron variant and any subsequent variants of the illness are milder, less serious than the ones that went before. Case numbers are expected to rise again this winter, but most of us are hoping that we can get away without doing lockdowns again.
However, when we come to talk about people who have long Covid, it's a different matter. Normal Covid is usually over within 10 days if you have the mild Omicron infection. But long Covid symptoms last much longer than this, and they are different.
It doesn't matter that it's a mild variant. There is still a certain percentage of people who will contract long Covid from a Covid infection. So, although we may be less worried about people being hospitalized or dying, there is still a small percentage of people who may contract long Covid.
There aren't many answers yet on long Covid. It's a new illness and mainstream medicine doesn't have any answers to this or treatment for this yet. It's poorly understood. And like many psychotherapists, I'm finding that sometimes long Covid patients come to see me in my practice, and this is one of the problems that they bring.
What are the symptoms of long Covid? And a 'symptom' S Y M P T O M? That means 'a sign of disease', a 'symptom'. So symptoms of long Covid include fatigue or tiredness. So 'fatigue', F A T I G U E. Usually 'fatigue' is the kind of tiredness where it's not sorted out by a good night's sleep, where something else is going on other than normal tiredness, which we all experience, of course.
So that's 'fatigue'. There are also symptoms like chest pain, memory problems, meaning difficulty remembering things, difficulty sleeping, pain in the joints. These are the joints here. Anything that moves in your body - that's a joint. So pain in your joints is one of the symptoms of long Covid.
There's also what we call in English 'pins and needles'. That's when you get a sort of 'fizzy feeling' in the arms or the legs, the hands or the feet. That's 'pins and needles'. People can lose their appetite. So 'appetite', A P P E T I T E, that means your 'want to eat', that's 'your appetite'. And people don't feel like eating often with long Covid.
A photograph of a woman with long COVID trying to eat. For most of us, the pandemic is over. However, many of us are still affected by the virus and its after effects.
There's quite a variation of symptoms. Not everybody has the same symptoms either. There's quite a lot of depression and anxiety. And feelings of 'being overwhelmed'. 'Everything's too much. You're not coping'. There can also be physical symptoms like skin rashes. A 'rash', R A S H is when there's a disruption on the skin. So that could be redness or raised bumps or itchiness. That's a skin rash. Another one - even hair loss can happen as a result of long Covid. So there are these symptoms and many more, which together seem to form the phenomenon known as long Covid.
But that's also a very good vocabulary list of medical symptoms. It's worth knowing the words for those medical symptoms, especially if you need to go to the doctor in English at some point in your life.
What people complain of most frequently with long Covid though, is the fatigue. That seems to be the main symptom.
And another one, brain fog, so that's B R A I N F O G. The 'brain' is of course, the grey matter inside your head. And 'fog'? 'Fog' is a weather condition, something that's dangerous on a motorway. You can't see very far if there is 'fog', F O G. So 'brain fog' means that it feels as though your brain isn't working as it should. It's not very sharp, it's 'foggy' instead. So that's difficult to deal with as a symptom.
The problem with a lot of these long Covid symptoms, they're perceptions, they're the person's perception of how it is, rather than something that is measurable as a symptom. So fatigue and brain fog are hard to measure, and that's problematic.
Normally, if you have a bout of Covid, you're better in about 10 days. But in the uk we're being told that if symptoms last longer than four weeks, we must contact our 'GP', or doctor.
After that, you're likely to be referred to one of 68 specialist clinics for long Covid. But currently there's no cure and no official treatment. You'll just receive advice. Long Covid remains a 'medical mystery' currently.
It's also not clear how many people are affected. It's estimated though it's about 2% of the population. Given that it affects people's ability to work and it can last for up to a year, that's a lot of days off sick. So 2% of the population really is quite a problem. So that's a lot of days off sick - people with long Covid generally can't work. And that's a lot of suffering as well.
So what else do we know about long Covid? Well, it affects women more than men for some reason, and those 35 and upwards are most likely to be affected. There are some statistics which show that if you work in healthcare or education, it's also more likely. And also if you have other health conditions that you're living with, you're more at risk.
It could be that you are exposed to more of the virus in those sorts of settings. Or what I find interesting, it's women in caring professions who seem most likely to be affected. Why is that, I wonder? Perhaps it's people who juggle family and work as well. That would make a lot of sense to me psychologically.
What I've found in my practice is the best way to work with someone who's got long Covid is similar to the way in which I would work with someone who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS. This is a syndrome which is recognized, but also poorly understood in the UK, but which has similar symptoms.
There's often a viral infection and then there is an overwhelming fatigue and other symptoms as well. But it's the fatigue that prevents people from working and carrying on their life as they did before. And Chronic Fatigue is a long term syndrome, it seems.
I found that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sometimes can respond to psychological support. It has a number of components. It's often precipitated, like I said, by a virus. It starts with a virus. And there are seemingly psychological symptoms. Could be neurological, I guess. But Chronic Fatigue sufferers, as well as long Covid sufferers get very frustrated because there isn't a treatment and their condition isn't always well recognized in medicine. They can feel dismissed and not believed perhaps.
Psychological support is useful to people with long Covid. This condition can last for up to a year. What I found in my work is best - learning to listen to your body. Taking notice of the sensations of fatigue. Often, it's not actually a choice that, but learning to live within your limits, within the limits of your energy and what your body allows you to do. And that can be a massive adjustment for people. People who are very busy, have busy lives, have demanding jobs, can find it really, really hard to make this adjustment. There's a practicality as well. What do you do if you can't go to work long-term?
So learning not to overdo it, learning to listen to your body, that seems to be the most important thing. Chronic Fatigue sufferers describe this as 'pacing'. That's P A C I N G. That means 'being very careful what they use their energy on'.
What seems to happen over time is that the more you stay within the limits that your fatigue seems to impose, the more you're actually able to do. It's kind of what we call 'counterintuitive' sometimes. If you go over your limit, it acts as a sort of setback. It puts back your recovery.
Sometimes it's really difficult for people to adjust to this 'new version' of themselves. They keep wanting to get back to the 'old version' who could do lots of things and not worry about fatigue and other symptoms. So all of this brings with it huge frustration. Having psychological support is important for that as well. Shifting expectations into 'what I can do' now rather than 'what I used to be able to do' is really important.
So currently there is no direct cure for long Covid. However, as more and more people are living with this, there is starting to be more evidence that people do recover. People get better. It takes time, as I said, often a year or more.
And people don't necessarily arrive at having the same energy level or lifestyle that they did before, particularly where work and exercise are concerned. But it does get better. Life finds a new normal. Accepting the limits that the fatigue puts on you seems to be critical to the recovery. If you stay within the limits, your body allows you to do a little more.
There is a theory actually that in long Covid, your Autonomic Nervous System, your ANS is affected. And the level at which it shuts down and prevents you doing more, it's like that level, that threshold gets lower. All of a sudden, much lower than it's ever been before. So it's much more easily triggered. You have to learn to live beneath that level, beneath that lower threshold before things can improve, and you do can more again. This feels right to me, that matches my experience. And in time your capacity to do things grows back. Not back to where you were, but you are able to live a new life.
Okay, So there is some really good vocabulary in this podcast. And I hope it will be interesting listening for you if you've come across this idea of long Covid. Let us know if you've been affected by these issues.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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