Why post-COVID-19 check-ups are vital
Posted on 18 August 2021
The chills and headache have passed, your fever has subsided, and it seems as if your bout of COVID-19 is over… but this virus may re-emerge with more nasty symptoms, so it’s best to keep monitoring your health.
These are the health checks to have after a bout of COVID-19.
If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s important for you to consult your doctor for a post-infection check-up, insists Dr Rikus Louw, a physician at Mediclinic Stellenbosch; although the timing of your check-up will vary according to the severity of the infection.
“Severely ill patients who required hospitalisation or ventilation in a critical care unit must see their doctor one week after they’ve been discharged,” he says. This is because people who’ve received in-hospital treatment are 45 times more likely to experience complications that may lead to death. In milder cases, where patients experienced symptoms but did not require hospitalisation, the consultation should be scheduled two to three weeks after recovery.
Your doctor will use this time to review your medical history and examine your lungs and other organs fully. They’re likely to order blood tests to obtain a full blood count and check the levels of urea and electrolytes in the blood – important, because levels that are either too high or too low may lead to irregularities in the heart rhythm. However, Dr Louw advises against the D-dimer test (used to detect possible blood clots), and measuring the level of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, which is an indicator of inflammation caused by disease. The reason is that these levels are likely to remain high for some time following a COVID-19 infection.
Ear and eye tests are also advisable, as COVID-19 has been known to affect these organs, causing loss of both vision and hearing.
It’s possible that you may experience lingering symptoms even if these test levels are all in the normal range. After all, COVID-19 places enormous stress on the body, and it may take time to return to your usual state of health. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to alleviate these symptoms, so be sure to mention any specific problem that’s troubling you.
On the other hand, if your symptoms suddenly intensify, or if you start to develop symptoms after being asymptomatic, further investigation will be needed. Dr Louw recommends a MRI heart scan to rule out the possibility of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), as well as an echogram or ultrasound of the heart. An ECG may also be required to check for dysrhythmias (abnormalities in the heart rhythm). The lungs should also be checked through doing a CT Scan, as well as a ventilation-perfusion scan to gauge blood flow and air flow. This will help identify possible complications, blood clots, collapsed lungs or other abnormalities.
Even if you feel you’re on the road to recovery, remember to take it slowly. It’s critical to eat a diet high in immune-boosting nutrients to compensate for the strain the virus has placed on your body. It’s also vital to rest, and to step up your activity gradually and carefully – this applies to every area, from work to exercise. Finally, keep monitoring your symptoms, and if you experience anything that causes distress, such as ongoing fatigue or a recurring headache, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.