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People’s Pharmacy: Could long COVID-19 lead to confusion?

UPDATED: Wed., March 30, 2022

Vials for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are seen at a temporary clinic in Exeter, N.H., on Feb. 25, 2021.  (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
Vials for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are seen at a temporary clinic in Exeter, N.H., on Feb. 25, 2021. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
By Joe Graedon, M.S.,</p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. I had COVID-19 in January and quarantined myself for 10 days after testing positive at the local urgent care center. My doctor prescribed a short-term antibiotic and steroid.

The obvious symptoms (slight fever, fatigue, cough, etc.) were mild and didn’t last long. I thought I was out of the woods, but I have noticed increasing confusion, distraction and forgetfulness. This is very disturbing to me.

At this point, I have not contacted any doctors about these changes after COVID-19. Do you have any suggestions to reverse these symptoms?

A. We are surprised that your doctor prescribed an antibiotic for this viral infection. Moreover, we are sorry that you seem to have developed long COVID-19. Even people who experience a mild case sometimes end up with symptoms that last for months or longer.

Young or middle-aged people as well as seniors may have cognitive complaints as part of their long-lasting problems. In addition to severe fatigue, patients have described brain fog with impaired attention, memory and executive function (JAMA Network Open, Oct. 22). We wish we could tell you about a treatment that is effective against this problem, but so far we have not seen one.

Q. We have aspirin, Aleve, Tylenol and Advil in our medicine cabinet. All the labels state that they are for pain relief and fever reduction. What’s the difference? And is one better than the others?

A. You are describing all the over-the-counter pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Aspirin is also considered an NSAID, though it is heart-friendly, whereas other NSAIDs can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk for clots.

Acetaminophen is less likely to irritate the digestive tract than NSAIDs. But it can be difficult on the liver or kidneys if taken in high doses.

As far as we can tell, no study has demonstrated that one of these pain relievers is dramatically superior to any of the others.

Q. I am so confused about the best diet for people with diabetes. I have read that it is important to avoid fat as much as possible. But then I have read in your column that a low-carb approach is better. I do eat a lot of carbs in the form of vegetables like Swiss chard, kale, squash and collard greens.

Did you mean simple carbs like white bread, cookies, crackers and cake? Or are you including vegetables, as well?

A. A diet low in processed carbohydrates can help reduce insulin resistance (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January). Some vegetables, including the ones you are so fond of, are a great addition to a blood-sugar-controlling diet.

Starchy vegetables and fruit can pose problems for some people, however. These include potatoes, winter squash, carrots and corn. Occasionally, individuals will react to onions or tomatoes or find that certain fruits do not elevate blood sugar.

The best way to figure out how diet affects your blood sugar is to keep records of your blood sugar measurements and meals. We describe how to do this and offer a long list of best-bet veggies in our eGuide to Preventing and Treating Diabetes. This online resource may be found under the Health eGuides tab at peoplespharmacy.com.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website peoplespharmacy.com. They are the authors of “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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