Struggling with long Covid? This over-the-counter drug may help

New York: After a Covid infection, it’s long term effects including brain fog, joint pain, exercise intolerance and fatigue have been affecting the daily lives of millions.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, report the case of two middle-aged, healthy and active women who suffered from long Covid symptoms, and showed relief upto an year after taking the popular over-the-counter drug antihistamines, used to treat allergic rhinitis, common cold, influenza, and other allergies.

According to the report, published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, both women took over-the-counter antihistamines to treat other conditions — the first one had triggered her dairy allergy by eating cheese, and the other had run out of the allergy medication she usually took — and experienced improved cognition and much less fatigue the next morning.

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The first woman’s long Covid-19 symptoms also included exercise intolerance, chest pain, headaches, a rash and bruising, while the second coped with joint and abdominal pain, as well as the rashes and lesions known as “Covid-19 toes”.

The findings may provide relief for the millions of people suffering from the painful, debilitating symptoms of long Covid that impair daily functioning.

The effects of Covid-19 on individuals range from mild symptoms to several weeks of illness to ailments including brain fog, joint pain, exercise intolerance and fatigue that last for months after the initial infection. There is currently no standard treatment for the condition, which may range from weeks to a year.

“Patients tell us they wish more than anything that they could work and do the most basic activities they used to before they got sick with long Covid. They are desperately searching for something to help them get back on their feet,” said the report’s corresponding author, Melissa Pinto, UCI Associate Professor of Nursing.

“The possibility that an easy-to-access, over-the-counter medication could ease some of the symptoms should offer hope to the estimated 54 million people worldwide who have been in distress for months or even years,” Pinto added.

In the first case, the woman didn’t take another antihistamine for 72 hours; when her symptoms reappeared, she took the medication and again found relief.

With guidance from her primary healthcare provider, who prescribed her an antihistamine, she began a daily dosage that has significantly decreased her other long Covid symptoms. She reported that she has regained 90 per cent of her pre-Covid-19 daily function.

In the second case, the woman took a different over-the-counter antihistamine as a substitute for what she had taken for years to manage her seasonal allergies. After noting that her long Covid-19 fatigue and cognition had improved, she continued to take it daily along with other allergy medicine.

Her course of treatment, which now includes both over-the-counter medications, has also significantly reduced her additional long Covid-19 symptoms. She reported that she has regained 95 per cent of her pre-illness functioning.

Previous studies have similarly shown the potential benefit of antihistamines as treatment for long Covid.

“If patients wish to try OTC antihistamines, I urge them to do so under medical supervision,” Pinto said, adding the need for further research.

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