Between four and six people in my professional, social and family network have gone down with Covid every week since the beginning of June. That includes me.
Here we are in the summer of 2022, two years on from the end of the first lockdown, with 12,944 active cases in South Cambridgeshire this week (as reported by ZOE on 12.7.22) and an estimated number of people with Covid symptoms at the moment close to four and a half million across the UK (ZOE).
That’s a lot of people suffering coughs, sore throats, aching heads and bodies, bone-deep exhaustion, loss of smell and appetite, upset digestion, stomach pains, disturbed sleep, and the rest. But whatever our individual experience of symptoms, we all have two things in common.
We want to feel better.
And we want to test negative again.
Sorry, but I’m going to be a bit negative about negative tests. Lateral flow tests are designed as cheap, quick, simple tests to detect relatively high viral loads of Covid-19 antigens. Before restrictions were lifted in England earlier this year, a positive test was seen as a ‘red light’, identifying those most infectious and encouraging them to isolate quickly: Stop. Do Not Pass Go. Go Straight Home and Stay There.
On the other hand, a negative test is taken as a green light – telling us we’re good to go, to jump right back to into our jobs, businesses, families and social lives, because – hooray! – we don’t have Covid anymore, do we?
Negative is not the opposite of positive
I’m self-employed, and of course, was desperate for that first negative test. But, as I’ve come to realise myself, and as many more of my patients are learning the hard way when it comes to Covid-19, negative is NOT the opposite of positive.
Now restrictions in England are gone, and the landscape on infection and illness has shifted – a negative test is taken as a green light, when at best it’s an amber in my view, and the impact of the Covid virus itself on our health is being minimised. For example, in the first 24-hours after I tested positive, I was surprised by the number of people who assumed there’s a good chance Covid now comes with no, or minimal, symptoms. Sorry to disappoint – where has this idea come from?– I was not at all well, along with just about everyone else I come across. Plus, I know friends and relatives and patients able to work from home are under pressure to put in a full day while still plainly fighting an active infection.
We’re all fighting a virus which at, 4 June 2022 has left two million people in the UK – that’s 3% of the population – identifying as having Long Covid and suffering symptoms that have lasted for more than four weeks following their initial infection. (Source: Office for National Statistics. 12.7.22) That can’t be good for our collective health long term, and rushing people back to work who’ll need time off later isn’t good for national productivity either.
Yes, when I came out negative, I felt quite a bit better that I had when I tested positive, but a negative lateral flow doesn’t mean that Covid has left the building. It simply means levels of Covid proteins in that snotty sample are no longer high enough to trigger the chemical reaction in the test kit.
When I was back down to just one purple line again, I wish I’d been able to jump out of bed to celebrate all that negativity. Instead, I could still feel the virus in my body, like the flakes in a snow globe, shaken, stirred and definitely still blizzarding. In fact, it wasn’t until several days later – maybe four days after my negative test – that the snowflakes finally settled in my case. Others are not so fortunate.
Our immune systems are still hard at work
Immediately after we’ve had Covid, (and assuming we’ve not been ill enough to need care in hospital), even once we feel largely better and major symptoms ease off, all the evidence shows that our immune systems are still hard at work fighting the remains of the virus.
That’s why my advice to family, friends and colleagues hanging on for that negative test or dragging themselves through the day, is ‘Take it slow’.
Please take it slow
Now I’m back at work, I’m seeing people with Long Covid dating back to 2020; people who are recovering from recent infections; people who’re trying to get their health back on track after two, or even three, bouts of Covid. All have busy lives, and pretty much all of them wish they’d taken or created more opportunities simply to rest more in the first week or two after they finally tested negative again.
So if you’ve got Covid as you read this, think about how best to support your immune system and your health in the long-term by finding positive ways to take it slow, giving your body a chance to rest and recover – especially in the first 14 days after that negative result.
If you’d like to learn more about how acupuncture can be part of your toolkit supporting recovery and well-being after Covid, or other viral infections, please get in touch for a free 20-minute consultation.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org