Covid brain fog: what it feels like and how to cope with it
Cases of Covid brain fog or ‘pandemic brain’ are rife, but thankfully there’s ways to cope with the symptoms.
One of the most common side effects of Covid (or just living through multiple lockdowns) has become commonly known as Covid brain fog. Here we break down the link between Covid and brain fog, and explore some ways to lessen the effects.
What is Covid brain fog?
Covid brain fog is the name for a lingering feeling of fogginess and haziness that develops during a Covid infection. Covid brain fog can dissipate along with the infection, or if you develop long Covid, the symptoms can stick around, the reason for which scientists are still figuring out.
What does Covid brain fog feel like?
Covid brain fog can feel like a general feeling of mental haziness, not unlike a hangover or getting up after a sleepless night. You may feel like you can’t think clearly or that your brain is running on empty. You may have trouble remembering things, concentrating on work, talking to people, and processing emotions, and you might experience mood swings, insomnia, or headaches.
Why does Covid cause brain fog?
It's not clear why Covid causes brain fog, but it could be the result of an overactive immune system, which causes inflammation, or it could be the lasting damage Covid does to your organs. Whatever the reason, Covid brain fog is one of the most commonly reported side effects of an infection, and persists with those suffering from long-Covid.
How to manage Covid brain fog symptoms
Covid brain fog can be difficult to manage—especially given the complications it can cause on a daily basis, such as fatigue, stress, and anxiety. However, there are some things you can do to lessen the effects and clear the fog:
1. Get enough z's Sleep is crucial for brain health, so be sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and if you're struggling, try slipping in the odd afternoon nap.
2. Drink plenty of H2O Dehydration can bring on a serious bout of brain fog. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and if you're bored of water, try fruit juices and teas.
3. Get some exercise Exercise has many benefits for body and brain health. Even a moderate amount of regular exercise is beneficial for banishing brain fog and clearing your mind.
4. Eat a varied diet Eating a nutritious diet is super important for your overall health, and a varied diet, rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants can improve symptoms of brain fog.
5. Limit alcohol Drinking too much alcohol can cause symptoms of brain fog, usually contained in the subsequent hangover. If you want to drink the odd alcoholic beverage, do so in moderation.
6. Manage stress Even a small amount of stress can worsen the effects of brain fog. Be sure to take time for yourself, learn to relax and unwind, and do things you enjoy to reduce stress.
Can vitamins help with Covid brain fog?
Vitamins can work wonders for brain fog and memory, so including some of the following in your diet, through food or supplements, can help to clear the fog.
Your body needs vitamin B12 for healthy nerve function, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B7 keeps your nervous system running smoothly, your brain cells need vitamin B3 and vitamin B6 to communicate, and vitamin B9 tackles fatigue.
Some of the best food sources for B vitamins include:
Shellfish, such as mussels and clams
Poultry products, such as chicken, turkey, and eggs
Omega-3 protect your brain cell health and communication, which is vital for reducing those persistent feelings of haziness and forgetfulness.
Some of the best food sources of omega-3s include:
Fatty fish, such as salmon
Marine algae, including marine algae oil
Nuts and seeds, including nut and seed oils
Vitamin D is a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It also helps with depression and anxiety, both of which can flourish as a result of sustained brain fog.
One of the best ways to increase your body’s vitamin D levels is through 5-10 minutes of sun exposure a day (remember your SPF), but you can also get your daily dose through foods such as:
Fortified foods, such as fortified milks and fruit juices
Certain types of vitamin E (look out for DL-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate) act as antioxidants, with the power to reduce free radical damage and fight inflammation. Oxidative stress has been linked to higher levels of brain fog.
You can get vitamin E from several food sources, including:
Plant oils (including rapeseed, sunflower, and olive oil)
Nuts and seeds
Wheatgerm, often found in cereals
Vitamin C is great at fighting brain fog—both as an antioxidant and by helping regulate hormone production. It also supports immunity and healing, healthy skin and bones, and your eyesight.
Beyond citrus fruits, you can get vitamin C from:
How long does Covid brain fog last?
There is no definitive answer to this question—fogginess can last for weeks, months, or even longer after you recover from Covid. Most people find their symptoms improve over time by eating well, getting plenty of rest, and practicing braincare. If you're struggling to manage your symptoms, talk to a doctor who may be able to help, or they can refer you to a specialist.