Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Covid-19 is new, but the ME/CFS community has dealt with long-haul-like symptoms for years. Here’s how they cope.

A young woman lies down and stares at the ceiling, holding her phone and feeling worried
A young woman lies down and stares at the ceiling, holding her phone and feeling worried
Photo: martin-dm/E+/Getty Images

As the pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that a good chunk of Covid-19 patients suffer symptoms for weeks, even months, after first getting sick. Many of them deal with fatigue, muscle and body aches, difficulty breathing and concentrating, and other issues that make “normal life” feel out of reach.

While SARS-CoV-2 is new, the problem of long-term symptoms after an infection isn’t. Many in the chronic illness community, particularly those affected by myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), understand some of what the long-haulers are going through. ME, sometimes referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a complex, multisystemic neuroimmune disease affecting 15 million to 30 million people worldwide. …


They can help, but there are some things you need to know

Image for post
Image for post
Image: NosUA/Getty Images

Over the summer, the owners of Boedecker Cellars in Oregon could leave their doors open to let fresh air circulate while socially distanced customers enjoyed glasses of the company’s prize pinot noir. But now winter is coming.

“We wanted to make sure that every table in here had coverage,” says co-owner Athena Pappas. So she and her partner, Stewart Boedecker, decided to buy portable air purifiers (some call them air cleaners), which continually cycle air through filters that catch tiny particles, including viruses. …


My Therapist Says

In a time when we’re experiencing so much turmoil, divisiveness, and lack of empathy, sensitive people are necessary

Image for post
Image for post
Illustration: Kate Dehler

I’ll never forget the moment my son received vaccinations as an infant. He held onto me and my eyes welled up with tears as my husband innocently chuckled as he watched my reaction. All I could see was the fear in my baby boy’s eyes as he braced himself for the unknown. It didn’t matter that I knew the vaccine was protecting him. In that moment, I was living vicariously through my adorable little man and I felt his pain.

When the story was retold to others, my husband said, “You know how she gets.”

I hear those words often. Rarely is “how she gets” referred to a good thing. I heard those words when college friends were teasing me for being “feisty.” I’ve heard it when having an exchange with in-laws in regards to parenting my kids. In each situation, I was overwhelmed with emotion and on the brink of tears. And honestly it’s the norm for me. …


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

Most people do exactly the wrong thing during a bout of sleepless nights

Stress and worry are major insomnia triggers, and so it’s hardly a surprise that the pandemic has set off a wave of lost sleep. Earlier this year, research in the journal Sleep Medicine found that the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 caused a 37% jump in the incidence of clinical insomnia.

Even before the pandemic, insomnia was commonplace. Each year, about one in four adults develops acute insomnia, which is defined as a problem falling asleep or staying asleep a few nights a week for a period of at least two weeks. That’s according to a 2020 study in the journal Sleep.

Fortunately, that study found that most people — roughly 75% — recover from these periods of short-term insomnia. But for others, the problem persists for months or years. …


How one nation keeps everyone safe and informed when cases rise

Image for post
Image for post
People shop in the Mangwon district on March 12, 2020, in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Woohae Cho/Stringer/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, a colleague came into my office and announced, “Damn, it looks like things are starting to get bad again.” He turned his phone toward me. It was opened to Worldometer’s Covid-19 tracking page. I scrolled down to select the country we live in: South Korea. “How many days has it been going up?” I asked. “It was 303 then 343 and 363 cases today. They’ve just increased the alert level to 1.5.”

That night, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up some extra food. If cases keep rising, I know restaurants will likely start reverting to takeout orders only and closing earlier. …


A physician shares her pandemic story

Image for post
Image for post
Photo: Joe Cicak/Getty Images

Doctors didn’t know what we were doing those first few weeks of the pandemic. I’d argue that we still don’t really know what we’re doing, but at least now we have a bit of experience. Physicians like me have our years of training and our fount of clinical knowledge, but this virus caught us completely off guard. In the beginning of the pandemic nothing seemed to be certain except that it was unlike anything that we’d ever seen, and that it was deadly. Each day brought a slew of new casualties and case reports. We quickly learned how much of a threat Covid-19 was to health care providers and other essential workers. …


The ongoing tragedy has not engendered the same kind of visible mourning as past national tragedies — and it’s harming mental health

Image for post
Image for post
“Somos La Luz (We Are The Light)” by Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

In May, artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada began painting a 20,000-square-foot mural of a Queen’s, New York doctor named Ydelfonso Decoo. A pediatrician nearing retirement, Decoo worked on the front lines in New York City this spring and ultimately succumbed to Covid-19.

Rodriguez-Gerada, an internationally acclaimed artist, partnered with SOMOS Community Care, a health network that serves immigrants and other organizations, to create the mural in a parking lot outside The Queens Museum, almost in the shadow of the iconic Unisphere globe from New York’s 1964 World’s Fair.

Called Somos La Luz (We Are The Light), the work is meant to highlight the disproportionate toll the virus was taking on Latino and Black communities and put a human face behind the dizzying numbers of dead, with its mammoth scale representing the unfathomable enormity of this ongoing tragedy. …


The science of remembering… and forgetting

Image for post
Image for post
Image: PM Images/Getty

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

I have a pretty bad memory. It’s not prohibitive — I can remember grocery lists and practical day-to-day things no problem — but friends will occasionally reference conversations or events from years ago that I have little recollection of. I was reminded of my shortcoming recently when my mom, who’s in her seventies and statistically should have a worse memory than I do, alluded to a past Thanksgiving that my college roommate had spent with my family. I have zero memory of this event (sorry, Melissa!). …


Tips from experts on the front lines

The United States experienced a pandemic travel peak during the Thanksgiving holiday. Experts concerned about the potential for more spread of Covid-19 during a national surge are recommending that people act as though they’ve been exposed, reports Yasmin Tayag for Medium’s Coronavirus Blog.

“People should quarantine when they return,” Abraar Karan, MD, an internal medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tells Tayag. “The reason is that we have high levels of viral transmission and people will often not know that they have been exposed.” Read the rest of the judgment-free advice below.


The false hope that the negative events of this year will get better in 2021 is an example of what psychologists call ‘magical thinking’

Image for post
Image for post
Illustration: Olivia Fields

Fuck 2020. We’ve all thought it or said it aloud at least once or 100 times this year. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, the disastrous global effects of climate change, a swell of deep-seated racial injustice, and ongoing political tumult, this year has been marred by an endless barrage of negative news.

It’s difficult to absorb so much in such a short period of time. …

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store