Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Does Covid cause brain fog? We’ve been asked this question quite a lot lately.

See, you may have heard that Covid-19 can cause brain fog. But what does that mean? And is there anything you can do to protect your brain health during this time of global pandemic?

In this article, we will explore what brain fog is, how “long Covid” might cause it, and some steps you can take to reduce the chances of experiencing it.

We will also discuss some of the long-term effects of brain fog and ways to prevent them.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog or cognitive fog is a term used to describe a feeling of mental fatigue or cognitive impairment. It can make you feel like your thinking is “foggy” and make it difficult to concentrate or remember things.

While brain fog can become a full-on cognitive dysfunction that affects your day-to-day activities, it is not a medical condition that can be diagnosed but is often the result of lifestyle choices or one of the cognitive symptoms of an underlying health condition.

Common Causes

There are many different causes of cognitive fog. Some of the most common include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Sleep disorders
  • Poor diet
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Too much alcohol consumption
  • Illegal drug use
  • Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Hormonal imbalances or changes
  • Mental health conditions
  • Medical conditions or health issues
  • Neurological disorders
  • Certain medications

It’s important to note that mental fog can be a symptom of more serious underlying health conditions, so if you are concerned about your mental clarity, it’s always best to consult a doctor.

Does Covid cause brain fog?

While the exact cause of cognitive fog is not fully understood, there is some evidence to suggest that Covid-19 can play a role.

A study published in JAMA Neurology looked at the neurological effects of long Covid and found that 61% of patients experienced mental fog after contracting the virus.

Another study, one published in the National Library of Medicine, found that nearly half of Covid patients experienced neurological symptoms such as cognitive fog, headache, and dizziness.

So what does this all mean?

While more research needs to be done to understand how Covid affects the brain entirely, there is some evidence to suggest that the virus can cause brain fog.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who contracts Covid-19 will experience cognitive fog. The cognitive symptoms of the virus can vary from person to person.

Additionally, many different factors can contribute to the development of brain fog, so that Covid may be just one of many causes.

What does Covid brain fog feel like?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as cognitive fog symptoms can vary from person to person.

However, some common symptoms of Covid-19 brain fog include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble multitasking
  • Poor decision-making ability
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Inability to focus or stay on task
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Struggles with problem-solving
  • Easily distracted
  • Loses train of thought in conversations

Covid-19 brain fog can vary from person to person. Some people may only experience a few of the above symptoms, while others may experience all of them.

If you think you may be experiencing brain fog from long Covid, it’s essential to consult a doctor as they will be able to rule out any other potential causes and offer the best treatment that suits your needs.

How does Covid-19 affect cognition and cause brain fog?

The exact reason why Covid may cause cognitive fog is not yet fully understood. However, there are a few theories about how the virus might impact cognitive function.

One theory is that Covid-19 damages the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory and thinking.

Another theory is that the virus causes inflammation in the brain, which can lead to cognitive problems.

A third theory is that Covid damages the blood and cerebrospinal fluid vessels in the brain, which can impact brain function.

It’s important to note that these are just theories and more research on health sciences needs to be done to understand how Covid-19 affects the brain entirely.

How long does Covid brain fog last?

There is no all-encompassing answer to this question as the cognitive impairments can vary from person to person and how long these symptoms manifest.

However, some studies have found that the cognitive effects of Covid-19 may last for weeks or even months after infection.

One study found that nearly half of patients who experienced neurologic symptoms such as brain fog, headache, and dizziness still had these symptoms up to three months after contracting Covid infection.

Another study found that seven out of ten patients who had Covid-19 still experienced cognitive fog six weeks after infection.

So while the exact timeline varies from person to person, there is evidence to suggest that Covid brain fog can last for weeks or even months after infection.

Who is most likely to experience brain fog from Covid-19?

There is no one-off answer to this question as the symptoms of Covid can vary from person to person.

However, some studies have found that certain people are more likely to experience cognitive fog after contracting Covid.

One study found that older patients with a higher body mass index (BMI) or who experienced more severe symptoms of Covid-19 were more likely to experience brain fog after contracting the virus.

Another study found that people with pre-existing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression were more likely to experience cognitive fog after contracting Covid.

So, while the exact cause of brain fog from Covid-19 is still unknown, there are some groups of people who appear to be more susceptible to the condition.

How to Manage Brain Fog from Covid

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences cognitive fog differently and what works for one person may not work for another.

However, studies suggest a few methods that may help to manage brain fog from long Covid:

Prioritize sleep quality

Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for the immune system, mental clarity, and overall cognitive health, especially for people who are dealing with the lingering symptoms of Covid-19.

Research suggests that people who are dealing with cognitive fog from Covid need more sleep than usual. However, the same people infected by the virus are also having trouble sleeping.

So, if you are having difficulty sleeping, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine, including winding down for 30 minutes before sleep.
  • Avoid screens and bright lights in the hours leading up to sleep.
  • Refrain from eating two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.

If you seem to still have trouble sleeping despite doing some relaxation techniques during bedtime, you might have a sleep disorder that needs a specialist’s attention.

So, we highly recommend that you see one to get a professional diagnosis and treatment for sleep disorders.

Increase physical activity

Exercise is not only good for your physical health but also your mental wellbeing.

Studies suggest that people who are dealing with brain fog from Covid-19 may benefit from increasing their physical activity.

One study found that patients who did moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day had less cognitive fog than those who didn’t exercise.

So, if you’re looking for ways to manage brain fog from Covid-19, consider adding more physical activity to your daily routine.

Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routine.
  • Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
  • Exercise with a friend or family member to stay motivated.
  • Join an online or in-person exercise class.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to move your body and get some fresh air.

Make rehydration a daily habit.

Dehydration can cause fatigue, confusion, and other symptoms that are similar to those of cognitive fog.

Research also shows that people who are dehydrated are more likely to experience brain fog, mood swings, and poor cognitive performance than those who are properly hydrated.

So, if you’re dealing with cognitive fog from Covid-19, make sure to stay adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Here are some tips for staying hydrated:

  • Drink water regularly throughout the day and carry a water bottle with you when you leave the house.
  • Drink herbal tea, bone broth, or other fluids that are high in electrolytes.
  • Add fruits and vegetables high in water content to your diets, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and watermelons.
  • Limit or avoid diuretic beverages such as coffee, tea, and alcohol.

Monitor your diet

Eating a nutritious diet that includes whole foods, healthy fats, and plenty of antioxidants is always a good idea for your immune system and brain health whether or not you’re dealing with Covid-19 or other infectious diseases.

Studies show that a healthy diet can help to reduce brain inflammation, improve cognitive function, and protect your brain from damage.

Some specific nutrients that are especially good for your cognitive health include:

  • omega-three fatty acids
  • B-vitamins
  • magnesium
  • zinc,
  • and iron.

You can get these nutrients from foods such as fatty fish, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, legumes, and grass-fed beef.

You can also take supplements if you feel like you’re not getting enough of these nutrients from your diet.

Reduce stress

Chronic stress can take a toll on your entire body, especially your brain.

Studies show that stress can lead to inflammation, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.

So, if you’re dealing with cognitive fog from Covid-19, it’s important to find ways to reduce stress.

Here are some tips for reducing stress:

  • Make time for yourself every day to do things that you enjoy.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Practice meditation, mindfulness, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling to manage stress on your own.

Play some brain teasers and puzzles

Keeping your mind active and engaged is important for mental health at any age.

But it may be especially helpful if you’re dealing with brain fog from Covid-19.

Studies show that people who engage in activities that challenge their brains, such as playing games or doing puzzles, have a lower risk of cognitive decline.

So, if you’re looking for ways to improve your cognitive fog, try playing some brain-teasing games or puzzles.

You can also try learning a new skill or a new language to develop your brain even better.

Consider therapy based on neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to new experiences.

Recent research has shown that neuroplasticity-based therapies can help to improve symptoms of cognitive fog, including fatigue, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating.

If you’re interested in this type of therapy, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to see if it’s right for you.

Concluding Thoughts

Dealing with Covid-19 brain fog can be frustrating and overwhelming, especially if the symptoms linger for months even after you have healed from the virus.

Thankfully, there are things that you can do to help improve your symptoms.

So, make sure to stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet, reduce stress, keep your mind active and engaged, and you’re living a relatively healthy lifestyle.

You may also want to try neuroplasticity-based therapy to help improve your symptoms and your overall cognitive performance.

But if you’re dealing with brain fog from Covid-19 and nothing seems to be helping, it’s important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional.

They can help you rule out other potential causes of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Learn more about natural brain fog treatment options and how to take care of your brain function by checking out more helpful resources in our blog and joining our online community for brain health enthusiasts.

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