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What is Post Viral Fatigue?

little man dragging a virus

Fatigue is a common symptom of many different infections and is a normal part of the body’s response to fighting an infection. Fatigue usually goes away quickly once the body has dealt with the infection. Post-viral fatigue is when the fatigue that started with a viral infection continues for a longer period of time after the infection has gone. Recovery after activity changes, and sleep may feel unrefreshing. Fatigue can impact on every part of life including school or work, home life, social activities, sport and relationships.

Post-viral fatigue can affect people of all ages, including children, young people, and adults. The reasons for fatigue continuing after an infection for some people, are not fully understood. It is also not known how many people post viral fatigue affects. The severity and length of time that someone experiences fatigue doesn’t always reflect the severity of the initial infection or previous fitness levels. Some people can be very unwell at the start of the illness but recover relatively quickly, whilst other people may only have a mild viral illness but go on to have debilitating fatigue for a long time afterwards.

Long COVID is a type of post viral fatigue, and ME/CFS could be, if the known causal factor is a virus. The symptoms and management of Post Viral Fatigue, long COVID and ME/CFS are very similar, and as such much of the general advice for each condition can be equally applicable to the other.

The following slides with voiceovers will help you understand dysregulation and how this contributes to the multiple symptoms in primary fatiguing conditions. 

The whole slide show is approximately 30 minutes long, but we have split it up into 3 parts to help concentration levels and retention of information. Please watch in order, one to three. 

Watch as many times as you need and also show to your family so they have a better understanding of your symptoms. 

Do not worry if you don’t completely understand everything as there is quite a bit of medical language but we are hoping it will help explain and validate your symptoms to yourself and others. 

We would like to acknowledge BACME, the British Association of Clinicians in ME/CFS and their original contributors for the background information on current theories, we have based these slides on. 

Slides and script have been developed by Sally Collins, Physiotherapist. 

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