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Mayo Clinic launches COVID-19 rehab program

"We will monitor blood pressure, heart rate, [and] pulse oximetry as the folks are going through the exercise program."

ROCHESTER, Minn. — One of the many mysteries surrounding COVID-19 is why some who get it have symptoms long after their infection.

"At first, we thought it was just a fluke," said Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, occupational medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic. "You know, a couple of folks having some difficulties. But one after another, they kept showing up and having the same sort of story."

Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, who goes by "Dr. Van" at Mayo, says patients with "post-COVID syndrome" (sometimes referred to as COVID-19 "long-haulers") can have symptoms which include headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, depression and extreme fatigue. Dr. Van says the symptoms typically last about four to five weeks after a patient has tested positive for COVID-19.

"For example, folks will say that doing something as simple as walking around the block with the dog, or doing household chores like the laundry, can sometimes just wipe them out for four to five hours," he said. "Even taking a four to five hour nap after such activities."

Dr. Van says the symptoms can be severe enough that they prevent patients from getting back to their normal lives. That's why Mayo started the COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program, or CARP.

In the program, patients are monitored during physical therapy. 

"We will monitor blood pressure, heart rate, pulse oximetry as the folks are going through the exercise program," Dr. Van said. "There's also resistance work with strengthening the muscles, and then there are exercises for specifically helping strengthen the muscles used for respiration."

They also are monitored to make sure their lingering symptoms aren't life threatening, and for their mental health. 

Dr. Van says while people with more severe cases of COVID-19 tend to have these prolonged symptoms, it can happen to anyone.

"A point I really want to make is it's not just these folks [severe COVID-19 cases] that are getting these prolonged symptoms," he said. "We've had folks from all walks of life come down with this, whether they be weekend warriors, or dog walkers, or Navy SEALS. So, anybody can really get this."

If you believe you have lingering symptoms after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to participate in the CARP program, you can call Mayo's Occupational Medicine appointment number at 507-284-4340.

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