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Dizziness
Dizziness

 

Dizziness

Dizziness after a COVID infection can be:

  • A feeling of spinning or an unusual sense of moving often called vertigo
  • Lightheadedness – feeling like you might faint

Both can make you feel a bit off balance.

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Vertigo

Vertigo is often seen in infections caused by viruses because you are weaker and rundown or because the virus has affected the vestibular system, the part of the body between your inner ear and your brain.

If the vestibular system is affected, you may find that you get dizzy when you:

  • Move your head
  • See lots of movement in front of your eyes (e.g. a fast, busy scene in a film)
  • Change position quickly – this can also make you feel sick and your balance may be affected

Dizziness can also be linked to ringing in the ears, reduced hearing/ loss of hearing, eye strain and headaches. These issues may come and go throughout the day.

If they happen all the time or are very bad, you should inform your healthcare professional as they may want to do some further tests.

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Exercises to help with your vertigo

Here are some exercises that may help your recovery. Start by doing these exercises once a day in the evening. When they feel ok, repeat the exercises again earlier in the day. Ideally, these exercises should be done five times a day.

All of the following exercises should be done for 30 seconds each:

  1.  Slowly move your eyes to the left and right with your head staying still
  2.  Slowly move your head to the left and right with your eyes staying fixed on something
  3.  Slowly move your eyes and head together from side to side
  4.  Slowly move your eyes and head in opposite directions

Have something firm to hold onto if needed (e.g. the kitchen sink) for the following exercises:

  1.  Stand with your feet together
  2.  Stand with one foot in front of the other, touching heel to toe
  3.  Stand on one leg
  4.  Stand on the other leg

Gradually increase the speed and time you do each exercise to improve.

If you find these exercises too easy with your eyes open, repeat them with your eyes closed.

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Lightheadedness

Lightheadedness can be caused by many things and the most common include:

  • A lack of water and/or liquids
  • Some prescription medicines
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Anxiety or stress
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up
  • A lack of iron or anaemia

Plan, Pace and Prioritise: Doing too much can make lightheadedness worse so it is important to plan, pace and prioritise your daily activities. Find out more on the managing daily activities page.

If you have lightheadedness when you stand up:

  • Avoid moving quickly from lying to sitting to a standing position (get up slowly after lying down or sit for a while before standing)
  • Avoid or limit long periods of lying in bed or sitting
  • Be active – although doing too much can make lightheadedness worse, activity can improve symptoms – try to do something every day, even for just a few minutes – this can help you keep fit and build muscle
  • Find ways to reduce stress – stress can make the symptoms of lightheadedness worse
  • Eat and drink regularly – symptoms of lightheadedness can be made worse when eating and drinking patterns change so try and stick to a routine and avoid long periods without eating or drinking
  • Rest during illness – infections and other illnesses can worsen symptoms, rest and accept that you’ll want to do less if you become unwell and you may take longer than expected to recover
  • Avoid or limit how much alcohol, coffee and tea you drink as these drinks cause your blood vessels to widen and lower your blood pressure
  • Include more salt in your diet – this is not advisable if you have high blood pressure, kidney disease or heart disease, so please ask your healthcare professional first
  • Try wearing support tights or other forms of compression clothing to improve blood flow in your legs

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Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (PoTS)

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) is an unusual increase in heart rate that happens after sitting up or standing. Some common symptoms include dizziness, fainting, tiredness and palpitations (noticeable fast and strong regular heartbeats).

PoTS is diagnosed if your heart rate increases by 30 beats a minute (bpm) or more (40bpm in those aged 12 to 19) usually within 10 minutes of standing.

What are the symptoms of PoTS?

    You can develop PoTS suddenly, or it can begin gradually.

    You can get symptoms almost immediately, or a few minutes after sitting up or standing. Lying down may relieve some of the symptoms.

    As well as an increase in heart rate, common symptoms of PoTS can include:

    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Fainting
    • Problems with thinking, memory and concentration – this combination of symptoms is often called “brain fog”
    • Heart palpitations
    • Shaking and sweating
    • Weakness and fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Poor sleep
    • Chest pain
    • Feeling sick
    • Shortness of breath

    Some people notice that a hot environment, eating or tiring exercise can make their symptoms worse.

    For individuals who menstruate, having a period can make their symptoms worse and this can affect their menstrual cycle.

    These symptoms can have many different causes such as medicine side effects or low blood pressure, so it’s a good idea to get a proper medical diagnosis. Sometimes they can be wrongly diagnosed as anxiety or panic attacks.

      Some people may have had dizziness and balance problems before having COVID and now these symptoms have got worse.

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      What can I do to help my dizziness?

      Most people will be able to manage their own recovery and it will improve a lot with time.

      Top Tips

      Move slowly when standing up after lying down or sitting

      For some people, simply getting out of bed will be difficult. Before standing up, try sitting on the edge of the bed for a minute or two and wait for the dizziness to pass before trying to stand. At the start, you might need to ask someone to be with you when you try to stand up or go to the toilet.

      Aim to move normally

      This may be difficult and may take a long time. Moving your eyes, head and body is useful in reducing dizziness and for improving balance and fatigue.

      Be safe

      You may feel mild dizziness when you move. Reassure yourself that it is ok to feel mild dizziness and that you are safe. The dizziness should stop within 1-2 minutes of being still.

      Actions to avoid fainting

      Fainting can be avoided by learning to take notice of early warning signs such as:

      • Lightheadedness
      • Dizziness
      • Nausea
      • Sweating

      Immediate action:

      • Lie down and lift your legs up
      • Sit down if this is not possible

      If your situation makes this difficult:

      • Cross your legs while standing or rock up and down on your toes
      • Clench your bottom and tummy muscles
      • Clench your fists

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      When should I seek help for my post-COVID dizziness?

      Consult your GP or healthcare professional if:
      • Symptoms are all the time, are very bad and getting worse 
      • You have fallen, fainted or tripped without a clear reason 
      • You have a ringing noise in your ears all the time or you can’t hear at all 
      • If you think you have POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) or low blood pressure 

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      Seek urgent help if:

      You suddenly start feeling dizzy at the same time as any of the following symptoms: 

          • Chest pain 
          • Palpitations (feeling like your heart is racing or pounding) 
          • Shortness of breath 
          • Loss of consciousness 
          • Weakness in your face, arm or leg and/or trouble speaking or swallowing and/or your face is drooping 
          • You suddenly can’t hear anything

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