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Post-COVID Brain Fog Causes and Treatment Options

dr-elamir-aviv-clinics by Dr. Elamir, MD, FACP , Physician
June 25, 2023

We all experience brain fog from time to time. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, took an antihistamine, or had a cold that made you feel unfocused or disoriented. In cases like these, you can simply rest and feel like yourself in no time.

But sometimes, people experience brain fog that sticks around for longer. This has been one of the main symptoms of post-COVID; individuals experience brain fog beyond six months after having COVID. 

The Aviv Clinics team is here to help make this journey less daunting. We believe knowledge is power, so our goal is to educate you on post-COVID brain fog causes and treatment options. Use this to help carve a more confident path forward for you or your loved one.

As you’re reading through this, keep in mind:

  • Each person has a unique experience with COVID-19. Therefore, speaking with a doctor is a critical first step to diagnosing long COVID.
  • Per the CDC, long COVID has alternative names. “People call Long COVID by many names, including Post-COVID Conditions, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID.”

This article covers:

  • What Is Brain Fog?
  • What Causes Post-COVID Brain Fog?
  • Is Brain Fog a Symptom of Long COVID?
  • Is My Brain Fog Related to COVID-19?
  • Treatment Options for Long COVID Brain Fog
  • Addressing and Managing Brain Fog after COVID-19
  • Unique Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Protocol for Long COVID Symptoms
  • When Does COVID-19 Brain Fog Go Away?


What Is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a term that describes slow or sluggish thinking. Someone with brain fog may experience confusion, forgetfulness, and/or a lack of mental clarityWhile many cases of brain fog are temporary, with COVID-19, brain fog can impact cognitive functioning long-term.

Multiple reports illustrate those with long COVID-19 experience a variety of symptoms that may include brain fog. 

  • One study notes 80% of post-COVID patients reported brain fog. 
  • Harvard Health notes that 22 to 32% of patients who recovered from COVID-19 “find they still have brain fog as part of their experience of long COVID.” 

Not only does the research show how the COVID-19 virus can affect our cognition, but it also illuminates the fact that anyone—no matter their COVID-19 history—can experience persistent brain fog.

What Causes Post-COVID Brain Fog?

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers note brain fog from COVID-19 mimics the same cognitive issues caused by cancer chemotherapy (“chemo brain”). In both cases, excessive inflammation damages the brain cells and processes.

Aviv physician Dr. Mohammed Elamir, MD, FACP, further explains the link between:

  • Where the COVID-19 virus attacks the brain
  • How that impacted location in the brain affects long COVID symptoms

There are four main ways COVID-19 can attack the brain:

  1. Direct brain invasion: The virus travels through the nose and into the insula—the part of the brain that oversees memory and executive function through its connection with the prefrontal cortex.
  2. Blood vessel injury: The COVID-19 virus may harm blood vessels that feed blood to the brain.
  3. Dysregulated immune response: Damaged blood vessels caused by COVID-19 can slow the growth of cells, affecting the brain’s immune response.
  4. Cellular dysfunction: COVID-19 can trigger cell damage. This slows down the body’s response rate to infection, leading to high inflammatory conditions.


Is Brain Fog a Symptom of Long COVID?

Yes, brain fog is a common symptom of long COVID — the CDC lists brain fog under its neurological symptoms. Brain fog from COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily need to manifest on a severe level; it can be subtle. 

One study notes participants who had COVID and didn’t notice any cognitive problems still performed poorly on attention and memory tasks. “Testing showed that performance on an attention task was not as good among the group that had COVID compared with those who did not.”

Is My Brain Fog Related to COVID-19?

If you notice your cognition has not been the same since your COVID-19 infection, we recommend speaking with a physician. Your body and health background are entirely unique from other people’s. Therefore, it’s important to discuss your lingering symptoms with a healthcare professional.

The certified physicians at Aviv Clinics assess the following four areas to diagnose long COVID. Walking through these four areas enables your physician to provide the holistic approach your health deserves.

  1. Physical symptoms: Fatigue, cough, loss of taste or smell, labored breathing, joint/muscle pain, etc.
  2. Cognitive and psychological symptoms: Brain fog, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, headaches, etc.
  3. Lung symptoms: Shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, etc.
  4. Cardiac symptoms: Heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, decline in oxygen saturation, etc.


Treatment Options for Long COVID Brain Fog

The treatment options for long COVID brain fog should include activities and therapies that help address the root cause of symptoms.  

Below, we offer tips on how you can help alleviate brain fog symptoms, which may include a unique hyperbaric oxygen therapy protocol.

Addressing and Managing Brain Fog after COVID-19

Managing brain fog involves engaging in activities known to improve memory and thought processes. These activities may include:

  • Exercising. The CDC states, “Physical activity can help you think, learn, problem-solve, and enjoy an emotional balance.” Do regular cardio and strength training exercises each week. Walk, jog, jump rope, or do resistance-band or body-weight exercises. The key is to stick to something you enjoy to help you stay motivated. 
  • Getting adequate sleep. Getting adequate amounts of sleep “fosters attention and concentration, which are prerequisites for most learning.” The Sleep Foundation recommends seven or more hours of sleep for adults. 
  • Eating a well-balanced diet. Aim for the MIND diet, which encourages you to consume diverse healthy foods. Designed to enhance brain health and reduce the risk of neurological conditions, the MIND combines the Mediterranean and DASH diets.


Unique Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Protocol for Long COVID Symptoms 

Multiple studies reveal that a specific hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) may help mitigate long-COVID symptoms as part of a comprehensive treatment program. The unique treatment incorporates a rise and fall in oxygen levels during the session, which drives the body’s self-healing mechanisms.

From clinical and qualitative evaluations of HBOT patients, researchers conclude there is hope HBOT can address some of the common symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog:

“Long COVID-related fatigue can be debilitating, and may affect young people who were previously in economic employment. The results presented here suggest potential benefits of HBOT, with statistically significant results following 10 sessions.”

Aviv Clinics’ team of certified physicians takes a three-step approach to their long COVID program:

  1. In-depth medical assessment: Conducting comprehensive testing (physical, cognitive, and neurological) and brain imaging
  2. Tailored treatment program: Creating a customized treatment plan based on your test results
  3. Post-treatment assessment: Administering a second round of testing to unveil findings/progress

Learn more about Aviv’s long COVID approach.

When Does COVID-19 Brain Fog Go Away

As everyone’s bodies are different, there’s no set time limit to COVID-19 brain fog. Some research studies indicate most patients recover within six to nine months, with others experiencing brain fog for two years or more.

Dr. Mohammed Elamir, MD, FACP, says how long it takes for brain fog to go away depends on how invasive the virus is in your body:

“[…] the amount of real estate that those microvascular changes are occupying will probably dictate how long [symptoms] will last.”

The Bottom Line

Brain fog from COVID-19 can be difficult to live with. If you or a loved one suspects COVID-19 has left lingering cognitive issues, contact Aviv Clinics

Our team will offer the resources you need to learn more about how our team of physicians helps manage long COVID symptoms. Feeling your best cognitively and physically starts with us.



Aviv Medical Program provides you with a unique opportunity to invest in your health while you age

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