Lewis Hamilton health: F1 driver on the ‘lingering’ effects of Covid- ‘It’s been a battle’

Lewis Hamilton refuses to let 2021 season ‘define’ his career

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It was after a dramatic race where Hamilton was bumped up to second place from third after rival Sebastian Vettel was disqualified, when the driver revealed he was suffering from dizziness and fatigue. Whilst standing on the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hamilton complained that “everything got a bit blurry,” looking over at the Mercedes team doctor in fears that his health might suddenly deteriorate. Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss 2020s penultimate Sakhir Grand Prix in December, and although returning to the sport rather quickly it seemed the effects of the virus had lingered.

“I’ve been fighting all year, really, with staying healthy after what happened at the end of last year,” Hamilton said at the time.

“It’s still a battle.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone particularly about it but I think it is lingering.”

The NHS explains that long Covid is when individuals suffer symptoms for weeks or months after the infection has gone. It affects everyone differently and even those who only had mild Covid symptoms can have longer-term problems.

“Who knows what it is today, maybe it’s hydration, I don’t know. But I’ve definitely not had that experience.

“I had something similar in Silverstone but it’s just way worse.”

There is a long list of possible long Covid symptoms that individuals have reported, with the most common including:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tinnitus, earaches
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • Rashes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines long Covid as “usually three months from the onset of Covid with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.” 

Research published in June 2021 by Imperial College London, based on half a million people in England, found two main categories of ongoing symptoms: a smaller group of people with respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or breathlessness, (this group was more likely to have had severe COVID-19 illness initially), and a larger group with a cluster of more general symptoms, particularly tiredness and fatigue.

In addition, those who reported their symptoms of long Covid on the Zoe COVID Symptom Study app, identified a third group of more severe sounding symptoms.

In the study of 4,182 people, heart symptoms were commonly reported, such as palpitations or increased heartbeat, as well as non-heart-related symptoms such as pins and needles, numbness and “brain fog”.

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The BHF goes on to explain that there is a plethora of evidence to suggest that getting vaccinated reduces your risk of developing long Covid. In February 2022 the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published a review of 15 long Covid studies from the UK and across the world.

However, these estimates were created before the emergence of the Omicron variant, which hasn’t been present for long enough to know whether those infected with this specific variant are more or less likely to result in long Covid.

For those whose symptoms are having a direct and damaging impact on their daily lives, seeking medical advice is recommended.

Here doctors can run some further tests such as a blood test, X-ray or blood pressure test to rule out other possible causes of symptoms.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one single treatment or medication to treat long Covid. As everyone’s experience is different, it is important to chat to your GP about the symptoms you are experiencing. From there they can tell you how to best manage them, and let you know what other support is available.

The BHF goes on to explain that there is a plethora of evidence to suggest that getting vaccinated reduces your risk of developing long COVID. In February 2022 the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published a review of 15 long COVID studies from the UK and across the world.

They found that people who caught Covid after having two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Moderna, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, were half as likely to develop lasting Covid symptoms (lasting 28 days or more from the original infection), compared to those who were unvaccinated, or only had one dose.

In addition to talking to your GP and getting vaccinated, other self-help tips to help manage long Covid symptoms include:

  • Pacing yourself
  • Boosting your mental health
  • Making notes if you are struggling with memory loss
  • Flexibility exercises such as yoga to help relieve joint or muscle pain.

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