COVID brain fog: What it is and what it means for virus patients

‘My short-term memory is just gone’

Dr. Frank McGeorge discusses one of the long-term symptoms of COVID-19.

About a third of diagnosed COVID-19 patients will have some type of neurological symptoms including seizures and strokes.

We don’t have solid data on how many will battle brain fog, but many report it.

It’s been a month since Gary Herritz tested positive for COVID-19 and he’s still feeling the effects.

“My short-term memory is just gone. When I’m texting with my daughter, I have to scroll up and continue to read what I already told her so I know what we’re talking about,” he said. “Even still today, with this interview, I’ve got a notebook sitting right here.”

What causes COVID brain fog?

It’s likely multiple factors. We know the coronavirus can invade the brain and nearby nerves.

COVID-19 can cause inflammation of the brain. Patients with serious cases may suffer from PTSD, especially if they were hospitalized for a long time or needed to go on a ventilator.

It can be far more severe than just forgetting a word or two.

“Cooking, if you walk away from the stove, you may forget you’re making something at all. When you add in not being able to smell, you wouldn’t know if something is burning,” said Herritz.

He keeps detailed notes and puts his medications in the middle of the floor so he’ll see them and remember to take them.

Post-COVID brain fog is being studied. But younger, healthier people are more likely to eventually bounce back, while those who are older or suffered a previous brain injury, such as a stroke, are more likely to experience problems long-term.

Those with more severe cases may have higher risk of suffering permanent problems.

Herritz says the antibody treatment he received because he’s high-risk saved his life. He hopes to persuade others to wear masks, distance themselves and get the vaccine.

“It can happen to you. COVID will find you. It found me. I don’t know too many people who have been more careful,” he said.

Many people have developed serious long-term symptoms after suffering from COVID-19.

If you’re suffering from brain fog or other memory issues, it’s important to tell your doctor because there are steps you can take to help your brain recover.

Coronavirus resources

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.