Long COVID: Brain fog

Brain fog is not a medical term but used to describe a range of symptoms including:

  • poor concentration
  • feeling confused
  • thinking more slowly than usual
  • fuzzy thoughts
  • forgetfulness
  • lost words
  • mental fatigue

Brain fog can feel similar to the effects of sleep deprivation or stress. It's not the same as dementia and does not mean structural damage to the brain.

People usually recover from brain fog. You may get similar symptoms after other infections, a minor head injury or during the menopause. Brain fog is also common if you have depression, anxiety or stress.

While recovering from coronavirus (COVID-19), some people experience brain fog. Symptoms may vary and change over time. It's not just people who were hospitalised with coronavirus who can develop brain fog. It's a common part of long COVID.

Anxiety, low mood and fatigue all play a role in affecting how your brain functions.

How to help brain fog

There are some things you can do to help manage your symptoms.

Do

  • stay hydrated
  • get enough sleep
  • take regular exercise, ideally outside
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • keep to a healthy weight
  • try meditation
  • take regular breaks
  • do things you enjoy – for example socialising with friends and family
  • stick within low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines
  • stop smoking if you smoke

Read about low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines and stopping smoking.

You can speak to your employer about what reasonable adjustments can be made to help you at work.

If you're having memory problems, it can help to:

  • plan and pace your day
  • have a daily routine that works well for you
  • use reminder apps or post-it notes if needed to write important information down
  • remove distractions if you can
  • keep using your memory – try to not rely on lists for all tasks

Conserving your energy can also help with brain fog.

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP practice if:

  • your brain fog is not improving
  • brain fog is affecting your day to day life
  • you're worried about your symptoms