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Separating Myth From Fact in Gwyneth Paltrow's Long-Haul COVID Reveal

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Key Takeaways

  • As scientists work to learn more about the long-term effects of COVID-19, misinformation about treatment continues to circulate.
  • For-profit companies have used unsubstantiated claims to promote their products.
  • If you are experiencing long-term symptoms from COVID-19, a team of medical professionals can help you treat it.

With much still being discovered about COVID-19 and its short- and long-term effects, a breeding ground exists for misinformation and exploitation. The latest example comes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site, Goop. In a recent article, Paltrow details her experience with long COVID-19 symptoms of brain fog and fatigue after having the virus early-on in the pandemic.

These symptoms are among those commonly reported by people experiencing ongoing, negative effects after the virus has left their system. Other long-term effects of COVID-19 can include shortness of breath, joint pain, depression, and loss of smell and taste.

While drawing attention to these occurrences can create further awareness, Paltrow uses it as an opportunity to promote unsubstantiated detoxes and cleanses, while plugging Goop-brand products under the guise of relieving discomfort.

“This is a good example of how misinformation is going to continue to be pushed out in the context of COVID-19,” says Timothy Caulfield, professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta.

“We often think of misinformation as the hoaxes, the conspiracy theories, and that anti-vax rhetoric," he adds. "But there's also this kind of misinformation, which is subtler and still trying to leverage this moment in time, trying to leverage the pandemic in order to sell products, to further a brand, or even to sell kind of an ideological position to how we're supposed to be with our health.”

What To Look Out For When Seeking Accurate Information

With so much misinformation readily available, it takes additional effort to distinguish truth from fiction. The most important thing to look out for when dissecting information about the long-term effects of COVID-19 is the credibility of your source.

A large following doesn’t mean accurate guidance. “People say, 'Well, who listens to Gwyneth Paltrow?' Well, we know that people do. We know that celebrities have an impact, sometimes directly and sometimes just by normalizing this kind of language and normalizing these kinds of beliefs,” says Caulfield.

Ramin Ahmadi, MD

Lifestyle websites are fun and serve as a great escape from the grind of the pandemic. When it comes to your health, I’d urge anyone who is experiencing symptoms of the virus or lasting health issues to consult with trusted experts.

— Ramin Ahmadi, MD

In reality, it’s up to you to check where their facts are coming from and ensure your sources are reputable organizations or experts, or at least citing them. Are they associated with a hospital or research center? Have they published any papers on the subject? Is the organization unbiased? These questions can sort out who to trust when gathering data.

When reading about treatment options, also pay close attention to the wording and the source’s goal. “At the beginning of the pandemic, you saw a lot more language about cures and treatments,” says Caulfield. “There’s just this implication, like, ‘In these unusual times, you want to make sure that you boost your immune system.’ So they make these subtle connections in order to sell their products, ideas, and brand.”

If the solution to your problem magically appears to be something a source makes money from, it warrants further investigation.

Where To Find Accurate Information About Treating COVID-19’s Residual Symptoms

Again, be aware of what your source is, along with its qualifications and motivation. “Lifestyle websites are fun and serve as a great escape from the grind of the pandemic. When it comes to your health, I’d urge anyone who is experiencing symptoms of the virus or lasting health issues to consult with trusted experts,” says Ramin Ahmadi, MD, MPH, the chief medical officer for Graduate Medical Education Global.

Ahmadi recommends reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Speaking to a qualified medical professional is the most critical step you can take to deal with the virus’s long-term effects. “You want to have an interdisciplinary team that helps you with this because different symptoms might require a different approach,” says Caulfield. “What you want to do is talk to your science-informed healthcare provider, an MD, your family physician, about the best way forward.”

What This Means For You

Be conscious of where you find your information and continue to learn more as the collective knowledge about COVID-19 expands. As further research appears around COVID-19, clearer answers to dealing with the virus’ residual symptoms will emerge.

“There’s still so much we don’t know about all the long-term effects of COVID-19,” says Ahmadi. “Scientists will need to spend the next several months to years researching how this virus impacts our bodies to give us a better picture.”

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