The ever-growing list of symptoms associated with COVID-19 range from a dry cough to the loss of taste and smell, with dozens in between. For former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Teddi Mellencamp, it was vertigo that literally knocked her off her feet.
"I would feel like I was laying on a waterbed and then when I'd get up I'd feel dizzy," she explained on her podcast Teddi Tea Pod. "And it kind of lingered with me, even post-COVID, and it has been continuing to happen."
In fact, as Mellencamp explained on her Instagram earlier this month, vertigo caused her to fall in the middle of the night, leading to a bruised lip and cheek.
“Anyone got any hot tips on how to get rid of vertigo?” she asked in the caption of her post, which revealed her facial injuries.
While it isn’t one of the most commonly discussed symptoms, Mellencamp isn’t alone in experiencing vertigo during and after her battle with COVID-19.
According to Reynold A. Panettieri, Jr., M.D., a professor of medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a pulmonary critical care physician and researcher expert in caring for patients with COVID-19, vertigo is essentially the medical term for feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
“There are many, many causes of vertigo,” he explains to Yahoo Life. “Some are inner ear infections, because your balance and stability is dependent on inner ear functions. It can also be central nervous system dysfunction, such as a stroke or a blow to the head. All can give one a sense of dizziness, of lightheadedness.”
However, viruses that attack the central nervous system can also lead to vertigo — such is the case in COVID-19.
“Concerning COVID, as a virus, it stands to reason that dizziness would be a complication of the viral infection,” Panettieri shares. “We don’t know why COVID does it. It is a virus, and viruses have a propensity to cause nerve problems. An example is how COVID attacks the taste buds. People can lose taste and smell. Those are sensory nerves that are affected by the virus, and by extension, the viruses can affect the nerves and inner ear and make people dizzy.”
Unfortunately, there is potential for vertigo to linger in COVID-19 positive individuals, even after other symptoms have subsided.
“Vertigo has been prevalent in long haulers,” he says. “There are people who lost their taste to COVID, and three to six months later haven’t recovered their ability to taste, to smell. Whatever the virus is doing to damage the nerves, could result in a disorder that could last for months. Hopefully it will resolve in time, but there’s no guarantee, and there’s no therapy.”
In order to avoid a situation like Mellencamp's, Panettieri stresses the best thing one can do while experiencing vertigo is to live a bit more cautiously. That may also mean not driving a car or operating heavy machinery.
"Anything that you would do that requires balance, you need to be cautious," he says. "If the vertigo is due to standing up quickly, you have to get up to the side of the bed, count to five, and then get on your feet."