Family, fun and social life with Long Covid

In this section, we discuss the impact of Long Covid on families’ lives outside of the home. People with Long Covid and their families had to make choices about what to spend their time and energy on, as they could no longer do everything they used to do.

This section covers:

  • Activities and sports
  • Spending time with friends
  • Outings and holidays
  • Religious activities, weddings and funerals

Activities and sports

The families we spoke with talked about going from being very active to doing very little due to their Long Covid symptoms. Walks, cycling, playing sports and family trips such as going to the beach were all put on hold as symptoms such as fatigue prevented them from going out. Some people felt that their sense of identity as a family was challenged.

James, whose brother and mother also have Long Covid, said that it felt “the whole family’s been like degraded because of all this and we’ve kind of dropped in abilities, skills, hobbies. For example, I used to do like four things a week and now I do none.” Mehjabin’s family had to pull back on creating content for their YouTube cooking channel while their mother was unwell.

Freya’s week was filled with sports activities after school and at weekends. Since having Long Covid she can only manage two hours at school three days a week.

People had sometimes been able to continue to do the activities or sports they loved but with adaptations. When Paul’s family goes to the park, his wife and daughter will walk there and he will drive round and join them. Harry can still play basketball when friends come over; he shoots in the net with the basketball but can’t run and pass. Lissie can still have walks in the countryside but they’re shorter and she needs a ‘down day’ at the weekends.

Harry used to do music and play lots of sports. He is thinking about reducing some lessons, such as PE, so he has energy for other things he enjoys, like music.

Children and teenagers we spoke with often found that they were limited in their ability to play sports or do other activities. Others could still take part, but there were consequences such as relapses in symptoms or feeling even more tired. William said that he had still been able to play badminton, but only “between relapses”.

Beth described how her daughter was determined to take part in her drama club’s Christmas show. She has to miss out on playdates and birthday parties sometimes.

Richard’s son loves doing sport and feels like Long Covid has taken away things he enjoys.

Ben noticed that sports and afterschool clubs drained his energy, so he has stopped doing them.

The biggest difference for Zohaib is that he is unable to play as many sports as he used to.

A few young people were able to continue with some normal activities despite having Long Covid symptoms. Francesca felt relieved that her daughter has not been as seriously affected by Long Covid as she has been herself.

Francesca feels lucky that even though she has had serious fatigue herself, her daughter Sierra was still able to manage activities, including her dance class.

Spending time with friends

Parents with Long Covid told us about how their social circles have shrunk since becoming ill, as their priorities shifted with limited energy. Helen said she has developed closer relationships with other parents she met at the school gate, which was a key part of her day. Lachlan described how limiting his social life also led to less time spent with his young daughter.

Christian has had to limit his social interactions, but feels like he is missing out on valuable time with his young daughter.

Many children and teenagers felt sad that they could not spend as much time with their friends. Despite connecting with their friends through messaging or social media, they felt upset that they couldn’t see them in person very often.

Daisy felt like she had ‘disappeared’ and that she was missing out on time with her friends.

Emma’s daughter Bella has missed her friends at school and is keen to get back to see them.

People found planning in advance for social activities very difficult. Evie was frustrated that she was unable to keep her plans with her friends.

Evie didn’t think her friends really understood how unwell she was and that there are bad days and good days.

Deidre’s daughter was unable to commit to plans in advance.

Parents were very aware that their children needed to pace themselves with social activity. As well as challenges with making conversation due to brain fog, Catherine suspected that her teenage son was probably unable to connect with his friends as they moved on with their lives. She said, “they all are busy. Summer’s doing all sorts of things that teenagers do, being on holidays and also festivals and jobs… some form of further education and you know he’s not doing anything. So I imagine that’s quite hard to know what to talk about.”

Outings and holidays

Family trips or holidays were often now very difficult and challenging to plan. The families we talked to spoke about how outings and holidays they used to do were now physically exhausting and they were reconsidering future plans. Maryam’s family recently cancelled a holiday to visit her mother in Pakistan, saying, “We cancelled it because it’s not easy.” She and her husband told their children that their father had to work as an excuse because they didn’t want to disappoint them. However, Sonal’s son surprised her with a holiday, to give her a break and a rest from her responsibilities at home.

Lucy A’s family has had to adjust their expectations of what would be manageable, while trying to still make special occasions fun.

Ada used to fully immerse herself in her community activities, but no longer feels she can contribute as much.

Sonal’s son surprised her with a holiday to Lisbon, to give her a break and a rest.

Religious activities, weddings and funerals

Participation in religious services, such as attending church or going to the mosque, was affected for some families. Colin explained that, “Rosie’s not coming to church, for example, like she would have done and that was an important part of our family, but it’s just, you know, because her stock of energy is so low.”

Maryam’s children started attending religious services online because of lockdown, but have had to continue as going to the mosque after school is now too tiring for them with Long Covid.

Important occasions or festivals, such as Ramadan or Eid, were sometimes too much to manage. Weddings or funerals could be particularly challenging.

Jana didn’t want to take one of her children out for Eid celebrations when Samir couldn’t attend.

Helen was unable to attend her cousin’s wedding as she knew she wouldn’t then be able to manage her work and caring for her son.

Rebekah’s husband passed away from Covid. In the lead up to the funeral, she ‘just wanted to sleep.’

However, some families found ways to manage. Vonnie described how instead of her attending events, her family brought the events to her, so she wouldn’t miss out.

Vonnie used to be very involved in her church community, but has had to carefully manage her energy. Her family now brings celebrations to her.