LOS ANGELES -- A new survey finds Americans are letting their guard down when it comes to respiratory viruses such as COVID-19.
Kimberly Brazelton, a local nurse, is still feeling the effects of her initial infection and one symptom called POTS is making this season much tougher for her to manage.
With the holidays coming, Brazelton is practicing caution.
"The worst fall was Christmas Eve," she said.
The Eastvale resident woke up with a big knot on her forehead. Being unsteady is not the norm for this former emergency department nurse, but after Brazelton got infected with COVID two years ago, she hasn't been the same.
"I tried going back to the ER once a week, and my body just couldn't handle it. I was dizzy," she said.
"When they stand up, there is an increase in their heart rate, almost 30 points or so, or more than 120 beats per minute," said cardiologist Dr. Purvi Parwani.
She said when someone with POTs tries to stand, the syndrome disrupts the autonomic nervous system, heart function and blood pressure.
Many patients end up in wheelchairs. It can cause extreme fatigue. Brazelton has also dealt with anxiety and depression.
"I just was so tired of always feeling tired, and I still do feel tired," she said.
Blood pooled in Brazelton's feet. Causes of POTS include pregnancy, trauma and viral illness.
"So when you have COVID, your chances of getting POTS are five times more than the general population," Parwani said.
There is no cure for POTS, rather doctors try to manage symptoms with a multi-disciplinary approach including exercise to improve blood flow and strength.
"It has a lot to do with their lifestyle, diet, medications and almost changing their life upside down to treat this condition," she said.
A national survey found a third of Americans believe they don't need vaccines if they're not high risk, but as Parwani said even a mild case of COVID increases your risk for POTS.
"If you have a chance where you can prevent getting COVID by whatever mechanisms, we should avoid getting any viruses.
From now on, Brazelton has to keep a close eye on her heart health. She's had to step back from being an ER nurse, but she feels she's making progress in her recovery.
"I'm just trying to move on. Just continue on," she said.