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Covid Brain Fog & the Impact on Our Pets

Blog Home Jul 16, 2021

After more than a year of lockdown, lack of routine and reduced social contact, many Brits have reported experiencing Covid brain fog.   

So here at Itch, we wanted to understand how many people in the UK have been affected by this and how, further down the line, this might also affect our much-loved pets.  

So, what is brain fog? 

Brain fog could be considered a type of cognitive impairment. If you’ve experienced any of the following lately, you might have had a run-in with brain fog:

  • Memory problems 
  • Lack of mental clarity 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Inability to focus

We wanted to find out why this happens, what time of the day it’s most likely to happen and what items are commonly forgotten – whether these be general items or tasks, and how many of these are related to our furry friends.  

The results 

Our study found that Brits are forgetting an average of 1095 things per year, as nearly two thirds (65%) admit they have become more forgetful since the pandemic began in March 2020.   

On top of this, over two thirds (69%) of the nation, and in particular, pet owners, admit they are forgetful and this is affecting their day-to-day activities. Brain fog is also on the increase, with 71% saying they have experienced symptoms since the start of lockdown!  

So why are we becoming forgetful? The top culprit is people’s inability to switch off (32%), followed by a lack of diverse routine (34%) and a lack of sleep (40%).  

We’re all guilty of forgetting the odd thing here and there, but we found that Brits forget at least three things per day, equating to 93 things on average per month, with lockdown likely to blame. It is revealed that the hours of 7-9am are when Brits are at their most forgetful.  

To take a deeper dive into these results, we caught up with Jo Hemmings, an experienced Behavioural Psychologist and registered member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) to see what she has to say on the subject, and what her top tips are for combatting brain fog.

“Whether it’s going upstairs to do something and then forgetting why you went there, or telling a story with a point that you can’t quite recall halfway through your first sentence, we have all had one thing in common during this pandemic – we have suffered in one form or another from ‘brain fog’.  

“Brain fog is undoubtedly a form of cognitive impairment, but unlike many more serious conditions, it is nearly always temporary and will return once we get back into a recognisable and familiar routine.” 

So, what can we do to help ourselves? 

Jo recommends the following…

  1. The combination of boredom, disruption, uncertainty, social isolation and anxiety are a recipe for what we know as brain fog. Imposing routines, however different they may be from our lives before the pandemic, creates a certain order and structure to our daily lives, which wards off forgetfulness.
  2. Having a meal every evening at the same time or ensuring that you walk your dog just after you get up and an hour before you go to bed, or even reading exactly 15 pages of a book each day, will create micro-doses of order out of potential chaos and offer that all-important structure. And think about setting up reminders for shopping and deliveries so that you don’t have to remember – technology will do it for you! It’s very liberating once you start.
  3. While we know that our pets have been a huge comfort to us during the pandemic, oblivious as they are to what is going on while living their best lives, it is easy for us humans to forget their routines. Not the obvious ones like walking or feeding perhaps, (they’ll almost certainly let us know), but changing their water bowls or keeping up with their flea or worming treatments is something we are much more likely to forget.
  4. While boredom, stress and inactivity combine to create brain fog, physical exercise and the novelty value of new experiences can counteract it. Learning to ride a bike, juggle or taking up yoga are all ways of introducing newness and exercise into your life. This will get endorphins and dopamine (feel good hormones) pumping through your body.
  5. Try not to overthink brain fog. Yes, it may be a long time since we went to a party (What will we talk about? What should I wear? How long do we stay?) or give someone a hug (How will that feel again? How long do you hug people for? Should I hug friends I didn’t hug before?) but innate behaviours – like social interaction and hugging will come back very quickly. We were born with the instincts to do these things. We may have learned to adapt without them, but it’s impossible that we will have forgotten how to do them.
  6. Brain fog is a natural survival mechanism. We temporarily forget what isn’t important to us when faced with more pressing matters! So, give yourself a pat on the back for having the coping mechanisms that let your brain get its priorities in order. 

How does this affect our pets? 

Here at Itch, we thought it was only right to find out if pet owners are experiencing their own challenges when it comes to forgetfulness.  

With summer and peak flea season upon us, the data found that pet owners are most likely to forget their pet’s flea treatment, which is bad news for their fluffy companions! With pets being a saviour and companion for many during lockdown, it’s super important that we don’t forget their needs too. 

The top 5 items most likely to be forgotten by pet owners:   

Item   %  
Flea treatment   32%  
Poo bags when out and about   29%  
Worming treatment   28%  
Letting them inside from the outside   18%  
Their hiding places   17%  

With flea treatment falling behind for some pet owners, one of our Itch panellists, Dr Paul Manktelow, gives his recommendations on the importance of regular parasite protection and pet care during peak flea season.  

“If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it is that routines can swiftly go out of the window (along with the supplies of loo roll). With lockdown days melting together, it’s no surprise that many of us have lost track of some of those ‘must-do’ tasks like remembering exactly when to give our pets their routine healthcare.  

“Fleas are a problem all year round but with the heat of summer comes the perfect climate for the lifecycle of the flea to speed up….resulting in more fleas!   

“Fleas are known as an ectoparasite and are responsible for ‘Flea Allergic Dermatitis’ (FAD). This is where your pet has an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva after a bite and is estimated to account for approximately 50% of all reported dermatological cases worldwide, an itchy problem to be sure!  

“These nasty little parasites are also responsible for more than just their bite as they can also transmit a whole host of horrible diseases to your pet, and maybe even to their human owners. Considering fleas were the main super spreaders of the Plague in the 1300’s it’s not hard to see why we don’t want these guys hanging around! 

“Being aware of how to check your dog or cat for fleas is an important part of routine pet care. The favourite hiding place of a flea is your pet’s neck, back, base of the tail and the inside of their hind limbs. Using a flea comb to part the fur in these particular areas will help you to visualise any fleas that are hiding out there. You can also use a damp cotton pad to wipe the skin. If there are any flea faeces present it will stain the pad a blackish red colour. 

“With all of this in mind it’s super important to keep your pet’s flea and worming treatment up to date throughout the year.  And what better reminder is there than your pet’s treatment arriving through the post and landing on the doormat each month!” 

What Itch can do to help  

Itch is a winning combination of pet health and well-being products, including highly effective parasite treatments and automatic delivery to your front door, exactly when you need it. So you’ll never forget to protect your pet again.