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Long COVID

Information from the NHS about long COVID.

For some people, coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or "long COVID".

How long it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everybody.

Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer.

The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get COVID-19.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.

There are lots of symptoms you can have after a COVID-19 infection.

Common long COVID symptoms include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

Contact a GP if:

  • you're worried about symptoms 4 weeks or more after having COVID-19

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they're having on your life.

They may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.

These might include:

  • blood tests
  • checking your blood pressure and heart rate
  • a chest X-ray

Your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need.

You may be given advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home.

If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.

These services can help manage your symptoms and help you recover.

You can find more information to support your recovery on the Your COVID Recovery website.

Research from the National Institute for Health Research suggested that long COVID may be made up of different syndromes, including:

  • post-intensive care syndrome

  • post-viral fatigue syndrome

  • long-term covid syndrome[1].

People who have experienced long COVID reported friends, family and health professionals doubted their symptoms. They also felt frustrated by a lack of support, likely due to limited understanding about the long-term effects of coronavirus[1].

To build trust and get better health outcomes for patients, it’s important to show compassion and acknowledge that experiences of long COVID symptoms are real.

You can find out more about recovering from coronavirus, including information for carers, family and friends on the NHS Your COVID Recovery website.

Published

June 2021

Next review

June 2022

Reviewed by

Gill Stone MRPharmS

References

  1. 1.

    NIHR. Living with Covid19. NIHR Evidence. doi:10.3310/themedreview_41169