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Long-term effects of coronavirus (long COVID)

What is long COVID?

Most people with coronavirus (COVID-19) feel better within a few days or weeks of their first symptoms and make a full recovery within 12 weeks. For some people, symptoms can last longer.

This is called long COVID or post COVID-19 syndrome. Long COVID is a new condition which is still being studied.

Information:

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

Symptoms of long COVID

The most common symptoms of long COVID are:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of smell
  • muscle aches

However, there are lots of symptoms you can have after a COVID-19 infection, including:

  • problems with your memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • chest pain or tightness
  • 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

Non-urgent advice: Contact a GP if:

  • you're worried about symptoms 4 weeks or more after you had COVID-19 or you think you may have had COVID-19

Getting a referral to a long COVID service

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
  • measuring your oxygen levels

Treatment and support

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 service, rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.

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

If you have mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, find out how you can access NHS mental health support services.

How long does it take to recover?

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.

Recovering from long COVID

Recovery from long COVID varies. Some symptoms can improve quickly and others 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.

Your COVID Recovery programme

The ‘Your Recovery programme’ is an online recovery programme to support you while you recover from the long-term effects of COVID-19.

You need to be referred to the programme by a healthcare professional. You will be given a unique code to register on your computer, tablet device or smart phone.

The ‘Your COVID Recovery' website supports the programme and includes information on:

Long COVID research

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) is funding research studies to help improve our understanding of long COVID. Read more about long COVID research on the NIHR website.

Page last reviewed: 9 August 2022
Next review due: 28 October 2022