Long-term effects of COVID-19

From breathlessness to joint & muscle pain, these are some of the symptoms associated with Long COVID that you need to know about

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues we’re constantly learning new things about the virus and how it can affect everyone differently. While most people with COVID-19 recover and return to normal health fairly quickly, some people can continue to experience symptoms for weeks and months. This is a condition now commonly known as Long COVID.

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID describes the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that continue or develop for weeks or months after the initial illness. It includes both ongoing COVID-19 symptoms (from four to 12 weeks after initial infection) and post-COVID-19 syndrome (symptoms that last for 12 weeks or more).

Research suggests that around one in five people who test positive for COVID-19 have symptoms for five weeks or longer. One in 10 people may experience symptoms that last 12 weeks or longer. According to the NHS, the exact number of people in the UK experiencing symptoms of Long COVID is still unclear as research is still ongoing. It’s currently estimated to be around 60,000 people, with the number expected to go up and down in line with infection rates.

What are the symptoms of Long COVID?

Those with Long COVID usually experience several symptoms, which may cross over with one another and can change over time. While there are lots of different Long COVID symptoms, common symptoms can include:

• Fatigue

• A cough

• A loss or change of taste and/or smell

• Breathlessness

• Chest pain

• Headaches

• Dizziness

• Joint pain

• Muscle pain 

• Sleep problems

As well as physical symptoms, Long COVID can also cause feelings of depression and anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious, low or stressed, you may find our tips for looking after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic helpful. Remember to speak to your GP if you’re worried about or struggling with any symptoms.

Can anyone with COVID-19 get Long COVID?

This one is a little tricky to answer as research is still going on. Developing Long-COVID symptoms is not thought to be linked to how severe initial COVID-19 symptoms were. It seems that even people who weren’t admitted to hospital, and who had a mild COVID-19 illness, can experience Long COVID. As this is a new condition, there is currently no definitive answer for why the virus may cause Long COVID symptoms in some people but not in others (although there are lots of ideas).

How long does it take to recover from Long COVID?

Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to predict how long recovery from Long COVID will take. Recovery time is different for everyone and no one knows exactly how long it can last for. Scientists across the world are working hard to find out more about what happens to people as they recover and how to help ease symptoms. If you’re worried about lasting, new or changes to your symptoms then speak with your GP.

If you have had COVID-19, you may still be coming to terms with the impact the virus has had on both your physical and mental health. Your COVID Recovery is a website that’s been set up by the NHS to provide information and support anyone who has had a COVID-19 infection. It aims to help you understand what’s happened and what you might expect as part of your recovery. If you’re worried about your symptoms, or if they’re getting worse, make sure you speak to your GP.

Information correct at time of publication (12.01am 12/03/2021)