From breathlessness to joint & muscle pain, these are some of the symptoms associated with Long COVID that you need to know about
We’re still learning new things about the COVID-19 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).
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.
The most common symptoms of Long COVID are:
• Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
• Shortness of breath
• Loss of smell
• Muscle aches
However, there are a number of other symptoms you may experience after a COVID-19 infection including:
• Problems with memory and/or concentration (known as ‘brain fog’)
• Chest pain or tightness
• Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
• Heart palpitations
• Pins and needles
• Joint pain
• Depression and anxiety
• Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches and loss of appetite
• A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
If you’ve had symptoms of Long COVID for four weeks or more, and you’re concerned, contact your GP.
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. and some symptoms may improve quickly whilst others may last longer. If you’re worried about lasting, new or changes to your symptoms then speak with your GP.
The NHS now has a Long COVID Service and a COVID Recovery Programme. Your GP will ask you about your symptoms, and the impact they have on your day-to-day life. They might suggest tests to find out more about your symptoms, and also to help to rule out other things that might be causing them.
These tests might include:
• Blood tests
• Checking your blood pressure and heart rate
• A chest x-ray
• Measuring your oxygen levels
Depending on your results, your GP will talk to you about the care and support you might need, including advice on how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home.
If your symptoms are having a big impact on your daily life, you might be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service, to help you manage your symptoms and begin to recover.
You may also be referred to the ‘Your COVID Recovery programme’ which is an online recovery programme to support you while you recover from the long-term effects of COVID-19. You’ll need to be referred by your healthcare professional, you’ll be given a unique code to register on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
There’s also the ‘Your COVID Recovery’ website which support the programme, and includes information on:
• Supporting your mind and mental health
• Managing the effects of long COVID on your body
• Managing long COVID alongside other conditions
• Tips to help you eat well, sleep well and exercise