Emerging evidence indicates that there are several short and long-term health effects associated with COVID-19. As the pandemic unfolds, studies indicate that there are many ways infection with Covid-19 can affect someone’s health; and many organs besides the lungs are affected.
How long it takes to recover from coronavirus is different for everybody. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. 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”.
The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get coronavirus. People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems. Several studies are underway to further investigate how common these symptoms are, who is most likely to get them, and whether they eventually resolve.
Symptoms of long COVID
Common symptoms of long COVID include:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- 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
More serious long-term complications, although appearing to be less common have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body. These include:
- Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
- Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
- Renal: acute kidney injury
- Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
- Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
- Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood
The long-term significance of these effects is not yet known. Active investigation is being carried out and updates will be published as new data emerge.
Contact your GP if you are worried about symptoms 4 weeks or more after having coronavirus. You may need further tests (e.g. blood tests, X-Rays…). If your symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have. These services can help manage your symptoms and help you recover. Read more here.
Some tips for managing Long Covid symptoms:
Fatigue and breathlessness
- Pace yourself – plan your activities ahead of time and do not over exert yourself.
- Try to gradually increase your exercise. For example, start with short walks or simple exercises.
- Try to maintain a daily routine.
- Keep moving and stay active as this will help release endorphins and improve your mood.
- Reach out to friends and family. During lock-downs or home isolation you can stay connected through social media.
- Make notes of important things, such as appointments.
- Try to reduce distractions around you.
Relieving joint or muscle pain
- Flexibility exercises, such as stretches and yoga can be useful. Appropriate strength exercises such as lifting weights and working with resistance bands may also be helpful. However, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.