After contracting COVID-19 it can take up to 12 weeks for your symptoms to disappear and for you to make a full recovery from the virus. For some people, COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. Symptoms that go on longer than 12 weeks are known as ‘Long Covid’.
The chances of having long-term symptoms are not linked to how ill you were when you first got COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of Long Covid?
There are wide-ranging symptoms of Long Covid, making it difficult for doctors to diagnose. Everyone’s condition and symptoms are slightly different.
The main symptoms are the same as COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath
- Changes to the sense of taste or smell
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle ache
- Memory Loss
- High temperature
- Sore throat
Additional symptoms fall into one of three main categories:
- Joint pain
- Chest pain or tightness
- Heart palpitations
- Pins and needles
- Tinnitus or earache
- Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches or loss of appetite
- Memory problems
- Concentration problems (‘brain fog’)
- Depression and anxiety
- Extreme tiredness
- Low energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Needing a lot more sleep than normal
When should I contact my doctor?
Advice from the NHS suggests you contact your doctor if you are worried about continuing symptoms more than four weeks after having COVID-19.
To contact your GP surgery, you can:
- Visit their website
- Call them
- Use the NHS app
Your doctor will need to rule out other causes for your symptoms and may wish to conduct some tests before reaching their diagnosis. These tests can include blood tests, measuring your oxgyen levels or an x-ray.
If your doctor thinks you have Long Covid, they will look at your medical history and ask questions about your symptoms and the impact they are having on your day- to-day life.
What support should I receive after I’ve seen my doctor?
After you have seen your doctor, they will talk to you about what they think is happening and discuss any support they think you need. They will also rule out any other conditions or illnesses that might be causing your symptoms.
Your doctor may give you advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home.
If your symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred for:
- Support from primary care services, community services or mental health services.
- Specialist care.
If you need specialist care you may be referred to a Post COVID Service, where you’ll be looked after and supported by a range of health care professionals.
Do I need to attend a Post COVID Service?
Post COVID Services were launched in December 2020, bringing together a wide range of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
The clinics offer physical, psychological and rehabilitation needs assessments, with the aim to bring a more holistic diagnostic approach and referral for long COVID treatment, management and support.
Referrals to the specialist services are made based on someone’s ongoing symptoms and the impact on their day-to-day life. They are not based on the severity of the initial illness, or a positive COVID-19 test.
Your COVID Recovery
The NHS has also launched an online resource called ‘Your COVID Recovery’ which is available in two parts.
The first part of the platform is designed to offer advice and guidance to support your physical and emotional recovery if you have Long COVID symptoms. You will need to get a referral from your doctor to access this online resource .
The second part of the Your COVID Recovery resource can be accessed following referral from a Post COVID Service. Through this platform you can get advice and support from health care professionals on your mental health, physical activity, managing your symptoms and diet. You’ll also be able to track your symptoms and set goals.
Other support available
The World Health Organisation has produced a helpful guide for managing your illness yourself. This includes advice on managing different symptoms, returning to work and a tracking diary to record your symptoms.
You might be able to get support for your symptoms from pharmacies and community groups.
Tell us your story
If you’ve had Long Covid, then help us improve services and support by telling us about your experience.
Tips for managing Long Covid symptoms
There are lots of small things you can do to manage your symptoms. Ensuring you get enough sleep, and eating a healthy balanced diet are two important ways to look after yourself.
It’s also important to conserve your energy. To make sure you don’t burn out before the end of the day try following the 3 P’s Principe – pace, plan and prioritise.
- Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to slow down.
- Break activities into smaller tasks and spread them out throughout the day.
- Stop when you get tired, don’t push yourself until you are exhausted – you’ll recover quicker this way.
- Build rests into your tasks and plan breaks between activities. Resting is key to recharging your energy.
- Look at the activities you need to do on a daily and weekly basis and spread them evenly across the week.
- Think about which activities are going to tire you out the most, and make sure these don’t happen on a busy day.
- Avoid planning activities at times of day when you are often more tired.
- Think about whether there are ways you can adapt tasks to make them easier – for example sitting down whilst doing the washing up or getting equipment to help you around the home.
- Some daily activities are necessary, but others aren’t. There might be some tasks you can stop, do less often or ask someone to help you with until you are feeling better.
- Make sure you do a balance of necessary tasks, like washing, but also the things you enjoy doing, such as walking the dog or meeting friends.
- Start the day by asking yourself:
- What do I need to do today and what do I want to do today?
- What can I put off until another day?
- What can I ask someone to help me with?