Long COVID or Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms and that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis
Long COVID can include a wide range of ongoing health problems; these conditions can last weeks, months, or longer.
- Long COVID conditions are found more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness, but anyone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience post-COVID conditions, even people who had mild illness or no symptoms from COVID-19.
- People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected might also be at higher risk of developing long COVID conditions compared to people who were vaccinated and had breakthrough infections.
- While most people with long COVID conditions have evidence of infection or COVID-19 illness, in some cases, a person with long COVID conditions may not have tested positive for the virus or known they were infected.
People with long COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again.
Long COVID may not affect everyone the same way. People with long COVID may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms happening over different lengths of time. Most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time. However, for some people, post-COVID conditions can last weeks, months, or longer after COVID-19 illness and can sometimes result in people not being able to do their usual daily task.
People who experience Long COVID most commonly report:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort
Respiratory and heart symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (light-headedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
It is important to remember that these symptoms can be different from person to person and they can come and go or change over time. You can get Long COVID even if your COVID infection was mild.
Prevention of Long COVID
The most effective means by which to prevent long COVID is to prevent COVID-19 (e.g., vaccination, masking, social distancing, hand hygiene). It is likely that any measure that decreases the incidence or severity of acute COVID 19 infection will turn decrease the incidence and severity of post- COVID condition.
There is evidence that tells us being vaccinated against COVID-19 will help prevent the on-going symptoms of COVID-19. Vaccination seems to reduce the risk of persistent symptoms. Of course, the best way to avoid long COVID is not get COVID in the first place, and the vaccines can help with that, too. So can wearing a mask and just being careful.
How to treat symptoms
Firstly, if you develop new COVID-19 symptoms more than 4 weeks after your recovery from COVID-19, get a PCR test as it is possible to be reinfected.
When recovering from illness, such as COVID-19, it is common for your symptoms and energy levels to change.
If you are feeling well, you may try to do more things, but this could make you feel unwell and you may need to rest. Remember that you need rest to recover.
Fatigue from Long COVID can be severe. For Long COVID patients experiencing fatigue, a small task can cause physical exhaustion and difficulty concentrating.
This can be frustrating and stressful. It is important to pace, plan and prioritise your activities, in order to avoid becoming this exhausted.
Most people make a full recovery, but it may take time. Monitor your symptoms and seek help if you are not improving or if you need support. It can also be helpful to ask family and friends for support if you need it.
Long COVID patient support groups are also emerging.
Find more information on Managing your COVID-19 symptoms at home.
When to seek help after COVID infection
If you are still experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 4 to 6 weeks after your infection, then you need to book in and head to your local GP or Health Service to ensure that you get the right treatment. After you recover from COVID-19, you should also tell your doctor or health worker if you develop new symptoms.
Note that a rare complication can occur following COVID-19 infection in children and teenagers. This is called PIMS-TS or “PIMS”:
- This appears as a new illness, two to six weeks after having COVID-19. Symptoms include feeling unwell, rash, tummy pain or fever. Other symptoms include red eyes (conjunctivitis), lips, hands, feet or swollen neck glands.
- It can be severe and mean that some kids will have to go to hospital and in some cases, even intensive care. This means that being vaccinated is especially important to keep kids safe from getting really sick.
If your child has these signs, you should see a doctor immediately.
Mental Health Support and Resources
When symptoms of COVID-19 linger for months, the mental health impacts can be significant. Please refer to the link below for some suggestions to help you manage your mental health if you have long COVID, or if you are anxious about developing it.