Living with long COVID
Many people with coronavirus make a full recovery within weeks. But others continue to feel the effects for some time after – this is known as 'long COVID'.
What is long COVID?
You may experience symptoms and the effects of coronavirus for some time after you've had it - this is known as long COVID. We've listed some of the signs and symptoms to look out for below.
What are the symptoms of long COVID?
Everyone who has long COVID will experience it differently, but there are some common symptoms:
- extreme tiredness ('fatigue')
- difficulty sleeping
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- heart palpitations
- 'brain fog' (problems with concentration and memory)
- feeling anxious or depressed
- a high temperature
- a cough or a sore throat
- earache or tinnitus (hearing noises that aren't there)
- changes to your sense of smell or taste
- a loss of appetite
- feeling sick, stomach aches or diarrhoea
- pins and needles
- joint pain
How do I know if I have long COVID?
It can be difficult to know if you have long COVID – especially as you may not be sure you had coronavirus to start with.
It's possible you're experiencing some of the symptoms listed above for a different reason. But if you're still worried about any of these symptoms 4 weeks after you became ill with coronavirus, you should speak to your GP.
Even if you're unsure you had coronavirus, it's still a good idea to speak to your GP.
What can I do if I have long COVID?
If you have long COVID, or if you're worried you might have it, there are some things you can do.
- Visit your GP. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and may do some tests to find out what’s causing them. Depending on your symptoms, they might give you advice about looking after yourself at home, or they might refer you to a specialist rehabilitation service or long COVID clinic. If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, you may be referred to talking therapies.
- Use NHS resources. Your COVID Recovery is an online resource for those experiencing long COVID. It monitors your symptoms, helps you access further resources, and lets you speak directly to a health professional via a chat function. To use Your COVID Recovery, you need to be referred by a health professional, such as your GP.
- Make the most of additional resources. Specialist organisations, such as British Lung Foundation and Rethink Mental Health, have produced further information for people living with long COVID.
How long does it take to recover from long COVID?
Long COVID affects everyone differently – and how long it takes to recover varies from person to person, too. It might be a matter of weeks, or it might be several months.
Factors such as how unwell you were with coronavirus and whether you live with any other health conditions can have an impact on how long it takes to feel like yourself again.
Tips for living with long COVID
Living with long COVID can be really challenging. But there are things you can do to help yourself feel a bit better.
- Look after your wellbeing. Things like eating well and getting a good night's sleep are important in helping you recover.
- Keep an eye on your mental health. Long COVID can take a toll on your mental health – it's estimated that one in four people with long COVID will need mental health support. If you're finding things hard, make sure you talk to someone you trust about how you're feeling. Speak to your GP about accessing talking therapies.
- Pace yourself. You may find that everyday tasks, such as housework, leave you feeling breathless or tired. Break activities down into smaller chunks and try to build up over time.
- Keep moving. You may find it hard to be active, but gentle exercise is important for your recovery. Try to move about regularly, even if that just means getting up from your chair or going for a short walk.
- Stay motivated. Think about the activities you'd like to be able to do and set small goals to help you get there. Celebrate your successes – but remember that some days will be easier than others, so don’t be discouraged by setbacks.