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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Long COVID describes the ongoing symptoms people feel after infection with COVID-19. Doctors term this post-COVID syndrome and class it as any symptoms lasting three months after your infection started.

Recovery from COVID-19 infection differs from person to person. For many, the common symptoms of COVID-19 will resolve within a few weeks. We don’t yet know why, but some people are left with symptoms a long time after initial symptoms of the infection have improved.

Severe illness with COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily make people more likely to get longstanding symptoms. We haven’t yet found any links between the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and the chance of getting longstanding symptoms. There is a lot we still don’t know.

The symptoms

The symptoms of long COVID vary from person to person. They can affect all body systems, and there is not a definition of what are or aren’t long COVID symptoms. If you are still not feeling right after a confirmed COVID-19 infection, and have bothersome ongoing symptoms, this could be long COVID.

Common symptoms people complain of include chest symptoms such as shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, and tightness. Brain fog and lack of concentration is common, as well as generalized fatigue and sleeping changes. Other symptoms that have been seen and commonly noted include skin changes and rashes, taste and smell changes, tummy upset and appetite changes, and generalized muscle and joint pains. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be many more specific symptoms people will feel.

When should I see my doctor?

There are some urgent medical problems associated with recent COVID-19 infection, therefore the threshold for speaking to your doctor should be relatively low. If you have severe symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, or chest tightness this should be discussed with your doctor urgently.

The first step will be to rule out any serious problems that need to be dealt with. To do this your doctor may examine you, check your oxygen levels, order an X-ray or do some blood tests. Once this has been done, you may be reassured that there is nothing urgent and your symptoms are likely due to the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Can specialists help?

If you have ongoing symptoms for more than four weeks after your COVID-19 infection that affect your life and normal activities, you should discuss these with your doctor. There are long COVID specialist clinics that are being run from many hospitals. They can assist with a further review of your symptoms and may be able to help with specialist rehabilitation aiming to get you back to your best self soon.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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