Find out more about this new condition and how to tell if you have it.
What is long-COVID?
For most people, COVID-19 is a short, mild illness and is over within 1-2 weeks. However, some people experience ongoing symptoms for weeks or months after the first infection is over. The symptoms might be new or they may continue from the first infection. They can also change over time. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- extreme tiredness,
- shortness of breath,
- problems with memory and concentration,
- ongoing changes to taste and smell,
- depression and anxiety,
- muscle pain,
- chest pain,
- cough and
How can I tell if I have long-COVID or something else?
Long-COVID is a new condition that is not yet fully understood. It is generally labelled as continuing symptoms of COVID-19 infection that cannot be explained by anything else. Many of the symptoms could be caused by other things and it is hard to understand where they are coming from.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and you have symptoms that you are concerned about, lasting longer than 12 weeks, speak with your healthcare professional. They can check whether your symptoms are being caused by something else.
It is important to check out symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain and a cough to make sure they are not being caused by a separate lung condition, such as asthma or COPD. If you experience a new fever, it may also be another infection such as flu, pneumonia or COVID-19.
If your symptoms appear to be caused by long-COVID then your healthcare professional can refer you for further support.
If you are already living with a lung condition, make sure you speak to your healthcare professional about any concerns. It is important to continue taking your medication to manage any existing symptoms.
Treatment for long-COVID
The treatment that is offered for long-COVID differs between countries. Some places are establishing clinics to treat people with long-COVID symptoms, offer rehabilitation and collect information on the condition.
The support you get will depend on what systems are set up in your country. It will also depend on what you need to help manage your symptoms. You may be referred by your doctor to other services for more support. A team of healthcare professionals can assess your needs, and what you need from different services. This could be from physiotherapists, mental health services or experts in specific areas such as neurology.
Your doctor will then work with you to develop a plan to help get back to how you felt before COVID-19.
Self-management for long-COVID includes maintaining activity as much as possible and eating a healthy diet. It is important to set realistic goals and be aware that for some patients “over-doing it” in terms of activity can worsen fatigue. Be aware that symptoms can fluctuate from day to day. There is no proof, at the moment, that any medication can improve the symptoms of long-COVID.
Research into long-COVID is in the early stages. It is beginning to build up a picture of the impact this condition is having and what treatment options work best. The World Health Organization has called on countries to report on the long-term impact that COVID-19 is having on people. By collecting this information, they will be able to better understand long-COVID and produce guidelines on how best to treat it.
This information was produced with members of the EU-funded DRAGON project. This work has received support from the EU/EFPIA Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking – DRAGON grant n° 101005122. Further information at: https://www.imi.europa.eu/
The communication reflects the author’s view and neither IMI nor the European Union, EFPIA, or any Associated Partners are responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.