Long-term effects of coronavirus (Long Covid)
For some people, coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or “Long Covid”.
About Long Covid: From the NHS
How long it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everybody. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks, and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer. The chance of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get COVID-19, and some people who had only mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.
Symptoms of Long Covid
There are lots of symptoms you can have after a COVID-19 infection. Long Covid symptoms include:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
Picture Credit: Screenshot from ITN News at: https://youtu.be/9BN5MGDh4OU
You should contact your GP if you’re worried about symptoms four weeks or more after having COVID-19.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP
It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:
- visit their website
- use the NHS App
- call them
Your appointment with your GP
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they’re having on your life. They may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.
The tests might include:
- blood tests
- checking your blood pressure and heart rate
- a chest X-ray
Treatment and support
Your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need. You may be given advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home. If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have. These services can help manage your symptoms and help you recover.
You can find more information to support your recovery on the Your COVID Recovery website
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters from WHO
FACT: Hand sanitisers can be used often
An alcohol-based sanitiser does not create antibiotic resistance. Unlike other antiseptics and antibiotics, pathogens (harmful germs) do not seem to develop resistance to alcohol-based sanitisers.
FACT: Alcohol-based sanitisers are safe for everyone to use
Alcohol in the sanitisers has not been shown to create any relevant health issues. Little alcohol is absorbed into the skin, and most products contain an emollient to reduce skin dryness. Allergic contact dermatitis and bleaching of hand hair due to alcohol are very rare adverse effects. Accidental swallowing and intoxication have been described in rare cases.
FACT: Alcohol-based sanitisers can be used in religions where alcohol is prohibited
Any manufactured substance developed to alleviate illness or contribute to better health is permitted by the Qur’an, including alcohol used as a medical agent.
FACT: The amount of alcohol-based sanitiser you use matters
Apply a palmful of alcohol-based sanitiser to cover all surfaces of your hands. Rub your hands together using the right technique until they are dry. The entire procedure should last 20-30 seconds.
FACT: It is safer to frequently clean your hands and not wear gloves
Wearing gloves risks transferring germs from one surface to another and contaminating your hands when removing them. Wearing gloves does not replace cleaning hands. Health workers wear gloves only for specific tasks.
FACT: Touching a communal bottle of alcohol-based sanitiser will not infect you
Once you’ve sanitised your hands, you have disinfected them from any germs that may have been on the bottle. If everyone uses sanitiser in a public place such as a supermarket entrance, the risk of germs on communal items will be lower and will help keep everyone safe.
FACT: An alcohol-based handrub is listed as a WHO essential medicine
Clean hands protect patients, health workers, other caregivers and everyone from infection. Cleaning your hands is one of the key measures to prevent disease.
FACT: Clinical trials confirm that hydroxychloroquine does not prevent illness or death from COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, a common treatment for malaria and certain autoimmune diseases, has been studied as a preventative treatment for COVID-19. Evidence from these studies shows that hydroxychloroquine has little to no impact on illness, hospitalisation, or death.
FACT: Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot cure COVID-19
Micronutrients, such as vitamins D and C and zinc, are critical for a well-functioning immune system and play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well-being. There is currently no guidance on using micronutrient supplements to treat COVID-19. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop and evaluate medicines to treat COVID-19.
Is Dexamethasone a treatment for all COVID-19 patients?
Dexamethasone should be reserved for patients who need it most. It should not be stockpiled. It provided no improvement for patients with mild symptoms. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid used for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects. For some COVID-19 patients on ventilators, a daily 6 mg dose of Dexamethasone for ten days improved their health.
Fact: Water or swimming does not transmit the COVID-19 virus
The COVID-19 virus does not transmit through the water while swimming. However, the virus spreads between people when someone has close contact with an infected person.
Avoid crowds and maintain at least a one-metre distance from others, even when swimming or at swimming areas. Wear a mask when you’re not in the water, and if you can’t stay distant. Clean your hands frequently, cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue or bent elbow, and stay home if you’re unwell.
FACT: The likelihood of shoes spreading COVID-19 is very low
The possibility of COVID-19 being spread on shoes and infecting individuals is very low. As a precautionary measure, particularly in homes where infants and small children crawl or play on floors, consider leaving your shoes at the entrance of your home. This will help prevent contact with dirt or any waste that could be carried on the soles of shoes.
FACT: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus, NOT by bacteria
The virus that causes COVID-19 is in a family of viruses called Coronaviridae. Antibiotics do not work against viruses. Some people who become ill with COVID-19 can also develop a bacterial infection as a further complication. In this case, antibiotics may be recommended by a health care provider. There is currently no licensed medication to cure COVID-19. If you have symptoms, call your health care provider or COVID-19 hotline for assistance.
FACT: The prolonged use of medical masks, when properly worn, DOES NOT cause CO2 intoxication or oxygen deficiency
The prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable. However, it does not lead to CO2 intoxication or oxygen deficiency. While wearing a medical mask, make sure it fits properly and that it is tight enough to allow you to breathe normally. Do not re-use a disposable mask, and always change it as soon as it gets damp.
FACT: Drinking alcohol does not protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous
The harmful use of alcohol increases your risk of health problems.
FACT: Adding pepper to your soup or other meals DOES NOT prevent or cure COVID-19
Hot peppers in your food, though very tasty, cannot prevent or cure COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is to keep at least 1 metre away from others and to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. It is also beneficial for your general health to maintain a balanced diet, stay well hydrated, exercise regularly and sleep well.
FACT: Spraying and introducing bleach or another disinfectant into your body WILL NOT protect you against COVID-19, and it can be dangerous
Do not under any circumstances spray or introduce bleach or any other disinfectant into your body. These substances can be poisonous if ingested and cause irritation and damage to your skin and eyes. Bleach and disinfectant should be used carefully to disinfect surfaces only. Remember to keep chlorine (bleach) and other disinfectants out of reach of children.
FACT: Drinking methanol, ethanol or bleach DOES NOT prevent or cure COVID-19 and can be extremely dangerous
Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are poisons. Drinking them can lead to disability and death. Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are sometimes used in cleaning products to kill the virus on surfaces – however, you should never drink them. They will not kill the virus in your body and harm your internal organs. To protect yourself against COVID-19, disinfect objects and surfaces, especially those you touch regularly. You can use diluted bleach or alcohol for that. Make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
FACT: Exposing yourself to the sun or temperatures higher than 25°C DOES NOT protect you from COVID-19
You can catch COVID-19, no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported cases of COVID-19. To protect yourself, make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
FACT: The COVID-19 virus can spread in hot and humid climates
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by maintaining a physical distance of at least one metre from others and frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this, you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
FACT: Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the COVID-19 virus
There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather.
The COVID-19 virus CANNOT be spread through mosquito bites
There has been no information or evidence so far to suggest that mosquitoes could transmit the new coronavirus. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus that spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
FACT: Hand dryers are NOT effective in killing the COVID-19 virus
Hand dryers are not effective in killing the COVID-19 virus. To protect yourself, frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.
FACT: People of all ages can be infected by the COVID-19 virus
Older people and younger people can be infected by the COVID-19 virus. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example, by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.
FACT: Antibiotics CANNOT prevent or treat COVID-19
Antibiotics work only against bacteria, not viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and therefore antibiotics should not be used for prevention or treatment. Some people who become ill with COVID-19 can also develop a bacterial infection as a complication. In this case, antibiotics may be recommended by a health care provider.
Advice from the British Heart Foundation
Long Covid is a term to describe the effects of Covid-19 that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. The health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines Long Covid as lasting for more than 12 weeks, although some people consider symptoms that last more than eight weeks to be Long Covid. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Long Covid as usually three months from the onset of Covid-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.
Research published in June 2021 by Imperial College London, based on half a million people in England, found two main categories of ongoing symptoms: a smaller group of people with respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or breathlessness (this group was more likely to have had severe Covid-19 illness initially), and a larger group with a cluster of more general symptoms, particularly tiredness and fatigue.
Research based on people who reported their symptoms of Long Covid on the Zoe Covid Symptom Study app also identified two main groups of symptoms, one mainly respiratory, but including fatigue and headaches, and a second group of symptoms affecting many parts of the body, including the heart, brain and the gut. In the study of 4,182 people, heart symptoms were commonly reported, such as palpitations or increased heartbeat, as well as non-heart-related symptoms such as pins and needles, numbness and ‘brain fog’.
How likely am I to get Long Covid?
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that between three and 12 per cent of people who catch Covid will still have symptoms 12 weeks after their initial infection.
It’s important to note that these estimates were made before Omicron became the dominant variant in the UK. Because Omicron hasn’t been around for long enough, we don’t yet know whether it is more or less likely to result in Long Covid. Because more of the population is now fully vaccinated, it will also be hard to tell whether any differences in Long Covid rates are due to the differences between variants or because of the protective effects of vaccination.
The ONS estimates that 1.3 million people in the UK were experiencing Long Covid symptoms as of 2nd January 2022, amounting to just over 1 in 50 of the population (2.1 per cent).
More than four in ten (42 per cent) of those people were experiencing Long Covid symptoms more than a year after their first suspected infection. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) said their symptoms had reduced their ability to carry out daily activities.
A study published in June 2021 by Imperial College, London, of half a million adults in England who reported having Covid illness found that over a third still had at least one symptom 12 weeks later.
A study led by the University of Leicester of just over 1,000 people who had needed treatment in hospital for Covid found that the majority (seven in 10) had not fully recovered five months after they were discharged. The authors of the report said that one in five of those in the study could be considered to have a new disability.
Of those who were working before they had Covid-19, nearly one in five (17.8 per cent) were no longer working and a further one in five (19.3 per cent) had experienced a health-related change to their work.
Learn more about what coronavirus does to the body.
How long does it take to recover from Long Covid?
Scientists are still learning how long the illness lasts and it varies between people. It’s important to note that lasting effects aren’t unique to Covid-19 – other viral illnesses can also have lasting effects. The study led by Leicester researchers described above suggests that among those who needed hospital treatment for the initial condition, it is common for it to last five months or more, and there are separate reports of it lasting 12 months or more (this includes both people who didn’t need hospital treatment initially and those who did).
Chest Pain after Covid-19
BHF says the medics are still learning more about chest pain following Covid-19, but it seems likely that various things can cause it.
Muscle pain or soreness (myalgia)
Severe viral infections, including Covid-19, can cause muscle pain or soreness, which can be in a specific area or spread more widely. The affected area feels sore to the touch and is made worse by specific movements such as turning the chest or stretching.
Non-specific chest pain
Non-specific chest pain, which is also called non-cardiac chest pain, can be sharp or dull and can happen in short bursts or be ongoing. It often doesn’t have a cause that can be found. Find more information about different types of chest pain on Your Covid Recovery from the NHS.
Is it normal to have back pain after Covid?
While joint and muscle problems can occur anywhere in the body during or after Covid-19, back problems are among the most common. You may have had back pain at times before getting Covid-19, and if you were less active while you were ill, this could have made joint or muscle problems come back or worsen. Joint stiffness and muscle weakness are also likely to worsen if you weren’t moving around as much when you were unwell. In the weeks after getting Covid-19, some people have backache or a feeling of pins and needles. As you continue to recover, many of these symptoms may also improve. You can aim for a balance of rest with as much of your normal daily activity you feel you can do, and also exercise to improve your strength and flexibility, such as stretches or yoga.
With back pain, when should you seek medical help?
If your pain is severe, and interfering with your daily activities, you can talk to your doctor for advice, or if:
- your back pain is getting worse
- fatigue or breathlessness is preventing you from being active
- you develop new symptoms
- your joints and muscle problems haven’t improved after three months
Find out more about managing joint and muscle problems on Your Covid Recovery from the NHS.
Why do some people get palpitations, feel lightheaded or faint after Covid?
There is emerging evidence that some people who develop Long Covid have similar symptoms to people with a condition known as postural tachycardia syndrome or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
(PoTS). This condition can cause dizziness when moving to an upright position and can be triggered by infections. The most common symptoms are lightheaded, palpitations (being aware of your heartbeat) and fatigue.
There have been several case reports in medical journals of people who had continuing symptoms following Covid-19 infection, and some were found to have PoTS. PoTs happens because your body’s ways of avoiding a drop in blood pressure when you stand up aren’t working properly.
Normally when you sit up or stand up, gravity makes some of your blood flow downwards, which can cause a fall in blood pressure. Your body responds to prevent a fall in blood pressure by narrowing your blood vessels and slightly increasing your heart rate. But if you have PoTS, these automatic changes don’t happen. When you move to an upright position, the blood supply to your heart and brain drops, and your heart starts beating faster to compensate.
Whilst there is no cure for PoTS, it can be managed by diet, exercise and medication, and the researchers say it is important to get an accurate diagnosis so patients can be treated and advised on how to manage their symptoms.
If this sounds like the symptoms you have after having Covid-19, you should let your doctor know to ensure you are correctly diagnosed and can receive effective treatment.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has published guidance for doctors that recognises orthostatic problems (including PoTS) as symptoms of Long Covid. Orthostatic means relating to or caused by being upright. The RCP recommend to doctors that patients experiencing breathlessness, palpitations, fatigue, chest pain and fainting should be checked carefully for orthostatic problems. This includes having an active stand test, which measures a patient’s changes in heart rate and blood pressure after moving from a lying to a standing position.
Find out more about PoTS.
What tests and treatments are available?
Is there a test for Long Covid?
So far, there isn’t a single test to diagnose Long Covid. It’s a condition that isn’t fully understood yet.
Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing lasting Long Covid symptoms. They may refer you for tests to help understand how Long Covid is affecting you and how it can be treated. Or it may even be that there is another cause for your symptoms.
Tests could include:
- blood tests
- heart rate and blood pressure checks
- a sit-to-stand test
- an ECG
- a chest X-ray
Researchers are looking into new ways to test for Long Covid.
- Find out more about why researchers think findings about the immune system could unlock the way to a test for Long Covid
- Learn about a special MRI to better understand lung damage from Long Covid
Is there a treatment for Long Covid?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one single treatment or medication to treat Long Covid.
Everyone’s experience is different, so it’s important to chat to your GP about the symptoms you are experiencing. They can tell you how to manage them best and let you know what other support is available.
If Long Covid is having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a specialist who looks after the symptoms you have.
You can do many things at home to manage your symptoms as you recover: Read the BHF’s tips for managing fatigue and breathlessness, low mood, memory problems, or joint pain.
Vaccination and Long Covid
Does getting vaccinated reduce the risk of Long Covid?
Yes – there is plenty of evidence that having the vaccine reduces your risk of developing Long Covid.
In February 2022, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) published a review of 15 Long Covid studies from the UK and across the world. They found that people who caught Covid after having two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Moderna, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, were half as likely to develop lasting Covid symptoms (lasting 28 days or more from the original infection) compared to those who were unvaccinated, or only had one dose.
The research also found a reduction in longer-term Long Covid symptoms (up to six months). This review only looked at people who caught Covid – given that vaccination also reduces your risk of catching Covid, the actual reduction in Long Covid risk from the vaccine is significantly bigger.
Research from King’s College London also suggests that two doses of the vaccine halve the risk of Long Covid in adults. The analysis, looking at data from the ZOE Covid App between 8th December 2020 and 4th July 2021, also showed that fully vaccinated adults are much less likely to need hospital treatment and tend to report milder Covid symptoms than those who are unvaccinated.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) backs this up, showing that two doses of the vaccine could reduce the risk of developing Long Covid by 40% (in people 18-69 years of age).
These studies happened before Omicron became the dominant Covid variant in the UK or before boosters were widely rolled out, so more research needs to be done to understand the impact of these.
- See up-to-date research about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine
Does getting vaccinated help if you already have Long Covid?
There is growing evidence that getting the vaccine could reduce Long Covid in people who caught the virus before being vaccinated. Specialists are still learning more about this and what the reasons for it might be.
In the UKHSA evidence review, three out of four studies looking at Long Covid before and after vaccination found that more people reported an improvement in symptoms (either straight away or over several weeks) than unvaccinated people. But there were a few people in all studies who found that their symptoms got worse.
In research published in October 2021, the Office for National Statistics used data from the UK Coronavirus Infection Survey to examine the association between Covid-19 vaccination and Long Covid in people who already had it before the vaccine.
In research published in October 2021, the Office for National Statistics used data from the UK Coronavirus Infection Survey to examine the association between Covid-19 vaccination and Long Covid in people who already had it before the vaccine. They found that the first vaccine was associated with an initial 13% decrease in the likelihood of self-reported Long Covid, although it’s not clear from the data whether this was a lasting improvement or if symptoms returned after an initial improvement. The second dose was associated with a 9% decrease in the likelihood of self-reported Long Covid relative to having received the first vaccination, and there was statistical evidence of a sustained improvement after this.
Which vaccine was used (Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna) didn’t appear to make any difference to the results. Nor did the person’s age, ethnic background, gender or other health issues.
This type of study is observational, which means it can’t prove cause and effect. The study was also limited because it only followed people for an average of 67 days after the second vaccine, and not everyone in the study had their second vaccine. So scientists cannot be certain from this that the Covid-19 vaccines help people with Long Covid (although it is known that they reduce the risk of getting Covid again). Over time, the quality and understanding of this data will improve, and the conclusions and statistics generated will be more definite.
Can children get Long Covid?
Yes. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published data from the UK Coronavirus Infection Survey, which looked at how many people showed symptoms five weeks after infection. The survey showed that almost 13 per cent of children in the survey who were aged between two and 11, and 14.5 per cent of children aged 12 to 16, reported certain symptoms, including fatigue, cough, headache, muscle aches or loss of taste or smell five weeks after falling ill with Covid-19. But it isn’t clear from the published data on how many children these figures were based.
The ONS also published data that showed that one in 10 secondary school pupils reported ongoing symptoms more than four weeks after a confirmed Covid-19 infection. A similar proportion of pupils who had a suspected (but not confirmed) Covid-19 infection also reported symptoms that lasted more than four weeks. The most common symptoms were “weakness/ tiredness”, reported by nearly half of pupils who had lingering symptoms. Six out of 10 pupils with Long Covid symptoms said it limited their ability to carry out day to day activities. The data was based on a survey of 2,326 pupils in schools in England from 2nd to 26th July 2021.
Long Covid Kids is an organisation set up to achieve recognition, support and recovery for Long Covid and related illnesses in children and young people. Visit their website at: https://www.longcovidkids.org/ for more information and connecting with other parents.
Common questions about Long Covid from BHF
Who is most at risk of developing Long Covid?
Researchers have analysed data from the COVID Symptom Study app to discover who is most at risk of developing Long Covid. They found that older people, women, and those who had a more severe infection (with five or more symptoms in the first week of becoming ill with Covid-19) were more likely to develop Long Covid.
They found that Long Covid affects around one in ten 18-49 year-olds who get Covid-19, increasing to just over one in five (22 per cent) people over 70. The researchers also found people with asthma were also more likely to develop Long Covid. This was the only clear link they found to existing health conditions in people who developed Long Covid.
Researchers from University Hospital Zurich have backed up these findings. Their research also found that people with low levels of certain antibodies (IgM and IgG3) in their blood may be more likely to develop Long Covid. When they combined this antibody data with the other factors (such as the person’s age, number of initial Covid symptoms, and history of asthma), they were better able to predict who would go on to have Long Covid.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics on people with self-reported Long Covid said it was most common among those aged 35-69, females, people living in the most deprived areas, those working in health or social care, or teaching and education, and people with another health condition or disability. This study was based on 305,997 people who responded to the Coronavirus Infection Survey in the four weeks to 2nd January 2022.
Is Long Covid contagious?
Long Covid is not contagious. Its symptoms are caused by your body’s response to the virus continuing beyond the initial illness.
To avoid passing coronavirus on to others, you should self-isolate for ten days from your original symptoms or positive test, or if after ten days you still have a temperature, or runny nose or sneezing, or sickness or diarrhoea, until these symptoms have gone.
If you have Long Covid, will you test positive?
No, having Long Covid symptoms won’t cause you to test positive.
If you get a positive Covid test result, it’s most likely to be a new infection from the one that caused your Long Covid symptoms. If you have a positive test, as always, you need to self-isolate for ten full days to avoid passing it on. If after ten days you still have a fever, or are feeling hot or shivery, or have a runny nose or sneezing, or are feeling or being sick, or have diarrhoea, you should self-isolate until those symptoms have gone. If any of these symptoms last a long time and you think they may be symptoms of Long Covid, you can get another PCR test to see if you still have an active infection.
What support is available for Long Covid?
- Long Covid clinics are being rolled out across England and have started in Wales to help those struggling with ongoing symptoms. Speak to your GP or healthcare professional to determine if you are being referred. At the time of publication of this paper, no similar services have yet been announced in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
- Your Covid Recovery has been set up by the NHS to provide information and support to those who’ve had Covid and are still suffering from symptoms. A bilingual version of the app has been developed by NHS Wales.
- If you’re worried about your symptoms, or if they are getting worse, contact your GP. You may be able to be referred for physiotherapy or for psychological support such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
- Always call 999 if you have any emergency symptoms, such as sudden chest pain, or if you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke. Find out more information on when to get medical help.
What research is being done into Long Covid?
The BHF and others are funding research to learn more about Long Covid. Read more about what research is happening in Long Covid.
Additional Long Covid Symptoms
According to the BBC, patient surveys suggest a range of other symptoms (referred to earlier in this paper) may also be present, including gut problems, insomnia and vision changes.
It is crucial to remember these symptoms can have other causes too.
There’s a lot of research investigating the potential long-term impact of coronavirus. One study suggests Covid may affect the brain, with a slight shrinkage in size visible after infection. Another suggests some people with Long Covid have lung abnormalities. But the significance of these changes and whether they are permanent is unknown. And the severity of problems also varies enormously. Some people will have no issues continuing with their day-to-day lives, while others may struggle.
If you have Long Covid, there is a range of support available. The following text is information from the Department of Health and Social Care, published on 24th December 2021. There is some repetition in the data issued by the NHS.
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Long COVID can affect anyone, not only those who were seriously unwell or admitted to hospital when they caught COVID-19.
Your COVID Recovery is an NHS website that can help you understand what has happened, what you might expect as part of your recovery and what support is available to you from the NHS.
If you are concerned about any of your symptoms, you should always seek medical advice from your GP. They will discuss the support they think you need to help you get better.
If you have long COVID and are unable to work
- If you are employed, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
- If you’re not eligible for SSP or your SSP ends, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if Long Covid affects how much you can work. ESA gives you money to help with living costs and support to get back into work if you can. You can also apply for Personal Independence Payment if you have difficulty with everyday tasks and getting around.
- If you live in England, you can get a health and social care assessment to find out what help is available (equipment, home care, day centres) from your local council.
If you have long COVID and need support to find, return to or stay at work
- You can get support, training and advice on finding your next opportunity from JobHelp and Access to Work.
- Employers and employees can get advice from the Society of Occupational Medicine or ACAS on managing health conditions at work, returning to work after COVID-19 and sickness and absence because of long COVID. You may need to ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments so you can continue to work while you recover.
If you have a child with long COVID
Schools, academies and colleges must make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions. You or a healthcare professional should tell the school if your child has medical needs.
Sources and Further Reading
- NHS – Symptoms: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/ © Crown copyright acknowledged
- WHO – Myth Busters: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters © copyright acknowledged
- BHF: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid#Heading1 © copyright acknowledged
- WebMD Video: https://www.webmd.com/coronavirus-in-context/video/janna-friedly
- ITV-news YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/9BN5MGDh4OU
- https://www.gov.uk/guidance/find-help-and-support-if-you-have-long-covid © Crown copyright acknowledged
Caution: Nothing in this paper should be construed or is intended as advice. No articles published by us, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician/medical practitioner.
- Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/ ↑
- Source: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters ↑
- Medical masks (also known as surgical masks) are flat or pleated; they are affixed to the head with straps or have ear loops. ↑
- See: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid#Heading1 ↑
- See: https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/handle/10044/1/88014 ↑
- This is based on data provided by 20,000 people in the Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) between 26th April and 1st August 2021. ↑
- This was defined as symptoms that had lasted more than four weeks from the initial infection. This is up from 1.2 million (1.9%) as of 2nd October 2021, reflecting the increase in Covid infections in December 2021. ↑
- See: https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/handle/10044/1/89844 ↑
- See: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid#Heading1 ↑
- At: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid#Heading10 ↑
- See: https://ukhsa.koha-ptfs.co.uk/cgi-bin/koha/opac-retrieve-file.pl?id=fe4f10cd3cd509fe045ad4f72ae0dfff ↑
- At: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00460-6/fulltext ↑
- See: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00460-6/fulltext ↑
- See: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid#Heading1 ↑
- See: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.19.20214494v2 ↑
- See: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2020/12/long-covid-patients-to-get-help-at-more-than-60-clinics/ ↑
- See: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-57833394 ↑
- At: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/find-help-and-support-if-you-have-long-covid ↑
- At: https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/ ↑