Most people who have COVID-19 recover in a few days to a few weeks with no long-term problems. But some people have health problems that last for weeks, months, or years after having the infection. These problems are known as long COVID. This can happen even if the illness had mild or no symptoms. But long COVID is more common if your illness was serious.
Common symptoms of long COVID include:
- Shortness of breath.
- A cough.
- Chest pain.
Some people also report having:
- Trouble thinking or concentrating ("brain fog").
- Depression or anxiety.
- Muscle or joint pain.
- A headache.
- Diarrhea or belly pain.
- A fever that comes and goes.
- A fast or pounding heartbeat (heart palpitations).
- Dizziness when they stand up.
Other problems may include:
- An inflamed heart muscle.
- Lung problems.
- Kidney problems.
- Problems with more than one organ.
- Smell and taste problems.
- Problems with sleep.
- Sensation of pins and needles.
- Menstrual changes.
These symptoms may get worse after mental or physical activity. And the symptoms may come and go.
If you've had COVID-19 and are having these problems, tell your doctor. Make sure the doctor knows that you had COVID-19.
How is long COVID diagnosed?
To find out if your symptoms are from long COVID, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health history. Your doctor may want you to have certain tests to learn more. You may see a specialist.
How are they treated?
Your treatment will depend on your symptoms. Some symptoms may be treated with medicine. Or you may see a specialist. Your doctor also may recommend different treatments, such as physical therapy, depending on your symptoms.
How can you care for yourself when you have long COVID?
Here are some common symptoms along with some ideas for self-care to help you feel better.
- Fatigue. Return to activities slowly. It takes time to get stronger. Pace yourself.
- Shortness of breath. Breath training can help you take deeper breaths and breathe easier. Methods include pursed-lip breathing and breathing with your diaphragm.
- Cough. Prop up your head with pillows to help control coughing.
Here are other common problems, along with some tips you can try.
- Trouble thinking or concentrating ("brain fog"). Be patient with yourself. Use sticky notes and calendars to remember tasks and events.
- Depression or anxiety. Regular activity, like walking, may help. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Consider talking to a counselor. Take medicine as prescribed.
- Muscle or joint pain, or headaches. Stretching may ease muscle pain. Ask your doctor if you can take over-the-counter pain medicine.
If you aren't getting better, talk to your doctor.