Long-Term Effects of COVID-19
Most people who have COVID-19 recover in 2 to 6 weeks with no long-term problems. But some people have health problems that last for weeks or months after having the infection. These problems are known as long-term effects of COVID-19. This can happen even if the illness had mild or no symptoms.
Common long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection 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 are long-term effects of COVID-19 diagnosed?
To find out if your symptoms are from long-term effects of COVID-19, 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-term effects of COVID-19?
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.
Current as of: May 28, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
JoLynn Montgomery PA - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine