On This Page:
- What Is Long COVID?
- Symptoms of Long COVID
- What We Know About Long COVID
- How You Can Help Fight Long COVID
- Long COVID Resources
Symptoms of COVID-19 can last months — or even longer — after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Symptoms vary from person to person and can affect almost any part of the body.
What Is Long COVID?
Many people recover fully within a few days or weeks after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But others have symptoms that linger for weeks, months, or even years after their initial diagnosis. Some people seem to recover from COVID-19 but then see their symptoms return, or they develop new symptoms within a few months. Even people who had no symptoms when they were infected can develop symptoms later. Either mild or severe COVID-19 can lead to long-lasting symptoms.
Long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-COVID-19 condition, chronic COVID, and post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC) are all names for the health problems that some people experience within a few months of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Symptoms of Long COVID may be the same or different than symptoms of COVID-19. Long COVID can also trigger other health conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Symptoms of Long COVID
Click on any hotspot on the human body to learn more about Long COVID symptoms.
- Whole Body
- Brain and Nerves
- Smell and Taste
- Heart and Blood
- Legs and Feet
- Reproductive Systems
- Digestive Systems
- Skin and Hair
- Muscles and Bones
- Tiredness or a lack of energy that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activity
- Fever and chills
- Sleep problems including insomnia, extreme daytime sleepiness, and restless leg syndrome
Brain and Nerves
- Brain fog (problems with thinking, concentrating, remembering, and learning)
- Dizziness upon standing
- Mood symptoms (feeling sad, stressed, tense, or angry) that interfere with daily life
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Tingling, numbness, and nerve damage
- Changes in vision
- Eye redness
- Yellowish eyes (jaundice, a symptom of liver disease)
- Hearing loss
Smell and Taste
- Stuffy nose
- Loss of taste or distorted sense of taste
- Loss of smell or distorted sense of smell
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst (a symptom of diabetes triggered by COVID-19)
- Neck pain that spreads toward the ears (from a swollen thyroid gland)
- Shortness of breath
- Cough that may produce mucus from lungs
Heart and Blood
- Chest pain
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Pain on the side of the body (symptom of kidney problems)
- Changes in urination
Legs and Feet
- Swelling in legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction
- Changes inmenstrual cycle
- Short-term reduced male fertility
- Stomach pain
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in stool color
Skin and Hair
- Hair loss
- Yellowish skin (jaundice, a symptom of liver damage)
Muscles and Bones
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Reduced mobility
What We Know About Long COVID
What causes Long COVID?
Scientists don’t know for sure what causes Long COVID, but research is providing some clues.
SARS-CoV-2 particles may become active again, causing symptoms to reappear.
Overactive immune cells may release high levels of inflammatory substances that can injure organs and tissues.
The infection may cause the immune system to start making autoantibodies that attack a person’s own organs and tissues.
Symptoms may also be caused by a combination of these and other factors. Research into these factors is ongoing.
Why are Long COVID symptoms so varied?
Scientists are uncovering risk factors for Long COVID and reasons why symptoms vary from person to person. Some factors that may be important include:
Severity of initial COVID-19 illness
Immune response to initial infection
Not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19
The SARS-CoV-2 variant that caused the initial infection
Preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes, lung problems, autoimmune diseases, or obesity
Health inequities may also increase the risk of Long COVID for some racial or ethnic minority groups and some people with disabilities.
Can children get Long COVID?
Children and teenagers can get Long COVID, whether they had COVID-19 symptoms or not.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a serious delayed complication of SARS-CoV-2 infection that may develop in children and young adults. The condition is caused by inflammation of body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs. Children ages 5 to 11 are most frequently affected by MIS-C.
How can I prevent Long COVID?
The only known way to prevent Long COVID is to avoid getting COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has steps you can take to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19.
I have COVID-19. How can I reduce my chances of getting Long COVID?
If you are not vaccinated, vaccination after you recover from COVID-19 may help to prevent Long COVID. COVID-19 vaccination may also reduce the likelihood of MIS-C in young people ages 12 to 18.
People who test positive for COVID-19 can check with their health care providers about authorized treatments that may lower their risk of severe symptoms and hospitalization. Scientists are studying COVID-19 treatments to see whether they lower the risk of long-term symptoms.
What can I do if I have Long COVID?
There is no specific treatment for Long COVID yet. You and your health care provider can work together to create a personal care plan to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
There are tools available to help people cope with Long COVID and get the health and social support they need. There are also many support groups to help people with Long COVID symptoms connect with each other. The National Institute of Mental Health offers tips for managing stress during pandemics.
How You Can Help Fight Long COVID
Long COVID Clinical Studies
NIH launched the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative in early 2021 to identify risk factors and causes of Long COVID to help understand how it can be prevented or treated in the future. Your experiences — whether you have long-term COVID-19 symptoms, had COVID-19 and recovered, recently tested positive for COVID-19, or never had COVID-19 — are critical to helping scientists study these symptoms.
Reach out if you or someone you know might be interested in volunteering for a study. Compensation may be available. Pregnant people can participate, and children can also take part in some studies if they wish to and if they have the consent of a parent or guardian.
Participate in an Adult Long COVID Study
- (Video) Maine Medical Research Institute working with NIH to solve ‘long COVID-19’ medical mystery
As part of RECOVER, researchers are enrolling participants from the Gestational Research Assessments of COVID-19 (GRAVID) Study, who had SARS-CoV-2 infection while pregnant. The researchers will monitor the health of the participants and their children for 4 years. The results may identify ways to reduce the risks of Long COVID after pregnancy and to better treat its symptoms.
NIH’s Longitudinal Study of COVID-19 Sequelae and Immunity (RECON_19) investigates long-term medical problems experienced by people after they have recovered from COVID-19. Close contacts of people with COVID-19 are also invited to participate, to see whether they became infected but did not have symptoms. The study is taking place in Bethesda, Maryland.
The Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Tissue Characterization in COVID-19 Survivors study will look for long-term effects of COVID-19 on the hearts of people who had the disease. Up to 500 people can participate in this 3-year study, which is based in New York City.
The Observational Study of Neurologic Function After COVID-19 Infection will examine the nervous systems (brain and nerves) of people who have had COVID-19 but still have neurological symptoms. Up to 200 people can participate in this study, which is taking place in Bethesda, Maryland.
Participate in a Pediatric Long COVID Study
Researchers with the Long-Term Outcomes after the MUltisystem Inflammatory Syndrome In Children (MUSIC) Study, now a part of RECOVER, seek explanations for MIS-C and long-term outcomes for children infected with SARS-CoV-2. Learn how to participate.
As part of RECOVER, the Pediatric COVID Outcomes Study (PECOS) is monitoring up to 1,000 children and young adults who previously tested positive for COVID-19. The study, which evaluates how COVID-19 affects participants’ physical and mental health for a total of 3 years, is taking place in Washington, D.C., and Bethesda, Maryland.
Newborns, children, teens, and young adults up to age 25 may take part in the Understanding the Long-Term Impact of COVID on Children and Families study, which is taking place at 65 locations in the United States. If you or your child has COVID-19, Long COVID, or MIS-C or may have been exposed to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the study.
Long COVID Resources
If you think you or your child has Long COVID or a post-COVID condition, speak with a health care provider to set up a care plan to enhance recovery.
The Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative seeks to understand, prevent, and treat long-term health effects related to COVID-19.
Coping with the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 is not easy. The CDC has some suggestions that can help.
On April 5, 2022, the White House announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would coordinate the first-ever interagency national research action plan on Long COVID.
Page last updated: October 5, 2022
Find your care. If you were previously diagnosed with COVID-19 and have symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks, contact your primary care provider to request a referral into the Long COVID Program. For help finding a primary care doctor, call us at 310-825-2631.How long do COVID long term effects last? ›
Some people, especially those who had severe COVID-19, experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions with symptoms lasting weeks, months, or even years after COVID-19 illness. Multi-organ effects can involve many body systems, including the heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain.
About long COVID
This can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild. This is known as a post-COVID condition, or simply as “long COVID.” Since July 2021, long COVID has been recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Long COVID symptom clusters were more common in women aged 20 years or older (10.6% [95% UI, 4.3%-22.2%]) 3 months after symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection than in men aged 20 years or older (5.4% [95% UI, 2.2%-11.7%]).” The estimated mean duration of these symptoms was around 9 months in the hospitalized group ...What medication is given for COVID long haulers? ›
|Condition or disease||Intervention/treatment||Phase|
|COVID-19||Drug: Zofin Other: Placebo||Phase 1 Phase 2|
- Relaxation techniques and gentle activities to help with fatigue and sleep problems.
- Medications to relieve common symptoms such as cough, pain, or headache.
- Counseling for emotional and mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
- Exercise to help cope with COVID-19. ...
- Talk about your frustrations. ...
- Engage in constructive thinking. ...
- Practice mindfulness and gratitude. ...
- Take it day by day or even moment by moment. ...
- Be compassionate with yourself. ...
- Find things to look forward to.
If you contracted COVID-19, you might still be experiencing this phenomenon long after the acute infection has passed. Long COVID presents as persistent symptoms ranging from mild headaches and general malaise to more serious problems such as extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating and shortness of breath.Can COVID cause permanent damage? ›
If you've had COVID-19, it may still be messing with your brain. Those who have been infected with the virus are at increased risk of developing a range of neurological conditions in the first year after the infection, new research shows.Can you have long COVID for a year? ›
As of 6 November 2022, an estimated 2.2 million people in the UK were experiencing self-reported long Covid. Of those people: almost 9 in 10 (87%) had been experiencing long Covid symptoms for at least 3 months. half (55%) had been experiencing long Covid symptoms for at least a year.
Yes, if you are unable to work because you are infected or suspect you are infected with COVID-19, you can apply for Disability Insurance (DI). Your quarantine must be certified by a state or local health officer. If you are not found eligible for DI, you can apply for unemployment.Is a person with long COVID contagious? ›
No, long COVID cannot be passed from one person to another. Having long COVID does not mean that you are still contagious.Does the vaccine help with long COVID? ›
A few published studies have suggested long Covid occurs less frequently among those who had Covid after being vaccinated. At least one study has shown rates of long Covid decreasing with every additional round of shots.Can paxlovid treat long COVID? ›
Pfizer is not testing Paxlovid against long COVID, a company spokesperson said. But two ongoing studies of the treatment involving more than 4,000 patients could provide “us with relevant data to help inform future studies,” Pfizer's Kit Longley said in an email.Does long COVID cause inflammation? ›
Researchers supported by NIH have discovered that COVID-19 can cause long-lasting inflammation in the brain that may be the source of many Long COVID symptoms.How do you know if you have long haulers COVID? ›
- Racing heartbeat.
- Brain fog, like trouble articulating words or tripping over objects when you walk.
Exercise – Activity of any sort, including walking for 20 minutes per day, will increase blood flow and encourage maximal brain healing. Improve your diet – fast food, processed foods, and sugary sweets and drinks all foster an inflammatory state and work against healing.Does COVID affect your legs? ›
Muscle aches and pains are described as 'myalgia'. It can involve your ligaments, tendons, soft tissues and it can also cause joint pain. Myalgia can be a common symptom if you have a viral infection such as COVID and it can affect a specific area or spread more widely.How do I get my energy back after COVID? ›
It's important to:
- eat well.
- have a healthy sleep routine.
- drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
How long does fatigue last after COVID-19? Your recovery from COVID-related fatigue will likely depend on how severe your illness was. After a mild case of COVID-19 your fatigue may clear up after about 2-3 weeks. But if you had a severe case, it's possible to feel sluggish and tired for months.
This fatigue is often tied to other symptoms, like muscle and joint and pain, and significantly decrease mobility. For milder cases, however, post-COVID fatigue often subsides within two to three weeks following initial infection and diagnosis.What is it called when you have long term effects from COVID? ›
There are several other names for post-COVID conditions. It is often called long COVID. But it can also be called long-haul COVID, long-term effects of COVID, chronic COVID, post-acute COVID-19, and post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC).Are COVID long haulers still contagious? ›
Am I Contagious if I Have Long COVID? No. Conditions associated long COVID cannot be passed on to others.Is joint pain a long term effect of COVID? ›
You may experience pain after coronavirus, especially if you were in hospital or less active than usual as a result of the virus. Most pain should eventually go away, but sometimes it might carry on for longer.What organs does COVID damage? ›
Research has found that though the COVID-19 virus largely affects the lungs, other organs can be damaged by it as well. Most of the damage scientists have seen so far has been concentrated to the heart, lungs, and brain, including damage to the heart muscle, scar tissue in the lungs, and strokes and seizures.What is long COVID brain fog? ›
His patient complained of “brain fog,” a colloquial term for significant, persistent cognitive problems, including impairments in executive functions, memory, attention regulation, and motivation. These cognitive abilities are generated by a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, and Dr.