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Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

Overview

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:

  • Fatigue.
  • 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 you stand up.

Other problems may include:

  • An inflamed heart muscle.
  • Lung problems.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Problems with more than one organ.
  • Rashes and hair loss.
  • Smell and taste problems.
  • Problems with sleep.

These symptoms may get worse after mental or physical activity.

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.

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
JoLynn Montgomery PA - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine