Updated 11 January 2022
Long COVID is the name given to the symptoms experienced by people after the initial COVID-19 infection. You might also hear it called post-COVID syndrome, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID syndrome (PACS), chronic COVID, or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).
Common Long COVID-19 symptoms Can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Low mood
- Difficulty concentrating (‘brain fog’)
- Chest pain
- Joint pain
- Loss of muscle mass
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Persistent loss of sense of smell or taste
- Fast-beating or pounding heart
- New or worsening urinary symptoms ('overactive bladder symptoms')
Additional symptoms can be viewed in a handy image here.
Researchers have reported Long COVID worldwide, and we are also seeing people experiencing Long COVID in New Zealand.
Some people appear to experience more serious long-term complications of COVID-19, although these are not as common. Some people who had a mild case of COVID-19 are still experiencing Long COVID a year after the acute illness. Research is emerging suggesting that Long COVID is more likely in those who have many other health conditions, are female, and from minority groups.
As Long COVID is still new, scientists and health professionals are still working out the best ways to manage and treat it. Currently, they are figuring out the best rehabilitation methods for those with Long COVID. In Scotland, Ireland, and the U.S. there have been announcements for large funds dedicated to Long COVID patient research and rehabilitation. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has recently awarded a grant to the University of Otago to research Long COVID.
The lack of information about Long COVID can be frustrating for people experiencing it. Remember you are not alone; there are people all around the world experiencing Long COVID. Tips and advice can be found in the Resources Lists below. There are online groups established for people with Long COVID where you can get support and meet others experiencing this condition:
For support around the management and treatment of your Long COVID symptoms, please seek the help of your G.P. or health care team. It is essential to contact your G.P. if you develop any new or worsening symptoms such as:
- Swelling of a leg or arm.
- Losing more weight.
- A fast-beating or a racing heart.
- Muscle aches
Dial 111 or seek urgent medical care if you:
- Are coughing up blood.
- Have severe chest pain.
- Are getting more breathless.
Remember if you need someone to talk to you can free call or text 1737 any time of the day or night to speak with a trained counsellor.
Because of the lack of clarity around the symptoms and experiences of Long COVID some patients may find it useful to keep track of their symptoms. Tracking (or keeping a log) of your symptoms can help better understand your symptoms, identify which symptoms impact you most, and identify patterns and changes in your symptoms.
You may also find it useful to take this to your appointments with your healthcare professionals when discussing your Long COVID symptoms. There are apps you can download for this purpose. If you prefer a paper version, an example can be found here.
The NHS (National Health Service, UK) COVID recovery website has symptom-based suggestions to manage Long COVID at home. Some suggestions include:
- Fatigue is the most common symptom in both adults and children. It gets worse in certain situations, such as physical inactivity, poor sleep patterns, work pressure, caring responsibilities, low mood, anxiety, and stress. Therefore, to manage fatigue, recognise it and discuss this with family and colleagues, get a good sleep, try meditation techniques, prioritise and delegate to ease work pressure, keep active, and eat well.
- Regular breathing exercises (Papworth method, Buteyko method, yoga) are recommended to tackle breathlessness.
- To manage persistent cough, diaphragmatic breathing, steam inhalation, nasal breathing, and hydration are good tips besides prescribed medications.
- Tai chi, yoga, stretching, cycling are recommended for muscle pain.
- Counterpressure manoeuvers (e.g., leg crossing, squatting, hand gripping) are helpful to deal with sudden fainting.
There are preliminary reports from the U.S and the U.K that Long COVID patients are experiencing improved symptoms after their second vaccine shot. A blog from NIH (National Institutes of Health) suggested that vaccinated people who get infected, report less symptoms for long COVID.
Internationally efforts are underway to understand why Long COVID develops and how best to manage or treat it. This page will be updated as new evidence becomes available.
For more information about Long COVID, please see the resource list below or go to Information for G.P.s and other health professionals.
The Silent Pandemic - Video
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The information on this page was prepared by multi-disciplinary health professionals at the National Institute for Health Innovation and affiliates and was originally created on 9 December 2020.