Long COVID-19 support
For some people, the effects of having Covid-19 can last much longer than expected. If symptoms continue for weeks or months, or new ones develop, this is called long COVID-19. Some people with long COVID-19 may have difficulty functioning in daily life. This can be difficult and stressful for both the person affected and their family and friends.
There isn’t a clear reason why some people have these long-term effects. It doesn’t seem to be linked to how ill they were when they first got the virus or to whether they tested negative for it afterwards. The chances of having them does seem to be higher for women, older people, those who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms and those with underlying health conditions, but it can happen to anyone.
The most common symptom of long COVID-19 is heart-related problems, such as palpitations and a fast heart rate, although it can also be chest pain or dizziness. Some people have had long-term symptoms in their arms or legs. These can be a sign of inflammation in the tissue between the ribs and the lungs (pleurisy) or in the lining around the heart (pericarditis).
Other symptoms of long COVID-19 include joint and muscle pain, fatigue, depression or anxiety, memory and concentration problems and headaches. Some have reported sexual problems, and many have had skin rashes, including some that lasted for months after the infection ended. In rare cases, people have developed a condition called autoimmunity – when your body’s immune system starts to produce antibodies that attack your own organs and tissues.
Some researchers think that these long-term effects are caused by low or nonexistent immune responses during and after the COVID-19 infection. These can lead to a build-up of harmful substances, which damage cells and make it harder for them to function normally. It’s not known exactly how these are triggered but factors may include the virus itself, other diseases that affect the immune system such as diabetes or EBV reactivation, genetic predisposition, the age of the person and their health status at the time of infection.
People who experience these long-term effects are entitled to disability long Covid-19 support and reasonable modifications from their employers, schools and local authorities. CDC and our partners are working with communities to understand how best to provide this support.
In the meantime, we encourage people with symptoms of long COVID-19 to talk to their health care provider about their situation and ask how they can manage their symptoms. We also recommend they check the CDC’s Your COVID Recovery programme for information and advice. This can be accessed through the NHS Choices website, but you’ll need to have been referred to it by a healthcare professional. You can also register to receive our fortnightly Heart Matters newsletter with tips on how to look after yourself and live well. It’s free and only takes two minutes to join. You can do this through the NHS Choices website or by calling NHS 111.