Long term effects of COVID-19

The length of time it takes to recover from coronavirus is different for everyone. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection is gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or “long COVID”. 

The chances of having long-term symptoms doesn’t seem to be linked to how ill you are when you get coronavirus. People who have had mild symptoms can still have long-term problems.

What are the symptoms of long COVID?

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

You can contact your GP or speak to a pharmacist if you’re worried about symptoms 4 weeks or more after having coronavirus. 

There are some things you can do to help with your recovery from COVID-19

Eating well

Many people experience a loss of appetite when they have COVID-19 and so they may have difficulty eating normal food portions, resulting in reduced food intake. This can make it harder to get the right nutrition you need to help with your daily activities and also to aid your recovery. It is important that when you do eat, you choose foods that are high in protein and are energy rich, to support you with maintaining your immune system and increasing energy levels. 

More tips to help with eating when recovering can be found here.

Sleeping well

People recovering from COVID-19 often notice that their sleep patterns and sleep quality have changed. Some find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, others find they wake up more often or earlier and can’t get back to sleep. This can be caused by the symptoms of COVID-19, such as breathlessness or a dry cough for example, which can make it difficult to sleep. You can practice some techniques to try and help improve your sleep, including getting up at the same time everyday, avoiding taking naps during the day, and not going to bed feeling hungry or thirsty. 

Improving the quality and length of time you sleep can help with your recovery by increasing your energy levels, helping you to do your day-to-day activities. 

You can find more tips on how to improve your sleep if you are recovering from COVID-19 here.

Getting moving again

If you have been in hospital with your COVID-19 symptoms or if you have found that you have been considerably less active as a result of the virus, it is important to try and get more active when you feel able to. 

You may notice that your fitness levels have decreased, such as finding everyday jobs more tiring, or walking up and down the stairs leaves you with a shortness of breath. It is important to engage in regular activity as this will help you to become stronger and fitter and try to get to the level you were at before having COVID-19.

When becoming active again, it is key to start slowly and build your level of activity over time. Do a little, but often and allow for rest between activities. For example, aiming for a 30 minute walk by starting with a 5 minute walk without stopping (or less if you feel breathless and tired). Then increase this by one or two minutes each time. 

You can find more information on how to get moving again after COVID-19 here.

You can find more information on support for recovery after having COVID-19 here.

Pharmacy2U By Pharmacy2U Published 16/02/2021