Long COVID is a term used to describe the effects of COVID-19 that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. The symptoms are different for everyone and need to be taken seriously.
Although for most people with COVID infection, symptoms resolve within 4 weeks of illness, for some people symptoms can persist for longer than 12 weeks. Their symptoms may change over time and new symptoms may develop.
On this page, you can find the following information:
- COVID-19: Ways to cope with long COVID
- What is long COVID?
- Who gets long COVID?
- Why do some people get long COVID?
- What are the symptoms of long COVID?
- How is long COVID treated?
- Keep track of your symptoms
- Do vaccines lower your risk of long COVID?
- Will I always have long COVID?
- Where can I get support with long COVID?
Long COVID is a term used to describe the symptoms that continue or develop after the initial COVID-19 illness and can't be explained by any other condition. You might also hear long COVID being called post-COVID syndrome or condition, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID or chronic COVID. The symptoms of long COVID may last weeks or months after the acute stage of the illness.
So far there's no specific definition of long COVID that has been agreed upon internationally but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK describes post-COVID-19 syndrome as “signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. It usually presents with clusters of symptoms, often overlapping, which can fluctuate and change over time and can affect any system of the body.”
It appears that long COVID is more common among people with more severe initial symptoms, but can also affect those who initially had mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms. Although it can occur in people of all ages, it is less common in children and adolescents. Read more about long COVID in children.
Some factors that may be associated with increased risk of long COVID include:
- being older
- having more than 1 underlying chronic medical conditions
- having a higher body mass index (obesity)
- being female
- being admitted to hospital during the acute phase of COVID-19.
It's not known why some people get long COVID and others don't. However, it could be due to:
- the way the virus affects the body – particularly the nervous and vascular systems
- some of the virus staying in your body and triggering ongoing symptoms
- your immune system becoming overactive as a response to being infected with the COVID-19 virus.
It seems that some people with long COVID are experiencing symptoms that are similar to chronic fatigue syndrome.
There is no test for long COVID and the symptoms people experience vary and may be different from the typical COVID-19 symptoms. There appears to be no specific time course, symptoms may improve one week and relapse the next.
|People have reported the following symptoms|
||Ear, nose and throat symptoms
People with long COVID have also experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These symptoms and feelings may be from:
- finding out you have long COVID
- having been in hospital
- the ongoing illness
- the way in which long COVID affects your mental health and your social situation.
Scientists and healthcare providers are still working out the best ways to manage and treat long COVID. There are no specific treatments, but assistance usually involves managing the symptoms that affect you the most. It's important to realise that recovery from viral infections can take a long time.
For support and management of long COVID symptoms you should talk to your doctor or healthcare team, particularly if you develop new symptoms or if your symptoms get worse.
As everyone with long COVID experiences it differently, a range of healthcare professionals may be involved in your care, depending on your particular symptoms. For example, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, dietitians, social workers and exercise physiologists may be included in your ongoing care team.
Don't try to rush your recovery, make sure you get adequate rest and pace yourself – plan what you’re going to do and don’t over-exert yourself.
Here's some tips on:
- positions to make your breathing easier
- managing tiredness (fatigue)
- returning to physical activity and exercise.
|Contact your GP if you develop any new or worsening symptoms, such as:|
|Call 111 or seek urgent medical care if you have any of the following:|
Because of the lack of clarity about the symptoms and experiences of long COVID, it can be useful to keep track of your symptoms. Recording them in a diary or keeping a log can help to:
- better understand your symptoms
- work out which symptoms are affecting you the most
- identify any patterns and changes in your symptoms.
You may find it useful to take your diary to appointments with your healthcare providers so they can see what has been happening for you over time. An example can be found here.
The best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to prevent COVID-19 illness. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as you can is the best way to prevent getting COVID-19. There's some evidence that being vaccinated reduces the risk of developing long COVID.
Vaccination against COVID-19 continues to be available to all New Zealand adults and children over the age of 5 years old. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccination.
Video from Te Hiringa Hauora - Health Promotion Agency Tangata Whaiora hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine | Chloe Fergusson-Tibble
Most people make a full recovery, but it takes a variable length of time. Monitor your symptoms and seek help if you're not improving. Your doctor can help you with decisions about returning to work and other activities.
The lack of information about long COVID and support for those experiencing it can be frustrating. Please talk to your GP, who can offer ongoing care, suggest support services and provide work certificates.
Remember you are not alone – there are people all around the world experiencing long COVID.
There are online groups established for people with long COVID where you can get support and meet others experiencing this condition:
Managing post–COVID-19 symptoms The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
How to manage post-viral fatigue after COVID-19 Royal College of Occupational Therapists, UK
Support for rehabilitation self-management after COVID-19 related illness World Health Organization
Recovering from COVID – including long COVID KidsHealth, NZ
Information for people experiencing long COVID and their whānau NIHI, NZ, 2022
Long COVID Ministry of Health, NZ
- Long COVID National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI), University of Auckland, NZ, 2021
- Post-COVID-19 conditions Auckland Region HealthPathways, NZ, 2021
- Vaccines long COVID Yale Medicine, US, 2021
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) UK Government, 2022
- Long COVID – another strong reason to get vaccinated IMAC, NZ, 2022
- COVID-19 rapid guideline – managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 NICE, UK, 2022
- Long COVID Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022