Long COVID is a condition where some people experience persistent symptoms, 3 months after getting COVID-19.

International evidence on COVID- 19 estimates the incidence of Long COVID about 10–30% of non-hospitalized cases, 50–70% of hospitalized cases and 10–12% of vaccinated cases. There is no test for Long COVID, diagnosing it means doctors have to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.  A confirmed test for COVID-19 is helpful for a diagnosis of Long COVID.

Many people with long COVID are reporting similar symptoms to those who have chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). Long COVID and CFS are both post viral conditions

Most long COVID symptoms disappear within 6-12 months, but in some cases, it can take longer.  Research continues to better understand long COVID, how it develops, people at risk, prevention and treatment options.

What are some of the symptoms of Long COVID?

In children Long COVID is less common. Symptoms include:

  • mood changes 
  • fatigue
  • problems sleeping.

In adults, Long COVID symptoms can range from mild to severe and can affect multiple systems in the body. These symptoms may be new, following COVID-19 infection or, it can be a worsening of symptoms that you had prior to developing COVID- 19. Some of the more common symptoms include,

  • shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • extreme fatigue leading to an inability to do your daily activities
  • headaches and or muscle aches
  • ‘brain fog’; memory, and concentration problems
  • a cough that won’t go away
  • voice changes
  • chest pain, palpitations or light headedness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • depression or anxiety
  • loss of smell or taste.

Some people with Long COVID have reported having a racing heart when they sit or stand. A proportion of people with Long COVID do develop Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome or POTS (external site). POTS may explain some Long COVID symptoms, such as heart palpitations, dizziness, and brain fog.

Exercise intolerance or feeling worse after a period of physical or mental exertion, can be due to post exertional malaise or PEM (external site). It is estimated that between 70 and 90% of people who have Long COVID experience PEM which can make it hard to manage around your life commitments such as family, work or study.

Some people find that even minimal levels of mental or physical exertion may worsen their symptoms, and this could occur hours or days later following exercise.  It is helpful to take note of any patterns in the worsening of your symptoms and try an avoid triggers that make it worse. 

Who is at risk of developing long COVID?

Studies have shown that Long COVID is more likely to occur in people who:

  • are between 35 and 69 years old
  • female
  • were very sick with COVID-19, including those who were hospitalised or needed intensive care
  • had underlying conditions or disease before getting COVID, such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and obesity.

However, it is common for people to have developed long COVID after experiencing very mild COVID-19 symptoms which did not require admission to hospital.

Can I protect myself from Long COVID?

The best ways to avoid long COVID is not getting infected with COVID-19 by practicing COVID safe behaviours:

  • it is important to wear a properly fitted mask, in crowded or poorly ventilated conditions. N95 and KN95 masks offer added protection which could be considered if you are at increased risk.
  • maintain physical distancing from other people, and
  • avoid COVID-19 infection by continuing to follow public health advice such as hand washing and sanitising.
  • stay up-to-date with vaccinations. Vaccination significantly reduces risk of developing Long COVID but does not necessarily prevent it, and you could get reinfected

It is important to rest (mentally and physically) and pace yourself as you recover from COVID-19.

Where can I get treatment and help for long COVID?

Is there information on Long COVID in other languages?

The Centre for Culture and Ethnicity and Health (external site) has produced resources.

Last reviewed: 18-04-2024

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.