Post-COVID Conditions (2022)

About Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions

Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems that people experience after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, so at least four weeks after infection is the start of when post-COVID conditions could first be identified. Anyone who was infected can experience post-COVID conditions. Most people with post-COVID conditions experienced symptoms days after first learning they had COVID-19, but some people who later experienced post-COVID conditions did not know when they got infected.

There is no test to diagnose post-COVID conditions, and people may have a wide variety of symptoms that could come from other health problems. This can make it difficult for healthcare providers to recognize post-COVID conditions. Your healthcare provider considers a diagnosis of post-COVID conditions based on your health history, including if you had a diagnosis of COVID-19 either by a positive test or by symptoms or exposure, as well as doing a health examination.

Science at CDC

Scientific evidence and studies behind long COVID

Science behind Long COVID

How to Get Involved in Long COVID Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting a research project, called the RECOVER Initiative, to understand how people recover from a COVID-19 infection and why some people do not fully recover and develop long COVID or post-COVID conditions.

RECOVER: Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery

(Video) WHO’s Science in 5 on COVID-19: Post COVID-19 condition - 30 July 2021

Symptoms

People with post-COVID conditions (or long COVID) may experience many symptoms.

People with post-COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again.

Post-COVID conditions may not affect everyone the same way. People with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms happening over different lengths of time. Most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time. However, for some people, post-COVID conditions can last weeks, months, or longer after COVID-19 illness and can sometimes result in disability.

People who experience post-COVID conditions most commonly report:

General symptoms

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
  • Fever

Respiratory and heart symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

Neurological symptoms

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
  • Pins-and-needles feelings
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety

Digestive symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual cycles

Symptoms that are hard to explain and manage

Some people with post-COVID conditions have symptoms that are not explained by tests.

People with post-COVID conditions may develop or continue to have symptoms that are hard to explain and manage. Clinical evaluations and results of routine blood tests, chest x-rays, and electrocardiograms may be normal. The symptoms are similar to those reported by people with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) and other poorly understood chronic illnesses that may occur after other infections. People with these unexplained symptoms may be misunderstood by their healthcare providers, which can result in a long time for them to get a diagnosis and receive appropriate care or treatment. Review these tipsto help prepare for a healthcare provider appointment for post-COVID conditions.

(Video) Evaluating and Caring for Patients with Post-COVID Conditions

Health conditions

Some people experience new health conditions after COVID-19 illness.

Some people, especially those who had severe COVID-19, experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions with symptoms lasting weeks or months after COVID-19 illness. Multiorgan effects can involve many body systems, including the heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain. As a result of these effects, people who have had COVID-19 may be more likely to develop new health conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, or neurological conditions compared with people who have not had COVID-19.

People experiencing any severe illness may develop health problems

People experiencing any severe illness, hospitalization, or treatment may develop problems such as post-intensive care syndrome, or PICS.

PICS refers to the health effects that may begin when a person is in an intensive care unit (ICU), and which may persist after a person returns home. These effects can include muscle weakness, problems with thinking and judgment, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD involves long-term reactions to a very stressful event. For people who experience PICS following a COVID-19 diagnosis, it is difficult to determine whether these health problems are caused by a severe illness, the virus itself, or a combination of both.

People More Likely to Develop Long COVID

Some people may be more at risk for developing post-COVID conditions (or long COVID).

Researchers are working to understand which people or groups of people are more likely to have post-COVID conditions, and why. Studies have shown that some groups of people may be affected more by post-COVID conditions. These are examples and not a comprehensive list of people or groups who might be more at risk than other groups for developing post-COVID conditions:

  • People who have experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, especially those who were hospitalized or needed intensive care.
  • People who had underlying health conditions prior to COVID-19.
  • People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • People who experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after COVID-19 illness.

Health Inequities May Affect Populations at Risk for Long COVID

Some people are at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19 because of where they live or work, or because they can’t get health care. Health inequities may put some people from racial or ethnic minority groups and some people with disabilities at greater risk for developing post-COVID conditions. Scientists are researching some of those factors that may place these communities at higher risk of both getting infected or developing post-COVID conditions.

Preventing Long COVID

The best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to protect yourself and others from becoming infected. For people who are eligible, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with vaccines against COVID-19 can help prevent COVID-19 infection and protect against severe illness.

Research suggests that people who are vaccinated but experience a breakthrough infection are less likely to report post-COVID conditions, compared to people who are unvaccinated.

Learn more about protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.

(Video) Post-COVID syndrome: Heart and lungs

Living with Long COVID

Living with a post-COVID condition can be hard, especially when there are no immediate answers or solutions.

However, people experiencing post-COVID conditions can seek care from a healthcare provider to come up with a personal medical management plan that can help improve their symptoms and quality of life. Review these tipsto help prepare for a healthcare provider appointment for post-COVID conditions. In addition, there are many support groups being organized that can help patients and their caregivers.

Although post-COVID conditions appear to be less common in children and adolescents than in adults, long-term effects after COVID-19 do occur in children and adolescents.

Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child has long COVID or a post-COVID condition. Learn more: Tips for Talking to Your Healthcare Provider about Post-COVID Conditions

(Video) Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Post COVID-19 syndrome can be a long haul

Data for Long COVID

Studies are in progress to better understand post-COVID conditions and how many people experience them.

CDC is using multiple approaches to estimate how many people experience post-COVID conditions. Each approach can provide a piece of the puzzle to give us a better picture of who is experiencing post-COVID conditions. For example, some studies look for the presence of post-COVID conditions based on self-reported symptoms, while others collect symptoms and conditions recorded in medical records. Some studies focus only on people who have been hospitalized, while others include people who were not hospitalized. The estimates for how many people experience post-COVID conditions can be quite different depending on who was included in the study, as well as how and when the study collected information. Estimates of the proportion of people who had COVID-19 that go on to experience post-COVID conditions can vary:

  • 13.3% at one month or longer after infection
  • 2.5% at three months or longer, based on self-reporting
  • More than 30% at 6 months among patients who were hospitalized

CDC and other federal agencies, as well as academic institutions and research organizations, are working to learn more about the short- and long-term health effects associated with COVID-19, who gets them and why.

Scientists are also learning more about how new variants could potentially affect post-COVID symptoms. We are still learning to what extent certain groups are at higher risk, and if different groups of people tend to experience different types of post-COVID conditions. These studies, including for example CDC’s INSPIRE and NIH’s RECOVERexternal icon, will help us better understand post-COVID conditions and how healthcare providers can treat or support patients with these longer-term effects. CDC will continue to share information with healthcare providers to help them evaluate and manage these conditions.

CDC is working to:

  • Better identify the most frequent symptoms and diagnoses experienced by patients with post-COVID conditions.
  • Better understand how many people are affected by post-COVID conditions, and how often people who are infected with COVID-19 develop post-COVID conditions afterwards.
  • Better understand risk factors, including which groups might be more at risk, and if different groups experience different symptoms.
  • Help understand how post-COVID conditions limit or restrict people’s daily activity.
  • Help identify groups that have been more affected by post-COVID conditions, lack access to care and treatment for post-COVID conditions, or experience stigma.
  • Better understand the role vaccination plays in preventing post-COVID conditions.
  • Collaborate with professional medical groups to develop and offer clinical guidance and other educational materials for healthcare providers, patients, and the public.

FAQs

Are CT scans helpful for diagnosing COVID-19? ›

Along with laboratory testing, chest CT scans may be helpful to diagnose COVID-19 in individuals with a high clinical suspicion of infection.

Who are at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19? ›

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

What surfaces should be cleaned during the COVID-19 pandemic? ›

High-touch surfaces in these non-health care settings should be identified for priority disinfection such as door and window handles, kitchen and food preparation areas, counter tops, bathroom surfaces, toilets and taps, touchscreen personal devices, personal computer keyboards, and work surfaces.

How can one stay physically active during COVID-19 self-quarantine? ›

Walk. Even in small spaces, walking around or walking on the spot, can help you remain active. If you have a call, stand or walk around your home while you speak, instead of sitting down.

Do smokers suffer from worse COVID-19 symptoms? ›

Early research indicates that, compared to non-smokers, having a history of smoking may substantially increase the chance of adverse health outcomes for COVID-19 patients, including being admitted to intensive care, requiring mechanical ventilation and suffering severe health consequences.

Are smokers more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19? ›

Tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. A review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO on 29 April 2020 found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers.

How could smoking affect COVID-19? ›

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.

Can asymptomatic people transmit COVID-19? ›

Yes, infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don't have symptoms. This is why it is important that all people who are infected are identified by testing, isolated, and, depending on the severity of their disease, receive medical care.

Is COVID-19 caused by a virus or a bacteria? ›

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus, NOT by bacteria.

What are some preventative measures for COVID-19? ›

Preventive measures include physical or social distancing, quarantining, ventilation of indoor spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, hand washing, and keeping unwashed hands away from the face. The use of face masks or coverings has been recommended in public settings to minimise the risk of transmissions.

Is it recommended to fumigate outdoor surfaces during the COVID-19 pandemic? ›

In outdoor spaces, large-scale spraying or fumigation in areas such as streets or open market places for the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens is not recommended. Streets and sidewalks are not considered as routes of infection for COVID-19.

What concentration of bleach should be used to disinfect surfaces from COVID-19 in non-health care settings? ›

In non-health care settings, sodium hypochlorite (bleach / chlorine) may be used at a recommended concentration of 0.1% or 1,000ppm (1 part of 5% strength household bleach to 49 parts of water). Alcohol at 70-90% can also be used for surface disinfection.

What are some social distancing methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19? ›

Methods include quarantines; travel restrictions; and the closing of schools, workplaces, stadiums, theatres, or shopping centres. Individuals may apply social distancing methods by staying at home, limiting travel, avoiding crowded areas, using no-contact greetings, and physically distancing themselves from others.

How does COVID-19 spread? ›

The virus primarily spreads between people through close contact and via aerosols and respiratory droplets that are exhaled when talking, breathing, or otherwise exhaling, as well as those produced from coughs or sneezes.

What nutrition guidance should I follow during the coronavirus disease outbreak? ›

Proper nutrition and hydration are vital. People who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. So you should eat a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day to get the vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, protein and antioxidants your body needs. Drink enough water.

Why is healthy eating important for the immune system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic? ›

While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems. Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

How long should I exercise for during quarantine? ›

Physical activity and relaxation techniques can be valuable tools to help you remain calm and continue to protect your health during this time. WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both.

How do I stay active in and around the home during the COVID-19 pandemic? ›

Try and reduce long periods of time spent sitting, whether for work, studying, watching TV, reading, or using social media or playing games using screens. Reduce sitting for long periods by taking short 3-5 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes.

Is self-isolation recommended for those with COVID-19? ›

Self-isolation at home has been recommended for those diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who suspect they have been infected. Health agencies have issued detailed instructions for proper self-isolation. Many governments have mandated or recommended self-quarantine for entire populations.

Who are at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19? ›

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

What is the difference between people who have asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic COVID-19? ›

Both terms refer to people who do not have symptoms. The difference is that ‘asymptomatic’ refers to people who are infected but never develop any symptoms, while ‘pre-symptomatic’ refers to infected people who have not yet developed symptoms but go on to develop symptoms later.

How long does the virus that causes COVID-19 last on surfaces? ›

Recent research evaluated the survival of the COVID-19 virus on different surfaces and reported that the virus can remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, up to four hours on copper, and up to 24 hours on cardboard.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food? ›

There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food. The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed at temperatures similar to that of other known viruses and bacteria found in food.

Does smoking increase the risk of severe COVID-19? ›

Any kind of tobacco smoking is harmful to bodily systems, including the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. COVID-19 can also harm these systems. Evidence from China, where COVID-19 originated, shows that people who have cardiovascular and respiratory conditions caused by tobacco use, or otherwise, are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Do smokers suffer from worse COVID-19 symptoms? ›

Early research indicates that, compared to non-smokers, having a history of smoking may substantially increase the chance of adverse health outcomes for COVID-19 patients, including being admitted to intensive care, requiring mechanical ventilation and suffering severe health consequences.

Can the coronavirus disease be transmitted through water? ›

Drinking water is not transmitting COVID-19. And, if you swim in a swimming pool or in a pond, you cannot get COVID-19 through water. But what can happen, if you go to a swimming pool, which is crowded and if you are close to other the people and if someone is infected, then you can be of course affected.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food? ›

There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food. The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed at temperatures similar to that of other known viruses and bacteria found in food.

How does COVID-19 spread? ›

The virus primarily spreads between people through close contact and via aerosols and respiratory droplets that are exhaled when talking, breathing, or otherwise exhaling, as well as those produced from coughs or sneezes.

Does waterpipe use increase the risk of COVID-19 infection? ›

Since waterpipe smoking is typically an activity that takes place within groups in public settings and waterpipe use increases the risk of transmission of diseases, it could also encourage the transmission of COVID-19 in social gatherings.

Can the coronavirus disease be transmitted through the consumption of cooked foods, including animal products? ›

There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food. The virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed at temperatures similar to that of other known viruses and bacteria found in food.

Videos

1. Long COVID and Post-infection Syndromes: What We Know So Far
(SciShow)
2. Patients grapple with post-COVID-19 symptoms two years into the pandemic
(ABC News)
3. LIVE: Q&A on COVID-19 patient care and "post-COVID" conditions. Ask your questions!
(World Health Organization (WHO))
4. Live Q&A on post-COVID-19 condition. Ask your questions
(World Health Organization (WHO))
5. Post-covid conditions (‘Long covid’ and other sequelae of covid disease)
(The BMJ)
6. How to deal with auto-immune conditions post COVID-19 infection? | Apollo Hospitals
(Apollo Hospitals)

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