What is Long Covid?

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What is Long Covid?

Long Covid is the common term used to describe signs and symptoms that last for longer than four weeks after getting COVID-19. (It is also referred to as Post Covid-19 condition.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Long Covid as follows: “Post Covid-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of Covid-19 with symptoms and that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.” 

According to the NHS, depending on how long you have ongoing symptoms for, it can be called one of two things:

  • Ongoing symptomatic COVID – This is where your symptoms continue for more than 4 weeks. If your symptoms last for longer than 12 weeks, it will then be called;

  • Post-COVID Syndrome – This is where your ongoing symptoms continue for longer than 12 weeks and cannot be explained by any other condition.

Symptoms of Long Covid are many and varied – patients have reported more than 200 symptoms – and can change over time. The NHS has stated that the most commonly reported symptoms include the following:

Respiratory & Cardiovascular symptoms

  • Breathlessness

  • Cough

  • Chest tightness

  • Chest pain

  • Palpitations

Generalised symptoms

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Pain

Neurological symptoms

  • Cognitive impairment (‘brain fog’, loss of concentration or memory issues)

  • Headache

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Pins and needles or numbness

  • Dizziness

  • Delirium (in older people)

Gastrointestinal symptoms (digestive system)

  • Abdominal pain

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhoea

  • Anorexia and reduced appetite (in older people)

  • Weight loss

Musculoskeletal symptoms

  • Joint pain

  • Muscle pain

Psychological/psychiatric symptoms

  • Symptoms of depression

  • Symptoms of anxiety

Ear, nose and throat symptoms

  • Tinnitus

  • Earache

  • Sore throat

  • Loss of taste and/or smell

  • Dermatological symptoms

  • Skin rashes

What causes Long Covid?

New information is coming out all the time, but at the moment we cannot yet know for sure.

The BBC says in its information article about Long Covid

“One possibility is the infection makes some people's immune systems go into overdrive, attacking not just the virus but their own tissues. That can happen in people who have very strong immune responses.

“The virus itself getting into and damaging our cells might explain some symptoms like brain fog and a loss of smell and taste, while damage to blood vessels in particular could lead to heart, lung and brain problems.

“Another theory is that fragments of the virus could remain in the body, possibly lying dormant and then becoming reactivated. This happens with some other viruses, like herpes and the Epstein Barr virus which causes glandular fever. However, there isn't much evidence for this happening with Covid at the moment.”

How many people have had Long Covid?

The numbers are both unclear and changing, but according to the Office for National Statistics, almost a million people in the UK were reporting Long Covid symptoms in the four weeks to 1st August 2021. You're not alone.

What should I expect during my Long Covid recovery?

Recovery time from Long Covid is something that can differ enormously from person to person. Importantly, recovery length may not be related to how severe your initial illness was – or whether you were hospitalised. Whenever new or ongoing symptoms occur and are causing you concern, make sure to seek medical advice and support.

Where should I visit for further support?

For links to support around Long Covid, wherever you are in the UK, visit our Get Help page.

You can join our online Covid-19 Support Community for support including Live Q&As, Courses, useful information, and the opportunity to speak to others who may have gone through similar experiences.

Covid Aid is reliant on YOUR donations to provide support to those hit by Long Covid, grief and bereavement, and other Covid-related issues