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Coronavirus and COVID-19

How will I recover if I’ve had coronavirus?

If you've had COVID-19, you might be wondering what your recovery will look like and how long it might take. On this page, we talk about the physical symptoms you might experience, as well as issues you might have with your mood, memory and concentration.

On this page:

  • How long will it take to recover from coronavirus?
  • How might I feel while I’m recovering from coronavirus?

    How long will it take to recover from coronavirus?

    How long it takes to recover from coronavirus is different for everyone. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks, and most people make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people recovery takes longer.

    If your symptoms last for longer than 4 weeks, it’s called ‘ongoing symptomatic COVID-19’ and if it lasts for longer than 12 weeks it’s called ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’. Lots of people refer to symptoms that last for longer than 4 weeks as ‘Long COVID’.

    Read more advice on how long it might take you to recover from Long COVID

    How might I feel while I’m recovering from coronavirus?

    If you’re recovering from coronavirus, you might find that you’re experiencing physical symptoms, such as:

    • breathlessness
    • a persistent cough
    • fatigue and a lack of energy
    • muscle weakness and stiff joints
    • loss of appetite and weight loss

    Breathlessness

    If you’re recovering from coronavirus, you might find that you become breathless more easily than you normally would. There are various different ways you can help yourself when you’re breathless, including practising breathing control and finding a position that helps you control your breathing.

    If your breathing is not improving, or seems to be getting worse, you should contact your GP or specialist team.

    A persistent cough

    If you’re recovering from coronavirus, you might find that you have a persistent cough. A dry cough is one of the most common coronavirus symptoms, although you might also find you’re coughing up some phlegm.

    Whether you have a dry cough, or you’re finding you’re coughing up some phlegm, there are a few things you can do to help yourself, such as staying hydrated and inhaling steam.

    Read more tips on dealing with a cough or phlegm.

    If you have a new or worsening cough, or you have seen a change in the colour of your sputum, see your GP.

    Fatigue

    Fatigue (feeling very tired) is very common after viral infections such as COVID-19. Some people can feel better in 2 or 3 weeks, while some people can be fatigued for weeks or months.

    There may be many different reasons you feel fatigued and why it might be lasting a long time. These can include:

    • not getting enough sleep
    • low mood or anxiety stress – this could be due to work, any caring responsibilities you have or the stress of feeling unwell
    • not being physically active
    • not having a consistent daily routine

    If you’re feeling fatigued, you might need to manage your energy levels, to make sure you’re able to do the things that are important to you.

    You might find it useful to break down tasks into chunks and rest in between each task. If you’re finding a particular activity difficult, stop and think about how you could how you could make it easier for yourself.

    You might also want to keep an activity diary, to help you figure out what activities are making you feel particularly tired. It might also help you spot irregular sleep patterns.

    For more tips on conserving your energy, take a look at the COVID-19 recovery guide from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

    For more advice on what to do about fatigue and when you should see your doctor about it, take a look at the NHS Your Covid Recovery website. 

    Trouble sleeping

    Lots of people recovering from COVID-19 notice that they have trouble sleeping – whether they’ve been in hospital or recovering at home.

    Breathlessness and having a dry cough can make it difficult to sleep. Having fatigue can also disrupt your sleeping pattern, as it can cause you to sleep during the day. Another thing that can cause you to lose sleep is the fear and anxiety of being unwell. This can put the body into a state of high alert, making it almost impossible to sleep.

    If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s important that you try to prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. This can include:

    • not eating heavy meals within 2 hours of going to bed
    • develop a bedtime ritual to prepare you for sleep
    • not having screens in the bedroom, such as a TV, mobile phone or iPad.

    If you continue to have problems sleeping, talk to your healthcare professional. You can read more tips on how to sleep well on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.

    Muscle weakness and stiff joints

    While you’re recovering from COVID-19, you’re likely to be less active than usual. This can cause your muscles to become weak and stiff, and you might start getting aches and pains. This could also be a side effect of some of the treatments you received while you were ill with COVID-19, as they may have out extra strain on your joints and muscles.

    All this might mean you’re less able to do the things you usually do, like going up stairs, raising your arms above your head and gripping objects.

    To find out more about joint and muscle problems after COVID-19, take a look at the Your COVID Recovery website.

    You might also find it useful to read about the ways you can keep mobile while recovering from COVID-19, from the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

    Loss of appetite and weight loss

    While you’re recovering form COVID-19, you might find that you have less of an appetite than usual. You might also have difficulty swallowing, which could affect how much food and drink you’re able to have.

    It’s important to try to eat and drink as much as you need, as this can affect your mood, energy levels and your overall recovery from COVID-19.

    There’s more advice on eating well to recover from COVID-19 in the recovery guide from the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

    Mood and emotional problems

    You might also find you experience:

    Being diagnosed with COVID-19 can be a frightening experience. Many people notice that they have a low mood or feel anxious as they recover.

    You might have low mood if you find you’re:

    • feeling sad or empty a lot of the time
    • becoming more tearful than you usually would
    • feeling irritable a lot towards other people
    • finding it difficult to make decisions

    If this sounds like you, or someone you know, you can read more about managing low mood and when to seek help on the NHS Your COVID Recovery website.

    As you recover from coronavirus, you might also find you’re more worried or anxious than normal. You may notice yourself being more concerned or focused on your health, or your symptoms. This might then cause you to feel on edge or nervous, which can lead to physical symptoms in our body, such as pain or difficulty breathing.

    There are lots of ways you can manage your fear and anxiety, which you can read about on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.

    These include:

    • practising mindfulness meditation
    • practising visualisation (creating a picture of in your mind that makes you feel calm and relaxed)
    • setting a ‘worry time’ – if you start worrying about things, note them down and save them for a particular time of the day when you will think about your worries

    Memory, concentration and thinking

    If you’ve been ill with coronavirus, you might find you experience problems with your memory, attention and concentration. You may find it difficult to hold information in your head, not remember something that has happened, or forget to take your medication on time.

    You might also find it hard to focus and ignore distractions or keep up with conversations that are fast-paced or involve more than one other person.

    If this is the case, it’s likely that the people around you have noticed you have problems with your memory, concentration and thinking. If you explain to them the issues you’re having, it will start a conversation about how they can help you, which you might find useful.

    If you’re having trouble with your daily activities, you might want to think about how you can change how you do things so that you’re conserving your energy. And if you want to know more about how recovering from coronavirus can affect memory and thinking, take a look at the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.

    Getting help

    If you have been living with symptoms of COVID-19 for more than 4 weeks, you should speak to your GP. They will investigate your symptoms and first try to rule out possible causes that aren’t related to COVID-19.

    For more advice on what to do if you’ve been living with symptoms of COVID-19 for more than 4 weeks, see our Long COVID care in the NHS pages. 

    Call 999 if you’re struggling to breathe and:

    • your chest feels tight or heavy
    • you have pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
    • you feel or are being sick

Further information

Call our Long COVID helpline on 0300 222 5942, to talk to our team of experts about your concerns and to answer your questions.

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Last medically reviewed: March 2021. Due for review: June 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.