How will I recover if I’ve had coronavirus?
If you have had coronavirus and live with a lung condition, you might be wondering how long your recovery will take. On this page we have information for people who might still have COVID-19 symptoms up to four weeks after getting the virus.
On this page:
- How long does it take to recover?
- Physical recovery in the early stages of infection
- Mental health and wellbeing in the early stages of infection
- I still have symptoms after four weeks – what should I do?
If you have had symptoms for longer than four weeks
If your COVID-19 symptoms have lasted for more than four weeks, you might have Long COVID. We have more support for people living with Long COVID, and we also have the My Long COVID Needs tool to help you explain your Long COVID symptoms to your GP.
How long it takes to recover from coronavirus is different for everyone. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks, but for some people, recovery takes longer. You may find that your symptoms may change over time and that you start getting new symptoms.
How long it takes to recover isn’t necessarily linked to how bad your symptoms were when you first got COVID-19. If you’ve had symptoms for less than four weeks, you’re still at the early stage of infection.
It is important to try to tell the difference between symptoms, such as feeling short of breath and a cough that are part of your recovery from COVID-19, and symptoms of your long-term lung condition. Talk to your health care professional about this and get advice urgently if your symptoms get worse at any time.
If you’ve had coronavirus, you may still be experiencing symptoms that affect your body, mind, and wellbeing. Some of the physical symptoms you might experience range from breathlessness to headaches.
While you are recovering from coronavirus, you may find that you get more breathless regularly. This might happen when going for a walk, going up or down the stairs, or carrying shopping. You might also have a tight feeling in your chest and find yourself getting tense.
If you’re becoming breathless on a regular basis, it’s important to get your breathing checked by a health care professional in case it’s being caused by your lung condition flaring up, or something else.
Read more on how to manage breathlessness, including when to call 111 or when to book an urgent appointment with your GP.
Fatigue (feeling very tired) is very common after viral infections such as COVID-19. Some people can feel better in two or three weeks, while other people can be fatigued for weeks or months. If you’re feeling fatigued, you need to manage your energy levels. This will ensure 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 between each task. Take your time and set small goals for yourself, rather than trying to do everything at once. You might also want to keep an activity diary, to help you understand what activities are making you feel particularly tired. It might also help you spot irregular sleep patterns.
Chest pain is a common symptom that people experience while recovering from coronavirus. However, it’s possible that your chest pain could be caused by something not related to coronavirus, so it’s always important to get medical advice if your chest pain is new.
It's also important you do not ignore chest pain that’s brought on by physical exertion, which then gets better when you rest. This could be angina.
Call 999 if you or someone with you gets:
• sudden chest pain that lasts for more than 15 minutes
• sudden chest pain at the same time as feeling or being sick, sweating, or shortness of breath
• sudden chest pain and loses consciousness.
Chest pain can also be caused by other triggers, such as gastric reflux or breathing too fast into your upper chest, which can make your rib muscles feel sore. You can read more about chest pain while recovering from coronavirus on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.
Heart palpitations are heartbeats that are more noticeable than usual. This can feel like a fluttering or pounding, or an irregular beating. You might feel this for a few seconds or a few minutes.
If you’re getting heart palpitations, they may not be anything to worry about. However, it’s important to see a GP if you have palpitations and:
- they last a long time, get worse or don’t get better
- you’ve had heart problems in the past
- you’re worried about the palpitations at all.
Call 999 if you get heart palpitations at the same time as:
- chest pain or tightness
- dizziness or light-headedness
- severe shortness of breath
- blackouts or a loss of consciousness.
Read more about heart palpitations while recovering from coronavirus on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.
If you’re recovering from coronavirus, you might find that you have a cough for some time. This might be a dry cough, or you might have a cough with sputum (phlegm).
If you have a new or worsening cough, or you have seen a change in the colour of your sputum, contact your GP. If you are also breathless or have chest pain, book an urgent (same-day) appointment.
Headaches are a common symptom of coronavirus. Most people find that their headaches improve within two weeks, but for some people they can last longer.
If you’ve had headaches regularly before getting coronavirus, you might find you get them more often while you’re recovering. Read more about headaches, including what you can do to help yourself, on the NHS Your Covid Recovery page.
Taste and smell changes
While recovering from coronavirus, you might find that food tastes and smells different to usual. Your food may taste bland, metallic, salty or sweet. This usually only lasts for a while, but it can affect your appetite.
Read more about taste and smell changes, including what you can do to improve the taste of your food, on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.
Joint and muscle problems
Some people find they get achy muscles and joints while recovering from coronavirus. This is because during recovery you’re likely to be less active than usual, which can cause you to get aches and pains, muscle weakness and stiffness. This might be in certain parts of your body, or it might be all over.
Sometimes you can get aches and pains after doing too much activity. It’s important to listen to your body and try not to do as much of that activity if you’re finding that activity makes your pain worse. Finding a good balance between moving and resting is essential.
If you had problems with your muscles and joints, you might find these issues have come back or got worse. Some people also find they have pins and needles, numbness and weakness in the arms or legs.
Read more about joint and muscle problems while recovering from coronavirus on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.
Coronavirus can affect your skin in a few different ways. If you already have a skin condition, you might find that it gets worse. This can be due to stress or worrying. If this happens to you, it’s important to keep treating your skin condition.
You might also find you have more dry skin on your hands than usual because of washing your hands more often.
Read more about how coronavirus can affect your skin on the NHS Your Covid Recovery website.
Because coronavirus can affect your breathing, you may also find you have problems swallowing. This could cause you to become breathless while eating and drinking, or you could start to cough.
The NHS Your Covid Recovery website has more on what to do if coronavirus is affecting your swallowing.
Some of the early-stage symptoms of COVID-19 can affect your mental health and wellbeing. We have support to help with these symptoms.
- Low mood – If you’re feeling low after being diagnosed with COVID-19, it can really help to talk to someone you know about how you feel. You can read more about managing a low mood and when to seek further help on the NHS Your COVID Recovery website.
- Anxiety – you may feel more worried or anxious than normal after being diagnosed with COVID-19. We have information and advice on managing anxiety. The NHS Your COVID Recovery site also has more support for coping with anxiety.
- Memory and concentration – Problems with memory and thinking are common in people who have had COVID. The NHS Your COVID Recovery site has lots more information on how to manage symptoms related to memory and concentration.
- Sleep – Symptoms of breathlessness and having a cough may be disturbing your sleep and causing you to feel tired during the day. Sometimes anxiety can keep you awake at night too. It can help to develop a routine to wind-down before bed, and to avoid screens before sleep. The NHS Your COVID Recovery site has tips on how to sleep well.
- Eating – If you have difficulty swallowing or have less of an appetite, it may help you to allow more time for eating. You should also make sure you’re in an upright position to eat, and you can try using a smaller plate or bowl so that meals feel more manageable. We also have advice on eating well for healthy lungs.
- Getting active - Being active during the day may help you sleep better and doing this regularly will help with any joint pain or stiffness you might have. You may find our movement and energy support video course helpful for getting active again.
If you have been living with symptoms of COVID-19 for more than four 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. You can use our My Long COVID Needs tool to help you explain your symptoms to your GP.
For more advice on what to do if you’ve been living with symptoms of COVID-19 for more than four weeks, our information about Long COVID includes breathlessness support as well as movement and energy support.
You might also find it helpful to speak to our helpline, which is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and can be reached on 0300 222 5800.
Last reviewed: Tuesday 24 May 2022