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Long COVID

What treatment can I expect if I have Long COVID symptoms?

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How long have you had symptoms?

The type of care you can expect to receive when recovering from coronavirus depends on how long you have had symptoms. On this page, read about the support that’s available at each phase of recovery.

Less than 4 weeks

If you have had symptoms for up to 4 weeks, you are at the acute infection stage. This does not mean that you are infectious for up to 4 weeks. Based on what we know, it’s thought that people are very infectious in the first week to 10 days after getting symptoms of COVID-19, but aren’t infectious after this point.

You can find more information on what this means and advice on what to do if you already have a lung condition on our COVID-19 health advice pages.

4-12 weeks

If you still have symptoms 4-12 weeks after you first had symptoms of COVID-19, you may have ongoing symptomatic COVID-19. This is classed as Long COVID. The first thing you should do is speak to your GP. They will investigate your symptoms and first try to rule out possible causes that aren’t related to COVID-19, or if they are after-effects of COVID-19 that need investigating.

You should contact your GP surgery, who will offer you an appointment either in person, by video or over the phone. They should also give you information in the format or language you need, as this will help you make decisions about your care. If you have been in hospital with COVID-19, you should be contacted by a health care professional 6 weeks after you’ve been discharged, to check on how you’re doing and ask about your symptoms.

12 weeks +

If you have had symptoms for more than 12 weeks, which can’t be explained by another condition or diagnosis, you may be diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome. You might find that you have lots of different symptoms and that they change over time. They may get better or worse and affect different parts of your body.

Both this and ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 are classed as Long COVID.

What will happen at my appointment?

Your doctor will try to find out if you have Long COVID if you either:

  • still have symptoms after 4 weeks
  • have new symptoms 4 weeks after you first had symptoms of COVID-19.

If the healthcare professional seeing you thinks you might have Long COVID, they will look at your medical history and ask a few questions, such as:

  • Have you had COVID-19? You don’t need to have had a positive test, especially if you think you had COVID-19 before testing was widely available.
  • What symptoms have you had?
  • When did your symptoms start and how long have you had them? They might also ask about other medical conditions that you have.

They might also ask:

  • Do you have any difficulties with your memory or thinking?
  • How you are managing with your day-to-day activities?  
  • Have you noticed any changes in your behaviour, emotions or mood?

If they think you need an assessment based on your symptoms, they will invite you to another appointment to do this.

What tests will I have?

The healthcare professional treating you will carry out or refer you for tests to investigate your symptoms and help rule out any other conditions or issues. These tests might include:

  • blood tests
  • tests to measure your blood pressure and heart rate
  • an exercise tolerance test
  • ECG (heart tracing)
  • a chest x-ray – this will be done by the time you have had symptoms for 12 weeks, if you still have breathing issues.

You may have more or different tests to these, depending on your individual symptoms. If you have symptoms of a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, they might refer you for psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

What happens after my assessment?

After you’ve had your assessment, you will agree what you need to do next with your doctor. This could be more tests, support or rehabilitation.  

What support you get will depend on how your symptoms are affecting your life. It’s important to remember that your symptoms may come and go, so you might feel fine sometimes and bad at other times. This means you might need different types and levels of support at different times.

You’ll get advice on what you can do to help yourself and your health care professional may be able to support you. This could include helping you set realistic goals and suggesting ways to keep track of your progress.

Depending on what you need for your particular symptoms, you might also get:

  • support from primary care, community and mental health services
  • a referral to specialist care, if needed.

You may be referred to a Long COVID assessment clinic, where you’ll be looked after and supported by a range of health care professionals. These are currently only available in England. You can find out if there’s a Long COVID clinic in your area on the NHS website.

Your COVID Recovery

The NHS has also launched a programme called Your COVID Recovery. This is an online rehabilitation platform designed to support your physical and emotional recovery if you have ongoing COVID-19 symptoms. You need to get a referral from a health care professional to access this programme.

Through Your COVID Recovery, you can get advice and support from various health care professionals on your mental health, physical activity, managing your symptoms and diet. You’ll also be able to track your symptoms and set your own goals.

You might also find it useful to visit the Your Covid Recovery website, which has information and advice on a wide range of Long COVID symptoms that can affect your body and mind, as well as advice on what to do if you already have diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

What can I do to help myself?

At your first appointment with your doctor, you will be given advice on how you can manage your symptoms.  

This should include:

  • advice on setting realistic goals
  • how to get support from social care, housing and employment, as well as financial support, if you need it
  • details of who to contact if your symptoms get worse, or if you need support to manage your condition
  • information about Long COVID that you can give to your family, friends and others who care for you. This should be available in a language and format that you can understand.

The World Health Organization has produced a handy leaflet for people recovering from COVID-19, covering a range of symptoms and issues you might have. It also includes a symptom tracking diary, so you can track whether your symptoms are getting better or worse.

What happens if I’m referred for rehabilitation?  

The health care professional treating you might refer you for rehabilitation. This will help you get back to how you were before.

If you are referred for rehabilitation, you will assessed by a team of health care professionals, who will work out what you need from different services. Your doctor will then work with you to develop a rehabilitation plan that is specific to you and your symptoms. This should include:

  • what areas are being worked on and how
  • help to decide on your goals and how to work towards them
  • how to manage your symptoms yourself.

You will then be given a copy of your care plan to keep.

Your doctor can also support you if you need to speak to your employer about going back to work, or to your school, college or university about continuing your education.

What will my follow-up care look like?

It’s important to go to your follow-up appointments, as this will help your recovery, it’s also important to plan what you want to say to your doctor, so you get the most out of your time with them.

When planning your follow-up care, your doctor will agree with you:

  • how often your follow-up appointments will be
  • which health care professionals should be involved
  • whether these appointments will be face to face or remote
  • whether you need to monitor yourself at home – such as checking your blood pressure or heart rate.

Who will help with my care and recovery?

The team involved in your care and recovery can include specialists in:

  • physiotherapy
  • occupational therapy
  • clinical psychology and psychiatry
  • rehabilitation medicine.

You might also see other specialists, depending on your specific symptoms.

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