About long COVID
The term ‘long COVID’ is generally used to describe both:
- ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 – COVID-19 symptoms lasting more than 4 weeks
- post-COVID-19 condition/syndrome – COVID-19 symptoms after 12 weeks that are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
Long COVID can present differently in different people and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Long COVID symptoms
The most common symptoms reported with long COVID are:
- fatigue (tiredness)
- shortness of breath
- problems with your memory and concentration (‘brain fog’).
Other symptoms include:
- heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
- changes in taste or smell
- joint and muscle pain
- pins and needles
- problems sleeping (insomnia)
- changes in mood (increased worry, anxiety or depression)
- low-grade fever
- skin rashes, hair loss
- nausea, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite.
In children, symptoms include:
- mood symptoms
- problems sleeping.
Risk factors for long COVID
Long COVID is more likely to occur in people who:
- are unvaccinated
- had severe illness with COVID-19, including those who were hospitalised or needed intensive care
- had underlying conditions or disease prior to COVID-19, such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Getting treatment for long COVID
If you are worried about ongoing symptoms after you’ve COVID-19, you should contact your doctor for a medical review.
There is no test for long COVID. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they are having on your life. They may suggest some tests to identify possible causes of your symptoms and rule out other conditions.
There isn’t one single treatment or medication to treat long COVID. Your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need. They may provide you with advice about:
- monitoring and managing your symptoms at home, such as through use of a symptom diary
- symptoms that might require medical care (such as new or worsening symptoms) and where to seek care if you experience these symptoms
- what to expect in the weeks and months following COVID-19
- supports for lifestyle interventions, such as nutrition, physical activity and counselling.
If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist or rehabilitation service that can help manage your symptoms and help you recover.
Recovering from long COVID
Recovery times will differ for each person and your symptoms may vary over time. Most people will recover within 3 to 4 months. However, for some people, the symptoms can last longer.
Protecting yourself from long COVID
The best way to prevent long COVID is to protect yourself from getting infected.
Staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations can help prevent COVID-19 infection and protect against severe illness. People who are vaccinated are less likely to report long COVID compared to people who are unvaccinated.
Following a referral on 1 September 2022 from the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP, the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport inquired into and will report on long COVID and repeated COVID-19 infections.
Read the interim report.
- Getting help for Long COVID
- Understanding post-COVID-19 symptoms and long COVID
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Patient resource: Managing post-COVID-19 symptoms
- National Clinical Evidence Taskforce COVID-19, Australian guidelines for the clinical care of people with COVID-19.