Post COVID-19 condition or long COVID

Presenting you the answers to the most frequently asked questions about post COVID-19 condition

Mariam Alikhanova
Բժիշկը զննում է հիվանդին:
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Galstyan
17 May 2022

Most people who develop COVID-19 fully recover, but current evidence suggests approximately 10%-20% of people experience a variety of mid- and long-term effects after they recover from their initial illness. These mid- and long-term effects are collectively known as post COVID-19 condition or “long COVID.” This Q&A will help you understand more about post COVID-19 condition and so you can make informed decisions to protect yourself and those around you. It’s important to remember that our understanding of post COVID-19 condition, along with COVID-19, continues to evolve. Researchers are working with patients who develop post COVID-19 condition to better understand more about its cause, symptoms, and effects.

What is post COVID-19 condition?

Post COVID-19 condition, also known as “long COVID,” refers collectively to the constellation of long-term symptoms that some people experience after they have had COVID-19. People who experience post COVID-19 condition sometimes refer to themselves as “long-haulers.”

While most people who develop COVID-19 fully recover, some people develop a variety of mid- and long-term effects like fatigue, breathlessness, and cognitive dysfunction (for example, confusion, forgetfulness, or a lack of mental focus and clarity). Some people also experience psychological effects as part of post COVID-19 condition.

These symptoms might persist from their initial illness or develop after their recovery. They can come and go or relapse over time. Post COVID-19 condition can affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities such as work or household chores. 

How is post COVID-19 condition defined?

Post COVID-19 condition is defined as the illness that occurs in people who have a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection; usually within three months from the onset of COVID-19, with symptoms and effects that last for at least two months. The symptoms and effects of post COVID-19 condition cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.

What are common symptoms of post COVID-19 condition (AKA long COVID)?

The most common symptoms of post COVID-19 condition include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Memory, concentration, or sleep problems
  • Persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble speaking
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever

What should I do if I had COVID-19 and am experiencing symptoms and effects like those described as post COVID-19 condition?

If you think you may have developed post COVID-19 condition, consult, and seek care from your healthcare provider. They will help you to determine whether this is the case, and to provide you with the care you need to manage your symptoms.

At present, there is no specific medication therapy for people with post COVID-19 condition. However, there is data suggesting that holistic care, including rehabilitation, can be helpful. We are continuing to learn why some people develop this condition, the mechanisms behind the development of post COVID-19 condition and how to best manage it. 

Who is most at risk of developing post COVID-19 condition?

Anyone who becomes ill with COVID-19 can develop post COVID-19 condition. Post COVID-19 condition is being studied by many experts around the world and our knowledge and understanding of post COVID-19 condition is growing.  Current research shows that approximately 10%-20% of COVID-19 patients go on to develop prolonged symptoms that may be post COVID-19 condition. There does not appear to be a relationship between the initial severity of COVID-19 infection and the likelihood of developing post COVID-19 condition.

When do symptoms of post COVID-19 condition occur?

Symptoms of post COVID-19 condition can persist from the initial illness or begin after recovery. Symptoms may come and go or relapse over time. Post COVID-19 condition is usually diagnosed three months after COVID-19. This allows the healthcare provider to rule out the normal recovery process after illness. The symptoms and effects last for at least two months. 

If I had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and I’m still experiencing symptoms, how long would it take before I could be diagnosed with post COVID-19 condition?

At present, the minimum time before a person is diagnosed with post COVID-19 condition is usually three months after they first developed symptoms of COVID-19. The three-month time period rules out the normal recovery process after illness.

How long does post COVID-19 condition last?

It is difficult to predict how long post COVID-19 condition will last for any given patient. There is much to learn about post COVID-19 condition, but current research shows that patients can experience lingering symptoms for weeks to months following COVID-19. The research also shows that patients can improve with time.

What can I do to protect myself against post COVID-19 condition?

The best way you can protect yourself against post COVID-19 condition is by doing everything you can to avoid getting infected with the COVID-19 virus. This includes getting vaccinated and following the many public health and social measures that can reduce your chances of getting infected and spreading the COVID-19 virus. 

Does getting vaccinated prevent post COVID-19 condition?

Research is ongoing. A vaccine’s ability to prevent post COVID-19 condition depends on its ability to prevent COVID-19 in the first place. The vaccines we use today are aimed at preventing severe disease and death from COVID-19. However, some people may still get infected with COVID-19 even after they are vaccinated. 

If I have post COVID-19 condition, can I give it to others?

No, post COVID-19 condition cannot be passed to others, Post COVID-19 condition is a long-term condition following infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. 

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.