Updated April 10, 2022
Post-COVID conditions, also known as long COVID, are health problems that people experience at least 4 weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Some people with long COVID may face challenges returning to work, school, and other activities that allow them to thrive.
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What are post-COVID conditions?
Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience weeks or months after first being infected with COVID-19.
While most people with COVID-19 get better within a couple weeks, some continue to have symptoms or develop new ones after their initial recovery. Post-COVID conditions can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even those who previously had mild or no symptoms initially after being infected. Conditions can persist for a long time, and severity can range from mild to incapacitating.
Post-COVID conditions may also be known as long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, or chronic COVID.
Common post-COVID conditions
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Chest or stomach pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Joint or muscle pain
- Pins-and-needles feeling
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
- Mood changes
- Change in smell or taste
- Changes in menstrual cycles
What causes long COVID?
Researchers are still investigating a variety of possible causes for long COVID. It’s unclear what makes some people more likely than others to develop post-COVID conditions. It’s not yet clear whether any COVID-19 treatments can reduce long COVID risk once someone is infected.
Because COVID-19 vaccines lower your chances of becoming infected, getting vaccinated makes it less likely that you’ll get long COVID. Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and taking other prevention actions can help prevent long COVID and severe COVID-19 illness.
Long COVID treatment
If you’re suffering from long COVID, talk to a health care provider about your symptoms. Health care providers and patients are encouraged to set achievable goals through shared decisions, focusing on specific symptoms or conditions. A plan focusing on improving physical, mental, and social wellbeing may be helpful for some patients.
Our understanding of post-COVID conditions remains incomplete, and treatment guidance will likely change over time as the evidence evolves.
Children with long COVID
Although long COVID appears to be less common in children and adolescents than in adults, long-term effects after COVID-19 do occur in children and adolescents. Young children may have trouble describing the problems they are experiencing.
If your child has a post-COVID condition that impacts their ability to attend school or perform their usual activities, it may be helpful to discuss possible accommodations with your child’s school, such as extra time on tests, scheduled rest periods throughout the day, or a modified class schedule. You may also request similar accommodations for activities outside of school, such as day care, tutoring, sports, or scouting.
Long COVID resources
Managing long COVID can be difficult, frustrating, and confusing, especially when there are few or no immediate answers or solutions. However, there are resources available to help relieve some of the burdens of experiencing or caring for someone with long COVID.
- Workplace accommodations: Long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Find resources for workers, employers, youth, and policymakers from the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Disability Information and Assistance Line (DIAL): DIAL can provide information about services you may be eligible for and connect you to them. Learn more at acl.gov/DIAL.
- Dignity Health Physical Therapy’s Recovery and Reconditioning program: Dignity Health’s post-COVID-19 recovery program focuses on rebuilding strength, endurance, mobility and flexibility. Learn more at the Dignity Health website.
- RECOVER Initiative: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a nationwide research initiative on long COVID and is inviting long-COVID sufferers to participate in studies. Visit recovercovid.org to learn more.
- Survivor Corps: Survivor Corps connects COVID-19 survivors with assistance, education, and opportunities to support long COVID research. Visit survivorcorps.org for more details.
- Long Covid Kids: Long Covid Kids is an international charity for families and children living with long Covid. They offer multiple online support services, including a Facebook group.
- Voices of Long COVID: The Voices of Long Covid campaign features testimonials from a diverse group of people ages 18-29 who are suffering from long-term complications of COVID-19 infection. Visit voicesoflongcovid.org.
- How Right Now: The How Right Now initiative aims to address people's feelings of grief, loss, and worry during COVID-19. Visit howrightnow.org to find information and support.