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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Post-COVID Conditions; Post Acute COVID-19 Syndrome; Long COVID; Chronic COVID)

Definition

Post-COVID syndrome is new, returning, or ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 in people who have had the virus and now test negative. It can happen four or more weeks after the infection.

Causes

The exact cause is not known. Research is being done to find out why some people have lasting problems.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for this health problem are not well understood. It can affect people who had severe COVID-19 symptoms as well as those who had mild symptoms.

Symptoms

Problems can vary from person to person or day to day. Common problems include:

  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness, especially after activity
  • Cough
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems with focus and memory – brain fog
  • Problems breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. You will be asked whether you have had COVID-19. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis, but other illnesses may need to be ruled out.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and allow the body time to heal. Steps include treating lasting illness and supporting recovery. It is important to keep in touch with your care team. They can adjust the treatment plan as needed.

Plan may include:

  • Oxygen therapy to help with breathing
  • Medicine to ease symptoms
  • Tests to look for imbalances or changes
  • Exercise planning, along with physical or occupational therapy to ease fatigue and help return to normal activity
  • Other support therapy such as Speech or Language therapy

Sleep, nutrition, and stress reduction also play a role in better moods, wellness, and overall health. Steps that may help include:

  • Making a regular sleep routine.
  • Working toward a balanced diet. A dietitian can help plan food choices to address obstacles like loss of smell.
  • Trying stress management tool such as yoga, meditation, or mindfulness.

Prevention

It is not clear why some people with COVID get long term symptoms and others do not. To reduce the risk of this health problem, take steps to help prevent COVID-19 infection. This includes:

  • Getting the recommended number of COVID-19 vaccine doses, if eligible
  • Wearing a face mask in indoor public areas—if 2 years old or older
  • Practicing social distancing

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov/covid19 

World Health Organization  https://www.who.int 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

Public Health Agency of Canada  https://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca 

References

About COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/about-covid-19.html. Accessed August 5, 2021.

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/covid-19-novel-coronavirus. Accessed August 5, 2021.

COVID “long haulers”: long-term effects of COVID-19. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html. Accessed August 5, 2021.

How can I protect myself (and others) from the new Post-COVID conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html. Accessed August 5, 2021.

Revision Information