People who test positive for COVID-19 and experience symptoms that stay with them for more than 12 weeks are likely to be suffering from what we now call 'Long COVID' or 'post-COVID syndrome'. They might just have one or two symptoms, or they might have several. These can include:
- Breathlessness or shortness of breath
- Feeling weak and having joint stiffness
- Increased phlegm
- Having a poor appetite, changes in taste
- Difficulties swallowing
- Changes to speech
- Unintentional weight loss
- Feeling very tired and having a lack of energy
- Being unable to sleep well
- Feeling low in mood, anxious
- Having difficulty remembering things or doing basic tasks
- Feeling more confused than normal (delirium)
- Having flashbacks to when you were ill
- Worrying about your financial situation
COVID-19 is a new condition. Experts and health care professionals are working hard to learn more about COVID-19, the extent of its impact, and the best way to manage it. However, we already know a lot about recovery and rehabilitation from other conditions that we can build upon.
The NHS and experts in the different health conditions have produced a wide selection of helpful information and advice that covers each of the currently known symptoms of coronavirus and Long COVID. You can find guides, checklists, videos, apps and much more at www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk
Finding, or asking someone else to help you find information and advice about the different symptoms is the first step. This will help you to feel more comfortable at first and eventually help you to fully recover.
If you have symptoms that aren’t new, or are worsening, and which haven’t gone away after 28 days, you will soon be able to access further support. More information will be available about this soon.
There are also some things you can do whatever your symptoms. Here are five tips that will help you to feel better and begin your recovery:
- Drink water to keep hydrated
- Eat well - little and often helps, include protein at each meal
- Set realistic recovery goals
- Move more. Gradually increase the amount you do
- Connect with family, friends, carers, healthcare professionals
If you have worsening or new symptoms within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, or if you are having difficulty in following self-care advice, you should contact your GP.
If you have sudden worsening of shortness of breath, severe chest pain or are coughing up blood then call 999.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the evidence for the treatment of Long COVID?
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published the scope for the forthcoming guidelines on Post-COVID Syndrome (Long COVID) which is due to be published by the end of the year.
The scope outlines what areas the guidelines will cover, including alerts to prompt a referral for specialist assessment or management, pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions to improve physical or mental health symptoms following acute COVID-19, and how best to deliver Long COVID recovery and rehabilitation services.
The draft guidelines are being consulted on with stakeholders, including relevant national professional and user/patient and carer groups, ahead of publication. The publication of the guidelines are likely to influence development of future Long COVID services.
What are the Long COVID assessment services?
The NHS has invested £10 million to meet the additional demand created by ongoing COVID-19 symptoms in a proportion of the population. This investment will help local services in every part of the country bring together the right professionals to provide physical, cognitive and psychological assessments for those experiencing suspected post-COVID syndrome (Long COVID), so that they can be referred to the right support.
What will the Long COVID assessment services do?
Long COVID assessment services are designed to complement and fit in with existing services, so will vary in their setup depending on services available in the area. As per the national specification for setting up Long COVID assessment services, each service will as a minimum:
- Be available to all affected patients who need it, whether they were previously hospitalised for COVID-19 or not, and whether or not they have had a positive COVID-19 test
- Have access to a multidisciplinary team of professionals to account for the multi-system nature of post-COVID syndrome
- Support collaboration across localities where patients’ needs require this
- Have age appropriate arrangements in place for managing children and young people with post-COVID syndrome including support for psychological needs
- Have access to diagnostic tests
- Ensure coverage of the population in that geography
- Have a plan for ensuring equity of access
- Have a local communications plan for raising awareness within the clinical community
- Have an external communication plan for informing and raising awareness with patients
How will these services be developed?
The funding has been allocated to each region to develop post-COVID assessment services in a way that works best for patient populations and can be established in the timeliest way. Some services were already being established due to high demand in the area, some will be adapted from existing services and some will be newly established. As stated above, all services must adhere to the national specification for Long COVID assessment services.
The Long COVID assessment services are one initial element to support people with Long COVID, and as well as the support of existing primary care, specialist and rehabilitation support the online platform 'Your COVID Recovery' has been developed. Find out more at www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk
This is a digital, interactive and tailored recovery programme that has been developed by experts to provide rehabilitation support for post-COVID-19 patients to manage their recovery at home. The public facing information website launched in July 2020, providing general information on all aspects of recovering from COVID-19 including physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing, advice on recovery and information for families and carers.