Long COVID (Post COVID-19 Conditions)

Long COVID, which is known by many different names, is a condition that causes ongoing, returning, or new symptoms after having the SARS-CoV-2 infection that causes COVID-19.

The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines and specific treatments have changed the course of the disease, and millions of people living in the United States have recovered from COVID-19. But the term recovery is used loosely and does not account for the lingering, returning or new symptoms many individuals are experiencing post-infection. 

About Long COVID

Learn About Long COVID

While it has many names: post-COVID conditions, post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), Long COVID, chronic COVID or COVID-19 long-haulers, indicate any combination of symptoms that occur four or more weeks after initial infection.

Key Facts

  • Long COVID can include a wide range of ongoing symptoms and health problems.
  • People who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected are at higher risk of developing Long COVID.
  • Symptoms of Long COVID can last for a month or longer after you have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • It occurs more frequently in people who were very ill with COVID-19 but can also occur in anyone that has been infected.
  • Children and teenagers can also get Long COVID.

What Causes Long COVID?

The exact cause of Long COVID is not yet known as scientists continue to investigate why some people develop this condition. Current research indicates that one or more of the following factors may impact whether you develop Long COVID:

  • There may be ongoing viral activity of the SARS-CoV-2 particles that cause COVID-19.
  • Overactive immune cells may release high levels of inflammatory substances.
  • The infection may cause an autoimmune response resulting in antibodies that attack your tissues and organs.

Who Is at Risk for Long COVID?

  • People who did not get the vaccine and become infected with SARS-CoV-2
  • People who had severe COVID-19 illness
  • People with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, obesity, or asthma
  • People who had multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after their COVID-19 illness
  • Females
  • Older adults
  • People from some racial and ethnic minority groups
  • People who are re-infected with COVID-19 multiple times 
Symptoms & Diagnosis

Understanding Long COVID Symptoms

Long COVID can impact you in a number of ways depending on what part of your system is affected. A wide range of symptoms and health problems can result as it may impact multiple body systems, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin and nervous system. Although there are many symptoms that people experience, some that are frequently reported are fatigue, lung or respiratory problems, and symptoms that worsen after physical or mental effort.

Symptoms of Long COVID can vary from person-to-person and may present in several different parts of your body:

Diagnosing Long COVID

There is no definitive test to diagnose Long COVID, rather it is often a diagnosis of exclusion.. Symptoms experienced vary from person to person, making it challenging to rule out other health conditions that may be causing your symptoms. When your healthcare provider suspects you are experiencing Long COVID conditions, they will base the diagnosis on your health history, if you had a diagnosis of COVID-19 – a positive test, symptoms or exposure – and your overall physical  examination. Laboratory tests that your healthcare provider may recommend include:

  • SARS-CoV-2 viral test or antigen test or serologic antibody test to check for a current or previous infection
  • Pulse oximetry especially if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms
  • Orthostatic vital signs especially if you are feeling dizzy with change in position
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging to determine if there is any damage to organs

It can be hard to explain to your healthcare provider how you are doing, especially when you are not feeling your best. These resources may help you prepare for your office visits.

Treating & Managing

Treating and Managing Long COVID

There is no specific treatment for Long COVID, though clinical trials are ongoing to determine possible future treatment options. 

If you are diagnosed with Long COVID, your healthcare provider will work with you to determine a personal management plan for the symptoms you are experiencing with a goal of reducing your symptoms and improving your quality of life. It is important for you to understand your next steps. Make sure you know what your provider has recommended to manage your symptoms, if you are supposed to complete any more lab tests, and when you should follow up with your provider.

It may be helpful to keep a journal to track your symptoms to determine if your treatment is helping to improve your symptoms, if they worsen or do not change. You can also record if you are having any side effects from any medications that you have been prescribed by your provider. This can be helpful information for you to bring to any follow-up appointments. 

Talk to your healthcare provider to see if pulmonary rehabilitation is right for you. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise to help you better manage your condition.

Join a Clinical Trial

Talk to your healthcare provider to see if a clinical trial is right for you. Consider joining the National Institutes of Health (NIH) RECOVER Initiative. Your experience can help build a larger understanding of Long COVID. Visit Recovercovid.org to learn more.

Find Support

Support Options

One of the most important parts of managing your illness is connecting with others in similar situations. The American Lung Association has support options for you and you can ask your healthcare team about other local groups in your area.

Online Support Communities

The American Lung Association has online communities on Inspire.com. Individuals register to join a community. Members can choose their level of participation and engagement.

Better Breathers Club

Better Breathers Clubs offer in-person or virtual meetings led by trained facilitators that offer educational and supportive connections.

Patient & Caregiver Network

The Patient & Caregiver Network is a national gathering of patients and caregivers interested in receiving the latest information from the American Lung Association on lung diseases through webcasts, emails and other communication channels.

Talk to an Expert

Talk to our trained lung health professionals at the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine. Our service is free and we are here to help you with your questions.
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