Over 100 million Americans 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. 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.
Understanding Long COVID Symptoms
Individuals experiencing symptoms sometimes refer to themselves as “long haulers” because they are experiencing longer symptoms of COVID-19. Most people who experience long COVID conditions have had their symptoms improve over time. But for others, the symptoms last months or years, and may result in disability.
Long COVID conditions are more likely to be experienced by if you had severe COVID-19 illness, but even people who were asymptomatic or had mild illness can experience persistent or late symptoms long after the few weeks it takes most people to recover.
Any combination of these longer-term symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest or stomach pain
- Post-exertional malaise - symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort
- Joint pain
- Fatigue or tiredness that interferes with your daily life
- Mood changes
- Difficulty thinking and concentrating (brain fog)
- Muscle pain
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Intermittent fever
- Pins and needles feeling
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Depression or anxiety
- Changes in taste or smell
- Changes in menstrual period cycles
Diagnosing and Managing Long COVID
There is no test to diagnose Long COVID conditions. 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 would base the diagnosis on your health history, if you had a diagnosis of COVID-19 – a positive test, symptoms or exposure – and an overall health examination.
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.
- Getting Ready for Your Next Office Visit
- Understanding Communication: What is your Style?
- Medication Tracker
There is no specific treatment for Long COVID, though clinical trials are researching possible 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.
One of the most important parts of recovering from a severe illness is connecting with others in your shoes. Check out American Lung Association support groups and 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.
- Living with Lung Disease. Members can discuss how COVID-19 is affecting them.
- Living with Long COVID. COVID-19 Long-Haulers and Post-COVID Support Community.
- Patient & Caregiver Network. 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.
- Better Breathers Club. In-person or virtual meetings led by trained facilitators that offer educational and supportive connections.
- 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.
- Join a Clinical Trial. Your experience can help build a larger understanding of Long COVID. Visit Recovercovid.org to learn more.
Page last updated: June 5, 2023