COVID-19 Recovery

Some people recovering from COVID-19 will take longer than others to feel well again.

Recovery

While there is still much to learn about recovering from COVID-19, experience with other types of lung infections provides medical experts with some idea of what you may expect. Your path to recovery will be unique, depending on your overall health, the treatment provided and any co-existing conditions such as COPD, asthma or another chronic lung disease.  

Depending on your experience with COVID-19, the following complications may have occurred and may require additional support and recovery.  

  • COVID Pneumonia, a viral infection that generally occurs in both lungs and can be life threatening. As the lungs are infected and inflamed the air sacs fill with fluid, oxygen exchange becomes more challenging and results in breathing difficulties. 
  • Lung abscesses, which are infrequent, but serious complications of pneumonia. They occur when pockets of pus form inside or around the lung. These may sometimes need to be drained with surgery.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe form of respiratory failure.
  • Long COVID, new or persistent symptoms occurring at least four weeks after initial infection. Join our Living with Long COVID online support community.
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Recovery from serious lung infections, such as COVID-19, can take longer than you expect. Learn what you can do to help your body recover, when to reach out to your healthcare provider and how to help prevent future infections.

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Recovery from a serious lung infection may take longer than you expect. It can take weeks, or even months, before you are feeling back to normal.  How long you feel sick depends on several factors including the severity of your infection your age, and  your overall health status. It’s important to not get discouraged but gradually take steps each day to help your body recover. 

An upper respiratory infection may affect your sinuses and throat. A lower respiratory infection may affect your airways but primarily impacts your lungs. Lower respiratory infections tend to be more serious and require longer recovery. Pneumonia is the most common respiratory infection but there are many others. One thing all lower respiratory infections have in common is inflammation. Fluid buildup and cell debris in the airways can take time to clear. The symptoms you are feeling, such as cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath may linger as you heal.

Signs and symptoms to watch for and report back to your healthcare provider include if your fever returns, you experience chest pain or worsening shortness of breath or if you develop any new symptoms that concern you. While you are waiting for your body to recover, focus on taking the medications your healthcare provider has prescribed and good health practices – such as lots of rest so your body can recover, fluids to keep the mucus in your lungs thin, good food so your body has energy to heal. It is important to keep your vaccinations up to date and any chronic health conditions well managed to help prevent future respiratory infections.

Given enough time and care, you will hopefully be feeling like yourself again soon.

Learn more at Lung.org.

Share Your COVID-19 Story

Have you or a loved one had COVID-19? Please share how you’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Call the Lung HelpLine

Our Lung HelpLine is answering questions about COVID-19. Contact our Lung HelpLine by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA or submitting a question online.
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Page last updated: October 16, 2023

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