Last updated on February 11, 2022.
While most people recover from COVID-19 within four weeks, some people continue to feel sick for a longer period of time. CDC calls these lingering symptoms “post-COVID conditions.” They are also commonly known as “long COVID,” “long-haul COVID,” or “chronic COVID.”
People can experience post-COVID conditions four or more weeks after first being infected with COVID-19. Sometimes, people will recover from their first illness and then start to feel symptoms again. While some people recover from post-COVID conditions between four and 12 weeks after their initial infection, symptoms may last longer than 12 weeks for some people.
What causes post-COVID conditions?
We do not fully understand all of the causes of post-COVID conditions, or why some people feel lingering effects while other people fully recover. In some cases, people who are very sick during their initial infection may be more likely to feel long term symptoms. However, some people with mild or asymptomatic cases have also developed post-COVID conditions. Risk factors that are linked to more severe illness with COVID-19 (including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and other conditions) are not linked the same way to post-COVID conditions. This makes it difficult to predict who will develop post-COVID conditions.
While it is very rare, some people, mostly children, experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or immediately after a COVID-19 infection. MIS is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed. MIS can lead to post-COVID conditions in some cases.
The most common post-COVID symptoms are fatigue, headache, difficulty focusing or paying attention, hair loss, trouble breathing, pain, and mental health conditions. However, symptoms are broad and varied. They can include (but are not limited to):
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
- Tiredness or fatigue.
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise).
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”).
- Chest pain.
- Stomach pain.
- Fast-beating, skipping beats, or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations).
- Joint or muscle pain.
- Pins-and-needles feeling.
- Sleep problems.
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness).
- Mood changes.
- Change in smell or taste.
- Changes in menstrual period cycle.
Symptoms can fluctuate or relapse over time. They may be new or different from the symptoms experienced during the initial illness.
Treatment and prevention
If you or a loved one have been feeling COVID-19 symptoms for longer than four weeks, or if you start to feel symptoms again after your initial recovery, talk to a health care provider as soon as possible. Preparing for your appointment with a health care provider can help make sure you get the medical services you need. If you do not have a health care provider, consider using a telehealth or nurseline service. For any life-threatening symptoms, call 911 immediately.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to prevent post-COVID conditions. Other precautions, like washing your hands, wearing a mask, and avoiding crowds, can also help prevent COVID-19 infection, lowering your risk of post-COVID conditions.
Post-COVID conditions in children and adolescents
Although post-COVID conditions appear to be less common in children and adolescents than in adults, long-term effects after COVID-19 do occur in children and adolescents. Studies have reported long-term symptoms in children with both mild and severe COVID-19, including children who previously had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.
Diabetes and post-COVID conditions
Some COVID-19 patients have been reported to develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes after they recover from the illness. On January 7, 2022, CDC posted a report as a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) early release. Report findings suggest that people aged 18 years or younger with COVID-19 were more likely to receive a new diabetes diagnosis more than 30 days after infection. However, researchers are still learning more about the link between COVID-19 and diabetes.
Different names for post-COVID conditions
People refer to post-COVID conditions by a wide range of names. These include long COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, post-acute COVID syndrome, chronic COVID, long-haul COVID, late sequelae, and others. Scientific researchers use the term post-acute sequelae of SARS-COV-2 infection (PASC). The World Health Organization (WHO) has also developed a case definition of post-COVID conditions.
Studies and data
Scientists are still researching to better understand post-COVID conditions. To read more about what researchers have learned so far about post-COVID conditions, consult the references section of the CDC’s interim guidance for health care providers.
- CDC: Post COVID Conditions
- CDC: Caring for people with Post-COVID Conditions
- CDC: Evaluating and Caring for Patients with Post-COVID Conditions: Interim Guidance (for health care providers)
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Post COVID-19 conditions in children and adolescents
- Johns Hopkins Health: COVID ‘Long Haulers’: Long-Term Effects of COVID-19
- World Health Organization: Expanding our understanding of post-COVID-19 conditions
- Long COVID Kids
- Long COVID Alliance