COVID-19: Long-term effects

Some people continue to experience health problems long after having COVID-19. Understand the possible symptoms and risk factors for post-COVID-19 syndrome.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most people who get coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) recover within a few weeks. But some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — might have symptoms that last a long time afterward. These ongoing health problems are sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome, post-COVID conditions, long COVID-19, long-haul COVID-19, and post acute sequelae of SARS COV-2 infection (PASC).

What is post-COVID-19 syndrome and how common is it?

Post-COVID-19 syndrome involves a variety of new, returning or ongoing symptoms that people experience more than four weeks after getting COVID-19. In some people, post-COVID-19 syndrome lasts months or years or causes disability.

Research suggests that between one month and one year after having COVID-19, 1 in 5 people ages 18 to 64 has at least one medical condition that might be due to COVID-19. Among people age 65 and older, 1 in 4 has at least one medical condition that might be due to COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of post-COVID-19 syndrome?

The most commonly reported symptoms of post-COVID-19 syndrome include:

  • Fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort
  • Fever
  • Lung (respiratory) symptoms, including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath and cough

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Neurological symptoms or mental health conditions, including difficulty thinking or concentrating, headache, sleep problems, dizziness when you stand, pins-and-needles feeling, loss of smell or taste, and depression or anxiety
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Heart symptoms or conditions, including chest pain and fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Digestive symptoms, including diarrhea and stomach pain
  • Blood clots and blood vessel (vascular) issues, including a blood clot that travels to the lungs from deep veins in the legs and blocks blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)
  • Other symptoms, such as a rash and changes in the menstrual cycle

Keep in mind that it can be hard to tell if you are having symptoms due to COVID-19 or another cause, such as a preexisting medical condition.

It's also not clear if post-COVID-19 syndrome is new and unique to COVID-19. Some symptoms are similar to those caused by chronic fatigue syndrome and other chronic illnesses that develop after infections. Chronic fatigue syndrome involves extreme fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.

Why does COVID-19 cause ongoing health problems?

Organ damage could play a role. People who had severe illness with COVID-19 might experience organ damage affecting the heart, kidneys, skin and brain. Inflammation and problems with the immune system can also happen. It isn't clear how long these effects might last. The effects also could lead to the development of new conditions, such as diabetes or a heart or nervous system condition.

The experience of having severe COVID-19 might be another factor. People with severe symptoms of COVID-19 often need to be treated in a hospital intensive care unit. This can result in extreme weakness and post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event.

What are the risk factors for post-COVID-19 syndrome?

You might be more likely to have post-COVID-19 syndrome if:

  • You had severe illness with COVID-19, especially if you were hospitalized or needed intensive care.
  • You had certain medical conditions before getting the COVID-19 virus.
  • You had a condition affecting your organs and tissues (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) while sick with COVID-19 or afterward.

Post-COVID-19 syndrome also appears to be more common in adults than in children and teens. However, anyone who gets COVID-19 can have long-term effects, including people with no symptoms or mild illness with COVID-19.

What should you do if you have post-COVID-19 syndrome symptoms?

If you're having symptoms of post-COVID-19 syndrome, talk to your health care provider. To prepare for your appointment, write down:

  • When your symptoms started
  • What makes your symptoms worse
  • How often you experience symptoms
  • How your symptoms affect your activities

Your health care provider might do lab tests, such as a complete blood count or liver function test. You might have other tests or procedures, such as chest X-rays, based on your symptoms. The information you provide and any test results will help your health care provider come up with a treatment plan.

In addition, you might benefit from connecting with others in a support group and sharing resources.

June 28, 2022 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Antibiotics: Are you misusing them?
  2. COVID-19 and vitamin D
  3. Convalescent plasma therapy
  4. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  5. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  6. Cough
  7. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  8. COVID-19 and pets
  9. COVID-19 and your mental health
  10. COVID-19 antibody testing
  11. COVID-19, cold, allergies and the flu
  12. COVID-19 drugs: Are there any that work?
  13. COVID-19 tests
  14. COVID-19 in babies and children
  15. Coronavirus infection by race
  16. COVID-19 travel advice
  17. COVID-19 vaccine: Should I reschedule my mammogram?
  18. COVID-19 vaccines for kids: What you need to know
  19. COVID-19 vaccines
  20. COVID-19 variant
  21. COVID-19 vs. flu: Similarities and differences
  22. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  23. Debunking coronavirus myths
  24. Diarrhea
  25. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  26. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
  27. Fever
  28. Fever: First aid
  29. Fever treatment: Quick guide to treating a fever
  30. Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home
  31. Honey: An effective cough remedy?
  32. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests?
  33. How to take your pulse
  34. How to measure your respiratory rate
  35. How to take your temperature
  36. How well do face masks protect against COVID-19?
  37. Loss of smell
  38. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  39. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  40. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
  41. Nausea and vomiting
  42. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  43. Red eye
  44. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  45. Safety tips for attending school during COVID-19
  46. Sex and COVID-19
  47. Shortness of breath
  48. Thermometers: Understand the options
  49. Treating COVID-19 at home
  50. Unusual symptoms of coronavirus
  51. Watery eyes