Long COVID and post-COVID-19 condition
Learn about the symptoms of 'long COVID' or 'post COVID-19 condition', where to seek support, and how to protect yourself.
What is long COVID?
Some people with COVID-19 will have no symptoms. Others will experience common symptoms during their infection.
After the acute phase of infection, some people will continue to have one or two lingering symptoms as is common with many infectious diseases.
The most common symptoms include a cough, fatigue and headaches.
In most instances, these symptoms will disappear after a few weeks.
A small number of people may develop persistent symptoms that may affect their quality of life.
This is often referred to as ‘long COVID’ or ‘post COVID-19 condition’.
Doctors and researchers around the world are currently studying ‘long COVID’ to help people manage it.
What are some of the symptoms of long COVID?
The ten most reported symptoms (in no particular order) are:
- depression and anxiety
- post-traumatic stress disorder (particularly those that had severe COVID-19 requiring intensive care)
- cognitive impairment, also known as brain fog
- joint and muscle pain
- functional mobility impairment
- palpitations and chest pain
- altered sense of taste and/or smell.
How do I know if I have long COVID?
If you have persistent symptoms that affect your quality of life including at home or work, or prevent you from doing your daily activities, you may have long COVID, if your doctor rules out any other causes for your symptoms.
You should talk to you doctor or Aboriginal Medical Service.
They will look at your symptoms and help you with treatment if needed.
This may include referring you to a specialist.
They will also make sure you don’t have another illness or disease that has similar symptoms.
This includes symptoms that relate to an increased risk of heart or neurological problems.
It is important you talk to your doctor to get the right diagnosis and help for you.
When should I visit an emergency department?
You shouldn’t have to visit the emergency department for long COVID symptoms as these are not life-threatening or urgent in nature.
Your doctor can help you understand how to manage your symptoms at home or through specialty referral.
Certain symptoms may suggest more serious health problems and if you have any of the following serious symptoms, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
Tell the phone operator you’ve previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 and explain whether you've experienced serious symptoms such as:
- severely dizzy, drowsy or confused
- severe shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- chest pressure or pain lasting more than 10 minutes
- fainting episodes on standing.
Who is at higher risk of getting long COVID?
Research so far shows anyone who has had COVID-19 can develop long COVID. However, groups at higher risk of having persistent COVID-19 symptoms or eventually long COVID include people:
- hospitalised with COVID-19 during their initial infection including those were on ventilator treatment
- aged over 65
- with obesity
- with underlying health conditions
- unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccination when they got infected.
Who is at lower risk of getting long COVID?
Groups at lower risk of having persistent COVID-19 symptoms or eventually long COVID include:
- people who had mild COVID-19 symptoms or no symptoms at all
- younger people
- those who do not have chronic health conditions
- people who are up to date with vaccination.
How can I protect myself from long COVID?
The best way to help protect yourself from long COVID is by trying not to get infected with COVID-19. You can help protect yourself by practicing COVID safe behaviours: