What is long COVID? 

Most people's symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) get better within 4 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer, or new ones can develop. This has been referred to as long COVID. Symptoms can also change over time and can affect anywhere in the body.

Contact your GP practice if :

  • you’re worried about your symptoms
  • your symptoms are getting worse.

These are the symptoms you should look out for, and ways to help you manage them.

Common symptoms and how to manage them

You may feel fatigued, which means you have less physical, mental and emotional energy to do daily activities, like talking, moving around or making decisions. Try to break your day into small parts and set easy goals to begin with. Rest between activities and only do what you feel able to do.

You may also get short of breath more easily. This can happen even if you haven’t needed treatment in hospital for coronavirus. Breathlessness can feel scary, but there are things you can do to help. Try breathing in before you start to move, then breathing out when you make a big effort, such as bending down, lifting heavy things, or going up stairs.

Some infections, including coronavirus, can leave us with a dry cough because our lungs have been irritated. Some people may have a cough with phlegm. Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated by drinking small amounts often throughout the day. If you feel yourself starting to cough, take small sips of liquid.

You may experience muscle and joint pain following coronavirus. Try to pace yourself – if your pain is stopping you completing a task you can try again later. It can be hard to relax, but doing something you enjoy will help you feel good and reduce the stress of pain.

It’s common to sleep more when your body is fighting an infection. While you’re recovering, it’s also common to have disturbed sleep patterns. There are things that can help, such as getting ready for bed at the same time each night, avoiding screens for at least two hours before bed, and not having tea or coffee before going to sleep. If you’re struggling to drift off, try getting up and relaxing in another room until you feel tired again.

Being unwell can have an impact on your mental health. You may feel low in mood, have difficulty concentrating or have feelings of worry and panic. Try to stick to a daily routine, limit alcohol intake and maintain a well-balanced diet. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling. If your symptoms aren’t improving after a couple of weeks, speak to your GP.

Further information and support

Recovery from coronavirus can take time and varies from person to person. If you’re worried about your symptoms, don’t struggle alone. Find out more about recovery from long COVID at:

NHS inform – nhsinform.scot/long-covid

NHS inform helpline - tel:0800 22 44 88

Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland – Available through NHS Inform

SIGN Long COVID Patient Booklet -  Long COVID (sign.ac.uk)

See the long COVID advice sheet