Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks to months of illness, some do not. CDC and experts around the world are working to learn more about short- and long-term health effects associated with COVID-19, who gets them, and why. CDC uses the term post-COVID conditions to describe health issues that persist more than four weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Experts do not know why or how often some people experience post-COVID conditions. Other infectious diseases can also cause longer-term symptoms for a variety of reasons. Some post-COVID conditions are likely to be similar to those seen in other infectious diseases, but others may be more specific to COVID-19. Some post-COVID conditions involve symptoms similar to those caused by other health problems. Scientists are actively investigating the causes of post-COVID conditions.
Types of Post-COVID Conditions
Long COVID is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 or can appear weeks after infection. Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the illness was mild, or they had no symptoms. People with long COVID report experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Loss of smell or taste
- Dizziness on standing
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Joint or muscle pain
- Depression or anxiety
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
Multiorgan Effects of COVID-19
Multiorgan effects can affect most, if not all, body systems including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions. Multiorgan effects can also include conditions that occur after COVID-19, like multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) and autoimmune conditions. MIS is a condition where different body parts can become swollen. Autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing painful swelling in the affected parts of the body.
It is unknown how long multiorgan system effects might last and whether the effects could lead to chronic health conditions.
Effects of COVID-19 Treatment or Hospitalization
Post-COVID conditions also can include the longer-term effects of COVID-19 treatment or hospitalization. Some of these longer-term effects are similar to those related to hospitalization for other respiratory infections or other conditions.
Effects of COVID-19 treatment and hospitalization can also include post-intensive care syndrome (PICS), which refers to health effects that remain after a critical illness. These effects can include severe weakness and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD involves long-term reactions to a very stressful event.
There are ways to help manage post-COVID conditions, and many patients with these symptoms are getting better with time. If you think you have a post-COVID condition, talk to your healthcare provider about options for managing or treating your symptoms and resources for support. Post-COVID care clinics are opening at medical centers across the United States to address patient needs.
The best way to prevent these long-term complications is to prevent COVID-19
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others.
- Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
COVID-19 and Vaccination
CDC recommends that people be vaccinated regardless of whether they already had COVID-19. Learn more about vaccination.
Although media articles have reported that some people with long COVID say their symptoms improved after being vaccinated, studies are needed to determine the effects of vaccination on post-COVID conditions.
What CDC is Doing
CDC continues to work to identify how common these longer-term effects are, who is most likely to get them, and whether symptoms eventually resolve. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate post-COVID conditions. These studies will help us better understand post-COVID conditions and understand how to treat patients with these longer-term effects.