Some symptoms and problems are similar to many infections we have known about for many years (for example influenza and pneumonia), others from COVID infections, where there has been a more localised spread in the past.
We commonly see that some people have problems from the infection that prolong their recovery. For example clots on the lung or heart attacks. Those that were most unwell and required machines to support their breathing often make their recovery even slower.
Many people worry about calling the specialist teams or their general practice, thinking that there is too much work and pressure on services. In the NHS we are busy, but we would prefer you to contact us as we are here to support your recovery and will be doing our best to support you.
Are we all affected the same way?
Some people who have been infected by COVID have no or minimal symptoms. Many will have short lasting symptoms (often fever, cough, and change in smell amongst others) from which they recover after a few days or up to two weeks.
There are lots of people with a more severe infection who may need help in hospital and sometimes even intensive care support. Quite a few people will have a severe infection, but not stay in hospital. Some will have an infection which is made worse by health problems they were aware of already, or occurred when recovering from the infection. Everybody will get better at different rates.
What is the normal recovery pattern?
For most people who have had the COVID infection and are severe enough to need hospital care, we would expect from experience with other similar bacterial and viral infections that in around;
- 4 weeks most of the chest pains, and phlegm (sputum) should have reduced.
- 6 weeks cough and feeling breathless should have greatly reduced.
- 3 months most symptoms should have settled but tiredness may still be present.
- 6 months symptoms should have all settled.
Those of you who were admitted into intensive care will often find that recovery takes longer than this, possibly up to a year, ongoing research is being conducted to understand recovery.
Should I speak to my doctor / nurse or another health care professional?
These symptoms are common and usually get better over time;
- Muscle aches.
- Chest pains.
- Feeling anxious, tense or tearful.
- Flashbacks to frightening experiences you had.
- Poor sleep.
- Poor concentration. For example you can’t do sums that they used to do easily before the infection.
However if you are worried that you are not getting better as quickly as you would expect (you will find some information in this website) it is worth discussing with a health care professional (contact the hospital team if they have provided you with a number, or your family GP practice for further advice). You may require examination or further tests for your ongoing symptoms.
Some of the medicines used to treat COVID can cause symptoms (such as muscle aches, tiredness, feeling anxious or cough).
Please do not feel that you are wasting NHS time, we want to help you to get better as quickly as possible especially if you develop new or worsening symptoms.
New Symptoms such as:
- Swelling of a leg or arm.
- Chest pain.
- Coughing up blood.
- Losing more weight /not wanting to eat anything.
- A racing heart.
- Muscle aches.
Call 999 or 111 for further advice if:
- You are coughing up blood.
- Severe chest pain.
- Getting more breathless.
For the remaining new symptoms contact your primary care team.
- Being able to walk less distance before stopping because you are short of breath.
- Getting dressed more slowly in the morning.
These are things that we would want to know about and quite often want to assess and ensure that this is just a normal part of recovery.
It is worth remembering that not all the problems you will get afterwards will be caused by COVID.
Symptoms that are steady, not particularly worsening and are ongoing, are often best discussed with the clinician who knows you and your medical history and situation best. They will be in a more informed situation to steer you on the right path to recovery.
I had specific problems when I was in hospital, what happens now?
There are a quite a few problems linked to severe infection and needing to stay in an intensive care unit which are seen in people with COVID. These people will often need care in their own right. Quite a few people will have suffered from one and sometimes more than one problem, during their infection such as:
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction).
- Heart failure.
- Developing an irregular heart rate.
- Clot on the lung or leg.
- Kidney problems.
- Swallowing difficulties.
- Continued need for oxygen to feel well.
- Local weakness in an arm or leg.
- Anxiety, tension or “post-traumatic stress disorder.”
These may well require separate care in addition to your COVID treatment.
How quickly somebody recovers from COVID is likely to be very variable, and the problems that somebody can have vary too. Sometimes the medicines used can have side effects.
The NHS is here to help you. If you want more help or are uncertain, rather than leave things please contact the hospital team or your local GP surgery to discuss your situation.