For life-threatening emergencies – call 999 for an ambulance.
If you’re advised to go to hospital, it’s important to go.
Many symptoms that occur after COVID infections are similar to infections we have known about for many years (for example influenza/flu, pneumonia).
Some people have problems during or after the initial infection that prolong their recovery, for example clots on the lung, strokes or heart attacks. Those who were most unwell (for example, requiring intensive care or machines to support their breathing) may also take longer to recover, and this is to be expected. However, there are also people who have ongoing symptoms after COVID even though they weren’t admitted to hospital. Whilst the evidence shows us that most people will have recovered by 12 weeks after their initial infection, there are some people who have on-going symptoms that can last for many months. These symptoms vary from person to person and can be distressing, especially if an individual does not receive support to manage any ongoing symptoms.
If you are concerned about any of your symptoms and it has been four weeks or more since you became unwell with COVID, contact your GP and ask them about “long COVID”– they should offer you an initial consultation, provide access to any further assessments or care they determine that you need, and signpost you to sources of further support.
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, change in smell and muscle aches amongst others) from which they recover after a few days or up to four weeks. However, everybody recovers at different rates, and some people will experience longer lasting symptoms.
Should I speak to my doctor / nurse or another health care professional?
If you are concerned about any of your symptoms contact your GP – they should offer you an initial consultation and provide access to any further assessments or care that they determine you need.
We want to help you to get better as quickly as possible.
If your GP thinks that you might have Long COVID, they will take a medical history and ask you lots of questions. They may also examine you and arrange for tests to be undertaken. As part of this assessment, your GP may:
- Ask about your initial COVID Infection.
- Ask about the on-going symptoms that you have had since having COVID, when these symptoms started, how they have changed and how long you have had them.
- Ask about any other health conditions you have and medications that you are on.
- Ask how you are managing with your day-to-day activities, for example your work or education, getting about, general wellbeing, looking after yourself or feeling isolated.
- Ask about any changes in your memory, behaviour, emotions and mood.
- Perform or request one or more tests for you, which may include the following:
- Blood tests.
- Measuring your lying and standing blood pressure and heart rate.
- Measuring your oxygen levels.
- A chest X-ray, if you still have breathing difficulties after the initial infection and you have not already had one.
What support will I receive after I’ve seen my GP?
After your assessment, your GP will talk to you about what they think is happening and discuss the support they think you need to help you get better. For example, your GP might refer you to a specialist Post COVID clinic, a specialist with expertise for your specific problem, or a rehabilitation service.
It is possible that your symptoms might not be caused by COVID. If your GP thinks that your symptoms are unrelated to COVID, and could be due to another condition, you may be offered other appropriate tests or referred to other specialist health professionals if necessary.
If you have mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, you may be referred to additional local services for specialist mental health assessment and support.
Do I need to attend a Post COVID clinic?
In December 2020, NHS England announced the launch of Post COVID clinics. The clinics bring together a wide range of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer both physical, psychological and rehabilitation needs assessments. The Post COVID clinics aim to bring a more holistic diagnostic picture of Long COVID.
Referrals to the specialist clinics are made based on a person’s ongoing symptoms and impact on their life, and are not based on the severity of the initial illness or on a positive test result.
For mild new symptoms call your GP, but if you’re worried or unsure remember you can always use the NHS 111 online service, or call 111.
I had specific problems when I was in hospital, what happens now?
There are 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 will often need treatment in their own right. Quite a few people will have suffered from at least one problem, during their infection. These can include:
- Lung damage.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction).
- Heart failure.
- Developing an irregular heart rate.
- Blood clots.
- Kidney problems.
- Swallowing difficulties.
- Continued need for oxygen.
- 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 and these will usually be followed up by the specialist team.