What is long COVID and how does it affect you?
Watch the video to find about more about long COVID.
What is Long COVID?
Most infections with COVID resolve within the first 4 weeks. “Long COVID” is an informal term that is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after an acute infection of COVID. Depending on how long you have ongoing symptoms for, it can be called one of 2 things:
Ongoing symptomatic COVID This is where your symptoms continue for more than 4 weeks. If your symptoms last for longer than 12 weeks, it will then be called;
Post-COVID Syndrome This is where your ongoing symptoms continue for longer than 12 weeks and cannot be explained by any other condition. Symptoms of Long COVID can be many and varied and can change over time. The most commonly reported symptoms include (but are not limited to) the following:
Resiratory and Cardiovascular symptoms
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
- Cognitive impairment ('brain fog', loss of concentration or memory issues)
- Sleep disturbance
- Pins and needles or numbness
- Delirium (in older people)
Gastrointestinal symptoms (digestive system)
- Abdominal pain
- Anorexia and reduced appetite (in older people)
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Symptoms of depression
- Symptoms of anxiety
Ear, nose and throat symptoms
- Sore Throat
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Skin rashes
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.
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.
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.
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.
Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals are very proud to have a dedicated Post COVID clinic (known as the Long COVID Service), with our own Nurse Coordinator, together with a doctor as the clinic lead. After being referred to the clinic by your GP, you will be sent the details of a telephone appointment, which will be held with our Nurse Coordinator, who will then refer you on the service which will best be able to help you to improve your health.
Initial referrals to our Long COVID Service 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.
How specialist NHS services are supporting patients with Long COVID
Watch the video below to find out more about Long COVID Support Services and how they can help.