What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

Most people who develop coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) recover within 2–6 weeks, but some experience lasting symptoms. Others with severe COVID-19 may develop complications, require rehabilitation after a hospital stay, or both. In addition to the physical impact of COVID-19, people can also experience changes in their psychological state.

Below, we describe the long-term effects trusted Source of COVID-19 on physical and psychological state and explore the resources available for help. All data and statistics are supported by publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information could also be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the foremost recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

What we all know about the long-term effects

Because COVID-19 may be a new disease, scientists are unsure about the consequences months or years after the initial illness. Researchers have theorized that the virus liable for COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), may cause similar effects to other coronaviruses, like people who cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

According to a 2020 study, around 30%Trusted Source of individuals who recovered from severe SARS or MERS had long-term lung abnormalities. A 2009 study found that 40%Trusted Source of individuals who survived SARS still experienced chronic fatigue about 3.5 years later, on average. But while SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 are caused by viruses from an equivalent family, there are key differences among them, because the 2020 study highlights. For this reason, looking at the opposite two diseases doesn’t provide a reliable thanks to predicting COVID-19’s long-term effects. Research into the impact of COVID-19 is ongoing. Initiatives like the COVID Symptom Study are tracking peoples’ symptoms and therefore the long-term consequences of the disease via a mobile app.

In mild or moderate cases

Most people who develop COVID-19 experience light or moderate illness that improves on its own. However, some people that have had a light or moderate illness continue to develop lasting symptoms which will be severe — even after they need to recover from the initial infection. When these symptoms are prolonged, people sometimes ask the difficulty as “long COVID” or to the people that have it as “long-haulers.”

People with mild or moderate COVID-19 often trusted Source continue to report:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • A low-grade fever
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lapses in memory
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • A sensation of pins and needles
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • A loss of taste and smell
  • A pharyngitis
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Skin rashes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • The new onset of diabetes or high vital sign
  • These symptoms may last for weeks or months after the body has cleared the virus.

It seems that anyone, including children and people with no preexisting health conditions, can develop long COVID. Citing a telephone survey, the planet Health Organization (WHO) observes that 20% trusted Source of individuals aged 18–34 reported prolonged symptoms.

In severe cases

Around 10–15% trusted Source of individuals who develop COVID-19 experience severe symptoms, and approximately 5% become critically ill. People with severe symptoms also can experience long COVID.

In addition, people with a more severe sort of the illness could also be more likely to experience complications. Because of the WHO trusted Source note, the complications can involve damage to:

  • The lungs: An August 2020 study trusted Source found that folks with severe COVID-19 are often discharged with signs of pulmonary fibrosis, a kind of lung damage. In some people, it can cause long-term breathing difficulties.
  • The heart: consistent with a June 2020 review, 20–30% of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 have signs that the illness has affected their cardiac muscle. The researchers speculate that in some people, COVID-19 can also cause myocarditis, inflammation of this muscle.
  • The nervous system: An April 2020 study trusted Source with 214 participants found that folks with severe COVID-19 were more likely to experience neurological manifestations, like dizziness, nerve pain, and impaired consciousness. Currently, doctors aren’t sure how these complications will affect people in the future.

People who spend time within the hospital and need mechanical ventilation can also experience other difficulties. A July 2020 study trusted Source lists the subsequent complications of ventilator treatment:

  • Chipped teeth
  • Lacerated lips, tongue, or throat
  • Injured vocal cords
  • Infection
  • Hypoxia
  • Hypotension
  • Collapsed lung
  • Heart rhythm problems
    • People who leave the hospital after having COVID-19 need ongoing support and rehabilitation to assist them to recover.