Post-COVID-QA Post-COVID Conditions (Long COVID) Questions & Answers

Post-COVID Conditions (Long COVID) Questions & Answers

​What are post-COVID conditions?

Post-COVID conditions are new, returning, or lingering symptoms weeks or months after having COVID-19. People with post-COVID conditions do not have the live or infectious coronavirus in their body, and they usually test negative for COVID-19 and are not contagious anymore. However, they may have one or a combination of symptoms in different parts of the body, such as the lungs, heart, nerves, and brain. People of any age can have post-COVID conditions, including people who had COVID-19 with mild or no symptoms. 

What are other names for post-COVID conditions?

Post-COVID conditions have been called multiple names like long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, chronic COVID, Post-COVID Syndromes, and Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC). The term post-COVID conditions is an umbrella term for 'long COVID' and other conditions that can occur after COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of post-COVID conditions?

People with post-COVID conditions often have fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, joint pain, and/or chest pain weeks or months after having COVID-19. Other symptoms may include:

  • Tiredness or fatigue

  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as "brain fog"

  • Stomach pain

  • Headache

  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

  • Muscle pain

  • Pins-and-needles feeling

  • Diarrhea

  • Sleep problems

  • Fever

  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)

  • Rash

  • Mood changes

  • Change in smell or taste

  • Changes in menstrual period cycles

Post-COVID conditions include a wide range of symptoms, so people may also have other symptoms in addition to those on this list.

What causes post-COVID conditions?

The cause(s) of post-COVID conditions is still unknown. Research is currently being done to understand what causes post-COVID conditions. Existing studies suggest that there are various viral factors, immune system responses, and risk factors that may lead to post-covid conditions.

How many people develop post-COVID conditions?

The exact number of people who develop a post-COVID condition after infection is still unknown. Research is ongoing to understand how many people are affected. The exact number of people who develop a post-COVID condition after infection is still unknown. Research is ongoing to understand how many people are affected. Some estimates suggest that as many as 10-20% of people who had COVID may develop a post-COVID condition.

Who is at risk for developing post-COVID conditions?

People of any age (children, teens, and adults) can get post-COVID conditions after having COVID-19. People who had mild, moderate, or severe COVID-19 illness can develop post-COVID conditions. For example, a large United States study found that anyone who had COVID-19 may be at higher risk for heart issues.  People who are older, obese, female, or who have underlying health conditions (co-morbidities) like Type 2 Diabetes or asthma, may have higher risks of developing post-COVID conditions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted health disparities and led to a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 cases  in certain communities, especially low-income communities and certain communities of color. This means that groups who are lower income or of certain racial/ethnic groups have had a higher number of cases than what would be expected based on their population size. Social determinants of health, such as lower income, less access to health care, and more crowded housing, can increase the risk of COVID-19 and post-COVID conditions.

Additional research is needed to understand who is at higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions.

When should people seek care for post-COVID conditions?

Seek medical care for post-COVID conditions if you have a fever over 100.4 F, if you cannot take care of your symptoms at home, and/or if you are not recovering from your initial COVID-19 illness (for example, if you have symptoms lasting for weeks or months after having COVID-19). In general, it's important to talk to a medical provider when your symptoms make your daily life harder, for example, if you can't focus, smell or taste, sleep, or do your normal activities like you did before having COVID-19. Since some symptoms of post-COVID conditions are like symptoms of other diseases, it is also important to see a medical provider to rule out other illnesses. Use the CDC Healthcare Appointment Checklist for Post-COVID Conditions to help track your symptoms and prepare for your appointment. 

What treatments are available for post-COVID conditions?

Medical providers will first rule out other medical conditions that could be causing symptoms. They might also run tests to understand which organs are affected by post-COVID conditions, such as the brain, nervous system, heart, or lungs. You may be referred to a specialist or specialists who will recommend treatments for your symptoms. For example:

  • Breathing exercises and respiratory therapy can help heal the lungs.

  • Physical and occupational therapy can help patients get strong enough to return to their daily activities and work.

  • Counseling or psychotherapy can help patients and loved ones with the mental and emotional effects of COVID-19 and post-COVID conditions.

Where can I get care for post-COVID conditions in California?

Talk to your healthcare provider to review the options in your area. Additionally, Survivor Corps has a list of Post-COVID Care centers in California. They have different services like specialty consultation, therapy, and rehabilitation.

How can you prevent post-COVID conditions?

The best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to prevent COVID-19 infection in the first place. You can prevent COVID-19 by:

Learn more about protecting yourself and your family from COVID-19 (PDF).

Can the COVID-19 vaccine prevent post-COVID conditions?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine can prevent COVID-19 infections that lead to post-COVID conditions. There is also evidence that vaccinated people who get COVID-19 have a lower chance of getting post-COVID conditions. For example, a large study from the United Kingdom (UK) reported that vaccinated people who got COVID-19 were 49% less likely to have long-term symptoms than unvaccinated people.

Is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS) a post-COVID condition?

Yes, MIS is a condition that can happen after COVID-19. Learn more about Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults (MIS-A).

Is there research being done on post-COVID conditions?

Yes, researchers are currently studying post-COVID conditions. One large study, called RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery) was launched by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to better understand post-COVID conditions. You can learn more about the trial, like how to join, at the RECOVER webpage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also partnering with states and other institutions to research long-term effects of COVID-19.

CDPH is studying post-COVID conditions in Californians through research and partnerships with academic institutions. For example, CDPH is partnering with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on the CDC-sponsored, national study "Innovative Support for Patients with SARS CoV-2 Infection Registry (INSPIRE)". This study uses an online platform to enroll people 18 years or older after they test positive for COVID-19 and sends surveys over time to learn about the long-term effects of COVID-19. You can learn more about how to participate on the UCSF and UCLA study pages.

CDPH is also creating educational and communication materials for the public on post-COVID conditions, find them here: CDPH | Long COVID Communications Toolkit

Are there support groups for people with post-COVID conditions?

Yes, there are support and patient advocacy groups for people with post-COVID conditions including: Survivor CorpsBody Politic, Long COVID Alliance, and Long COVID Kids. See the CDC's webpage on Caring for People with Post-COVID Conditions for more resources, as well as the How Right Now support page.

Originally published on February 25, 2022