What is long COVID?

This information is for people aged 18 and over. Contact your GP or paediatric team directly if you're worried about possible long COVID symptoms and you're either:

  • under 18
  • a parent, guardian or carer of a young person or child

While most people recover quickly from coronavirus (COVID-19), some people may have ongoing symptoms. These can last for a few weeks or longer. This has been referred to as long COVID.

These symptoms are not limited to people who were seriously unwell or hospitalised with coronavirus.

How long does long COVID last?

Most people's symptoms of coronavirus get better within 4 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer, or new ones can develop. Symptoms can also change over time and can affect anywhere in the body.

Healthcare professionals may refer to long COVID as:

  • ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 (4 to 12 weeks)
  • post-COVID-19 syndrome (over 12 weeks)

As this is a new condition, understanding is developing all the time. Experts are learning more about how long symptoms will last, and it'll vary from person to person. There can be different symptoms which often overlap. It can't be said exactly how long coronavirus symptoms will last. The reassuring evidence is that symptoms improve over time in most cases.

Advice is based on:

  • evidence from research so far
  • experience and expert knowledge of healthcare professionals

Research is ongoing, so advice may change when its results are known.

Signs and symptoms of long COVID

Signs and symptoms after coronavirus can be different from person to person. The most common ones include:

Read further information about the signs and symptoms of long COVID

Assessing long COVID symptoms

Nobody else understands your symptoms as well as you. Some people can carry on their day to day life managing long COVID symptoms themselves. Others may need further help from a healthcare professional.

You're the best person to help your healthcare professional understand how your symptoms affect you.

Your symptoms can be assessed in several ways, which will include looking at your physical and mental wellbeing.

Read further information about assessing long COVID symptoms

Planning your care

When planning your care, it's important that you're involved in discussions and decisions that affect you.

After your assessment, your healthcare professional will discuss with you and agree on what support you need and how you can get it.

Read further information about your recovery

Vaccination

It's not known whether vaccines have any effect on the ongoing symptoms of coronavirus. NHS Scotland recommend you get the coronavirus vaccine when offered it. Vaccines can help to reduce the risk of further infection.

Read further information about the coronavirus vaccine

Patient information booklet

There's a patient information booklet for people who have symptoms that last more than 4 weeks. It's written by experts from National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).

NHS inform helpline

If you’re well, but have a question about long COVID, you can phone 0800 22 44 88. The helpline is open 7 days a week, from 8.00am to 8.00pm.