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What happens after you recover from COVID-19?

Blog post | 13 May 2022

More than 6.4 million Australians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to date. In the coming months, more people will see those 2 little lines appear on a rapid antigen test (RAT) showing that they're 'COVID positive'. While the pandemic will end eventually, the virus itself is here to stay.

There are many resources for managing COVID-19 at home for those who have mild symptoms. But you might be looking for information on what happens after you've recovered from what some call the 'spicy cough'.

When can you expect to feel better after COVID-19?

Everyone is different but most people with COVID-19 will experience mild illness and recover within a few days. Your recovery will depend on your age, general health and how severe your symptoms are.

Fatigue (feeling very tired) is a common, and sometimes persistent, symptom of COVID-19. It’s important to get plenty of rest and think about these tips to manage your energy:

  • Plan important tasks around when you expect to have the most energy.
  • Pace yourself so you don’t do too much at once.
  • Take breaks from day-to-day tasks throughout the day.
  • Prioritise important tasks and activities, so you don’t use more energy than you need to.

Learn more here about recovering from COVID-19 and when you can resume things like exercise.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the COVID-19 Symptom and Antiviral Eligibility Checker to find out if you need medical help.

My COVID-19 symptoms are not going away. When should I seek medical help?

Evidence suggests that 1 to 2 people in every 10 who get COVID-19 experience longer term effects after they recover from their initial illness. While experts are still learning about it, this known as ‘long COVID’ or post-COVID-19 condition.

The effects of long COVID can include fatigue, breathlessness and cognitive dysfunction (for example, confusion, forgetfulness, or a lack of mental focus or clarity).

The World Health Organization defines post-COVID-19 condition as occurring (usually) 3 months from the start of symptomatic COVID-19 and lasting for at least 2 months, and the effects can’t be explained by an alternative diagnosis.

The good news is, you can’t ‘pass’ long COVID on to others, since you’re no longer infectious. If you’re still experiencing symptoms 3 months after your positive COVID-19 result, contact your doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How likely are you to get COVID-19 again?

When you catch COVID-19, your immune system will launch a response that helps fight the infection. This immune response will help you if you’re exposed to COVID-19 again.

The risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant is very low within the first 3 months after having COVID-19. You don’t need to be tested during these 3 months even if you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you develop symptoms after 3 months, you’ll need to be tested for COVID-19.

When can you get a booster vaccination after having COVID-19?

Even if you have had COVID-19, you should still get a booster dose.

The recommendation is to wait up to 3 months to get your booster after you recover. This time between having COVID-19 and a booster improves the protection you get from vaccination and boosts your immune response.

You may receive a booster dose earlier than the recommended 3 months for exceptional circumstances, such as before starting an immunosuppressant, before overseas travel or if you can’t reschedule your vaccination easily. Make sure you talk to your doctor first.

You shouldn’t miss any of the recommended vaccine doses.

As with all vaccines, you should defer COVID-19 vaccination if you're acutely unwell.

If you still have symptoms 3 months or more after you tested positive to COVID-19, speak to your doctor about when to have a vaccination.

A booster is an added layer of protection that makes you even less likely to catch COVID-19, including Omicron. If you do become infected, you’re less likely to develop symptoms or become very unwell and end up in hospital.

BOOK YOUR VACCINATION — Use the Service Finder to book your COVID vaccination or booster.

Why bother getting vaccinated if you’ve already had COVID-19?

Because you can get reinfected. Vaccination is still your best protection against severe COVID-19, hospitalisation and death. It can also stop new variants from emerging.

If viruses are allowed to spread, they’re able to change and evolve (mutate). Widespread vaccination — as well as public-health measures such as hand washing, mask wearing, good ventilation and physical distancing — will reduce the potential of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to spread and mutate into new variants.

Making your body as inhospitable to viruses as possible will help make the COVID-19 pandemic a thing of the past.

For more information

  • Speak to your GP if you have any questions about your recovery.
  • Read more about managing COVID-19 at home here.
  • Go to the Australian Government Department of Health site for COVID-19 information.
  • The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has a guide, action plan and symptom diary for COVID-19-positive people who are managing their health at home.
  • Call the National Coronavirus Helpline (1800 020 080) 24 hours a day to get answers to questions about isolation, symptoms, restrictions, vaccines and testing.

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