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Understanding post-COVID-19 symptoms and ‘long COVID'

4-minute read

If you develop symptoms such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, call triple zero (000) immediately. Tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival if you have COVID-19.

What can I expect while recovering from COVID-19?

Everyone will have a different experience in their recovery from COVID-19. Some people may recover in days, some in weeks. But for others, it could be months. Although each case is unique, people recovering from more severe symptoms are likely to face a longer recovery period.

Schedule regular appointments with your GP to discuss your symptoms and how best to manage them. Your GP will tell you about any medicines that might suit your needs.

Common symptoms you may experience during your recovery:

  • fatigue
  • cough
  • breathlessness
  • joint or muscle pain
  • chest pain
  • change in sense of taste or smell
  • anxiety and/or low mood

Less common symptoms:

  • low-grade fever
  • headache
  • memory difficulties
  • confusion
  • muscle pain and weakness
  • stomach and digestion difficulties
  • rash
  • depression

If you have any of the following symptoms, call emergency services on 000 immediately and tell the phone operator you’ve previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • severe chest pain or pressure
  • a new or returning fever
  • worsening ability to concentrate and increased confusion
  • difficulty waking up

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (the RACGP) has also created a guide for patients on managing mild post COVID-19 symptoms. This includes advice on managing fatigue, easing muscle and joint pain, and managing a cough or any breathlessness.

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

What is ‘long COVID’?

Most people with COVID-19 will recover completely within a few weeks. However, some may continue to experience symptoms for weeks or months after their diagnosis. This is called ‘long COVID’, or ‘post COVID-19 condition’.

A person is usually considered to have long COVID if their symptoms have persisted for longer than 4 weeks after their initial infection. These symptoms can include:

  • extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint and muscle pain

A 2021 survey of people in the UK who tested positive to COVID-19 found that almost 10% reported at least 1 symptom 12 weeks after their initial infection. It’s not yet known how long symptoms of long COVID will last.

There is no specific treatment for this condition. Any person who develops long COVID should speak to their healthcare provider.

Related topics

Treating symptoms at home

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People with a mild case of COVID-19 can treat their symptoms in a similar way to how they treat a seasonal flu. Here's how to relieve symptoms at home.

Recovery and returning to normal activities

Recovery and returning to normal activities

Learn about what happens after you’ve recovered from COVID-19, and when you can leave isolation and return to normal activities.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2022


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