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Understanding post-COVID-19 symptoms and long COVID

7-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.

Quick read and other languages

Long COVID is where symptoms of COVID-19 remain, or develop long after your acute illness, and can last for weeks or sometimes months. Also available in 15 languages.

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, immediately call triple zero (000) for an ambulance 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 and Antiviral Eligibility 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 people may keep experiencing symptoms for several weeks or months after their infection.

People who have a longer recovery period can experience:

  • ongoing symptoms in the medium term (from 4 to 12 weeks from first getting COVID-19)
  • longer term symptoms (from 12 weeks or more from first getting COVID-19). This is called ‘long COVID’ or post COVID-19 condition

Long COVID can affect nearly all parts of the body with multiple and varied symptoms. These symptoms can be persistent, but come and go over time and have a negative impact on daily life.

These symptoms can include:

  • extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • cough
  • hoarse voice
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint and muscle pain
  • problems sleeping
  • numbness or pins and needles
  • changes in mood (anxiety, depression or stress)
  • heart pounding or racing or heart palpitations
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • rash
  • low-grade fever
  • reduced appetite and weight loss
  • difficulty going about everyday activities, such as work or chores

Long COVID can also show up as new chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and neurological conditions.

It’s important that you discuss any concerns you have with your doctor.

Long COVID is a new condition and health experts are still learning about it.

Who is at greater risk of long COVID?

Studies have shown that people are at higher risk of long COVID-19 if they:

  • have had severe illness during the acute COVID-19 illness phase including needing intensive care
  • have pre-existing chronic health conditions — for example, respiratory disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure , chronic cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, post-organ transplantation, or active cancer
  • are of older age
  • are female
  • are unvaccinated

How is long COVID treated?

There is no specific treatment for this condition, but you can speak with your GP for help.

Some states and territories — including the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria — have opened long COVID clinics in major cities to help people recover from ongoing symptoms. Your GP or medical specialist can advise if attending a long COVID clinic is right for you, and refer you to one if you need.

Related topics

Treating symptoms at home

Treating symptoms at home

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: March 2023

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Top results

RACGP - Post COVID 19 syndrome condition or long COVID

Reproduced with permission from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners from: Allard N, Miller A, Morgan M, Chakraborty S. Post-COVID-19 syndrome/condition or long COVID: Persistent illness after acute SARS CoV-2 infection. Aust J Gen Pract 2022;51(12):952–57. doi: 10.31128/AJGP-05-22-6429. Available at

Read more on RACGP - The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website

Post-COVID Conditions - My Life After ICU

Some patients who have been unwell with COVID-19 are going on to have persistent symptoms after going home

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Post-Acute & Long COVID Clinic - St Vincent's Lung Health

The St Vincent’s Hospital Post-Acute and Long COVID Clinic will see patients aged over 16 years that are recovering from confirmed SARS-CoV-2 viral infection (positive RAT or PCR) but are still experiencing significant symptoms.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Lung Health website

Long COVID in Australia – a review of the literature, Summary - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Long COVID is a multi-system illness characterised by ongoing persistent symptoms that can last for weeks or months following COVID-19 infection. This review investigates the scale and impact of...

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

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Important things that you can do to help manage your symptoms and recover from Long COVID.

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Long COVID | NSW Government

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Your recovery from COVID-19 | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

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We look at ways manage your mental health if you have long COVID, or are anxious about developing it.

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Long Covid and It's Effect on Children - Dr. Norman Swan -

According to Dr. Norman Swan the effects of long covid is rare in children. Find out what you need to look for.

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