After catching COVID-19 people usually start to feel better in a few weeks. Unfortunately, some people take a longer to get better. Ongoing or new symptoms of COVID-19 can change and come and go over a period of time. To describe these symptoms different terms may be used such as post-COVID syndrome or Long COVID.
Long COVID includes two different groups:
- Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 includes signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from four weeks to twelve weeks after your illness started. For many people symptoms will resolve by twelve weeks.
- Post-COVID-19 syndrome includes signs and symptoms that develop after an infection with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
The chance of you developing long COVID is not thought to be related to the severity of your initial infection. It can be considered whether you have had COVID-19 confirmed on a positive test or have had symptoms suspected to be COVID-19.
The symptoms that you may notice are very variable and can include breathlessness, cough, chest pain or tightness, palpitations, fatigue, fever, pain, loss of concentration and memory (“brain fog”), headache, sleep disturbance, pins and needles or numbness, dizziness, abdominal pain, feeling sick, diarrhoea, appetite loss, joint and muscle pain, anxiety and depression, earache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, skin rashes.
Self-management is usually a very important part of your care. Setting goals is an important part of your recovery. It helps you to identify what you want to achieve and is the first step towards translating intention into action. It is important that these are realistic and to understand that they need to be flexible to changes in your symptoms.
An action plan will help you breakdown your task into achievable steps. The steps should be specific so you know what you need to do, you should be able to measure when you have reached each step, and they should be achievable so that you stay motivated. Your goal should be relevant to you and you should decide how long you will allow to reach it.
Keep a record of:
- your goals and what you would like to achieve
- any changes in your symptoms
- the progress you are making towards your goals
- how you feel your recovery is going
- keep a symptom diary – a symptom tracking app can help you do this
For more information on symptom management, the following resources are available:
- Manx Care COVID Recovery Leaflet (1st of a series of three leaflets providing information on managing COVID-19 infection and the management of early stages of recovery)
- NHS Guide to Covid-19 Recovery
For more information on self-management of recovery from Long COVID, the following resources are available:
- This booklet explains the recommendations produced by UK experts on managing the long term effects of COVID-19: SIGN Long COVID patient booklet
- Royal College of Occupational Therapy – How to Conserve your energy
- Long Covid Physio
- Long Covid Rehabilitation Booklet
Further Assessment By Your GP
If you remain concerned about your symptoms or they are not improving then you should contact your GP surgery for more advice. After your initial enquiry, your assessment may be carried out by phone or in person. The choice about this will be made in conjunction with your doctor or health care practitioner and will depend on your symptoms as well as whether you have any specific difficulties or are particularly vulnerable.
Your healthcare professional will ask you questions about your symptoms to help to decide whether they are likely to have been caused by your COVID-19 infection or by something else. This is likely to include asking you about your mental health as well as your physical health. You will be asked about when the symptoms started and how they have changed. You may also be asked about how you are managing with your day-to-day activities.
Based on your responses, the GP may need to ask for advice from specialist clinicians based in the Community Adult Therapy Team in terms of developing a treatment plan, or they may formally refer you to the Long COVID team – the current waiting list for assessment by the Long COVID Service is around 4 months.
Long COVID Service Developments
Manx Care is in the process of developing a Long COVID Service which will be established in line with the NHS commissioning guidelines and the NICE guidelines for the treatment of Long COVID. Funding has been agreed and a project team has been created to develop and launch the Long Covid service by September 2022.