Long Covid symptoms: what are long term effects of coronavirus, how long do they last and is there treatment?

The latest ONS figures show that more than a million people are suffering with long Covid, with headache and joint pain some of the key signs

Almost one in seven people who test positive for Covid are still suffering symptoms three months later - known as long Covid - according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

But what are the symptoms of long Covid and how long can they last?

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The latest ONS figures show that more than a million people are suffering with long Covid (Photo: Shutterstock)

What is long Covid?

For some, Covid-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone, which is known as long Covid or post-Covid-19 syndrome.

Long Covid can present with a variety of symptoms and can range in recovery time, depending on the individual.

The largest study of its kind on long Covid carried out by the ONS found people with coronavirus are significantly more likely than the general population to report ongoing issues, which can include breathlessness, muscle pain and severe fatigue.

Among a sample of more than 20,000 people who tested positive for Covid between April 2020 and March 2021, 13.7 per cent continued to experience symptoms for at least 12 weeks.

The ONS said this was eight times higher than in a control group of people who are unlikely to have had coronavirus.

A fifth (21 per cent) of those who tested positive still had Covid symptoms five weeks after their test.

From a larger sample of people with and without Covid tests, the ONS also estimated that 1.1 million people in private households in the UK experienced long Covid in the four weeks up to 6 March.

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What are the symptoms of long Covid?

There are a number of symptoms you can have after a coronavirus infection.

According to the NHS, common long Covid symptoms include:

- extreme tiredness (fatigue)

- shortness of breath

- chest pain or tightness

- problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")

- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

- heart palpitations

- dizziness

- pins and needles

- joint pain

- depression and anxiety

- tinnitus, earaches

- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite

- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste

- rashes

How long can it take to recover?

The NHS explains that the amount of time it takes to recover from coronavirus is different for everybody, with some feeling better in a few days or weeks, but for some people, symptoms can last a lot longer than this.

The NHS also says that the chances of having long-term symptoms “does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get coronavirus,” as people who had mild Covid symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.

When should I see my GP?

You should contact your GP if you're worried about symptoms four weeks or more after having Covid-19.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they're having on your life, and may suggest some tests in order to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.

The tests might include:

- blood tests

- checking your blood pressure and heart rate

- a chest X-ray

What is the treatment?

Your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need, and you may be given advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home.

If the symptoms are having a big impact on your daily life, then you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have, according to the NHS.

How long do Covid vaccines last?

It’s not yet known how long protection from Covid vaccines lasts, as they haven’t been around for long enough.

However, it’s important to receive both doses of the Covid vaccine when invited to receive it.

The length of protection may vary between the different vaccines currently available, and it may be that repeat vaccinations are needed in the future, which is something researchers are currently closely monitoring.