Long Covid: what is long-lasting coronavirus, symptoms, how long does it last - and is there a test?

New research suggests that around two million people in the UK may be suffering from Long Covid, with people reporting symptoms such as fatigue and chest pain for more than three months.

Around a fifth of those surveyed said they had a Covid-19 symptom previously, with over a third reporting persistent symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks. Around a tenth of those with symptoms said they lasted at least 12 weeks and were severe.

The findings also suggest prevalence of Long Covid increases with age, with a 3.5 per cent increase in likelihood in each decade of life.

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It also showed Long Covid affects more women, people who are overweight or obese, who smoke, live in deprived areas, or had been admitted to hospital. It was found to affect people of Asian ethnicity less.

New research suggests that around two million people in the UK may be suffering from Long Covid, with people reporting symptoms such as fatigue and chest pain for more than three months.
New research suggests that around two million people in the UK may be suffering from Long Covid, with people reporting symptoms such as fatigue and chest pain for more than three months.

What is Long Covid?

Long Covid is when coronavirus symptoms last more than just a few weeks and have a long-lasting impact on a person’s life.

According to the NHS, many people who test positive for coronavirus feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks.

But for some people, symptoms can last longer.

What are the symptoms of long Covid?

The main symptoms of coronavirus, according to the NHS, are a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

Common Long Covid symptoms can be the same, just over a longer period of time but there are also some differences.

Common symptoms of Long Covid include:

- extreme tiredness (fatigue)

- shortness of breath

- chest pain or tightness

- problems with memory and concentration (known as 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

People who took part in the REACT-2 studies and reported Covid symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks fell into two broad groups.

In the first, the most common symptom was tiredness and muscle aches.

In the second, the most common symptoms were shortness of breath affecting normal activities, tightness in chest, and chest pain, with more people reporting that they had severe symptoms.

The study comes just days after researchers at Oxford University published new data showing that recovery was much quicker in people given inhalers.

Why do people get long Covid?

With Covid being a relatively new virus, it is not known why some people get Long Covid while others recover from the condition within a few weeks.

The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill a person is when they first get the virus.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems.

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What help is available for people who have Long Covid?

The government is providing scientists with £50 million of funding through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to carry out more research into long Covid and find the best treatments available.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “Long Covid can have a lasting and debilitating impact on the lives of those affected.

“Studies like this help us to rapidly build our understanding of the impact of the condition and we are using these findings and other new research to develop support and treatments.

“We are learning more about long Covid all the time and have made £50 million of research funding available to support innovative projects, with clinics established across the country to help improve the treatment available.”

What should I do if I think I have Long Covid - and is there a test?

There is no test for Long Covid at present. If you have tested positive for coronavirus and are still suffering with symptoms after four weeks, you should contact your GP.

Your doctor will ask you for more information about your symptoms and the impact they are having on your life.

They may suggest some other tests, such as blood tests or a chest x-ray to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.

You may then be given advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home.

If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, however, you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service or other specialist service.

Is Long Covid contagious?

Long Covid is not contagious. Long Covid symptoms are caused by your body's response to the virus continuing beyond the initial illness. It is not yet known for sure how long a person is contagious for after they contract Covid-19, but it is safest to self-isolate for ten days after your symptoms first appear.

To avoid passing coronavirus on to others, however, you should follow government guidance and self-isolate for ten days from your original symptoms or positive test, or if after ten days you still have a temperature, or runny nose or sneezing, or sickness or diarrhoea, until these symptoms have gone.