More than one million people around the world are known to have recovered from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. But the road back to full health is not the same for everyone.
Recovery time will depend on how sick you became in the first place. Some people will shrug off the illness quickly, but for others it could leave lasting problems.
What if I have only mild symptoms?
Most people who get Covid-19 will develop only the main symptoms – a cough or fever. But they could experience body aches, fatigue, sore throat and headache.
The cough is initially dry, but some people will eventually start coughing up mucus containing dead lung cells killed by the virus.
These symptoms are treated with bed rest, plenty of fluids and pain relief such as paracetamol.
What is long Covid?
Long Covid is a term to describe the effects of Covid-19 that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. The health watchdog NICE defines long Covid as lasting for more than 12 weeks, although some other people consider symptoms that last more than eight weeks to be long Covid.
More details of how many people are affected by long Covid are still emerging, but research suggests around one in five people who test positive for Covid-19 have symptoms for five weeks or longer. For around one in ten people, they last 12 weeks or longer.
What are the symptoms of long Covid?
Most people who had symptoms recovered quickly and were able to resume their normal lives after a few days. But for some, the effects of the virus can last for weeks or months. This has been known as “long Covid”.
For some, it can seem like a cycle of improving and then getting worse again. These long-term effects aren’t only amongst those who needed go to hospital, or even who felt seriously unwell when they first caught the virus.
Lasting symptoms of coronavirus can include:
- anxiety and depression
- chest pains
- joint or muscle pain
- not being able to think straight or focus (‘brain fog’)
How long does it take to recover from long Covid?
Unfortunately, there is currently no way to predict how long recovery from long Covid will take. It’s important to note that this isn’t unique to Covid-19 – other viral illnesses also have lasting effects. Experience from other viruses suggests that most symptoms should go within three months, while tiredness may last up to six months. But that may not apply to everyone.
Some tips for managing your symptoms:
Manage fatigue and breathlessness
- Pace yourself – plan what you’re going to do and don’t over-exert yourself.
- Try to break tasks which feel difficult down into smaller chunks, and alternate easier and harder activities.
- Consider the best time of the day to do certain activities based on your energy levels.
- Frequent short rests are better than a few longer ones, so rest before you become exhausted.
- Don’t stop doing things that make you feel breathless. If you stop using your muscles, they’ll get weaker, which can make you more breathless when you try to use them.
- Try to gradually increase the amount of exercise you do. Try going for short walks or doing simple strength exercises and build up from there.
- If you use a walking stick or a frame, lean forward on it when you feel breathless.
- The ME Association has published a leaflet about post-Covid fatigue. You can also call them on 0344 576 5326 for further support.
Boost your mood and stay on top of your mental health
- Be kind to yourself during your recovery – be prepared that some days will be worse than others
- Connecting with other people can help you feel happier – make sure to reach out to family and friends.
- Having a daily routine can be good for your mood and sense of stability.
- Stay active – continuing to move will help release endorphins and improve your mood.
Tips for thinking or memory problems
- Make notes to help you remember things – whether it’s in work meetings or medical appointments.
- Try to reduce distractions.
- It can help to make a clear plan before approaching any new or complicated problem or situation. Break it down into steps, and keep checking your plan as you follow it.