It’s still unclear how long symptoms of long COVID may last. Reports suggest they may last for 6 months or even longer. Factors like your age and vaccination status may affect how long you experience symptoms.

Long COVID occurs if certain symptoms persist beyond 2 months after an initial COVID-19 infection and a doctor cannot find another possible diagnosis for your symptoms. Other names for the condition may include:

  • long-haul COVID
  • chronic COVID
  • post-COVID syndrome
  • post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection

Keep reading to find out more about long COVID symptoms, how long you can expect them, and what you can do to manage them.

Long COVID symptoms can include the following:

According to a 2021 study, fatigue and occasional headaches are the most commonly reported long COVID symptoms.

People with long COVID have also described symptoms that are much like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), when they may experience flashbacks or anxiety related to their illness.

Researchers first identified SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, in December 2019. As a result, there’s a lot still to learn about the virus and its long-term effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, post-COVID conditions may last from weeks to months, or even longer.

The same 2021 study above, which involved 558 users of the COVID Symptom Study app, showed 2.3% (95 people) reported having COVID symptoms for longer than 12 weeks.

But some people do not report experiencing long COVID symptoms until 151 days or more after their initial COVID-19 diagnosis. Not only may the condition be long lasting, but they may not notice its effects until several months later.

Do long COVID symptoms come and go?

According to 2021 research, long COVID symptoms can come and go. Some people with the condition may report feeling better, only to experience symptoms again later.

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There’s still a lot researchers do not know about long COVID. But they have found that some people may experience the condition more often, including people assigned female at birth or those who:

  • live with obesity or overweight
  • experience more than five different symptoms when they have COVID-19
  • are older adults
  • have a chronic health condition

It’s possible to not have any of these risk factors and still experience long COVID.

Managing long COVID symptoms can be challenging and frustrating. The condition affects people in various ways.

Treatments and management revolve around supportive care. This means a healthcare professional will consider your symptoms and recommend treatments to help relieve your symptoms. Examples could include:

  • therapy or counseling to address anxiety, depression, or PTSD symptoms
  • medications, such as inhalers, to improve lung function
  • medications to reduce headaches
  • physical therapy or a monitored exercise program
  • pulmonary rehabilitation

Multiple clinical trials are taking place regarding the use of supplements and prescription medications to treat long COVID. But there are currently no larger-scale trials that support an effective long COVID treatment.

If your symptoms are not a medical emergency but are interfering with your daily life, talk with a healthcare professional. They can order testing to ensure another condition is not causing your symptoms. If they diagnose you with long COVID, they may refer you to other specialists or set up a time to follow up on your symptoms.

When is it an emergency?

Get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following potential life threatening symptoms of long COVID:

  • thoughts of self-harm
  • acute confusion
  • difficulty with balance
  • severe shortness of breath

If you have more questions about long COVID, you aren’t alone. Here are some other frequently asked questions about the condition.

Does getting the vaccine affect how long I experience long COVID symptoms?

A 2022 research review looked into the connections between the vaccine and the risks of getting long COVID. Researchers found low level evidence that those who received at least one dose of the COVID vaccination may be at a reduced risk of long COVID. Some evidence suggested getting more than one dose further reduced the risk.

But some studies found no change in long COVID risks or even worsening of symptoms after vaccination. Until more research is available, it’s tough to truly know the potential connections between long COVID and vaccination.

Will long COVID symptoms last longer if I had a more severe COVID-19 infection?

Experiencing long COVID doesn’t seem to be related to the severity of a COVID-19 case. Studies described those with mild and severe cases of COVID experiencing long COVID.

But having more than five COVID symptoms can increase your risk of developing long COVID. A 2021 study also found those who experienced a loss of smell as a COVID symptom were most likely to experience long COVID.

Is brain fog from long COVID the result of permanent brain injury?

Researchers have yet to establish how long brain fog lasts with long COVID. A 2021 research review reported the effects had the potential to be long lasting.

Researchers need to conduct more studies about how long symptoms of long COVID last. We still don’t know how and why some people experience long COVID.

Current reports indicate those with long COVID report symptoms for 6 months and longer. Because long COVID symptoms fluctuate, knowing exactly how long they’ll last can be difficult at this time.

If you think you may be experiencing long COVID symptoms, talk with a doctor about possible treatments.