Here's what we know about 'long COVID', symptoms and treatment

The World Health Organisation says long COVID or long-haul COVID or post COVID-19 condition usually occurs in individuals with probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection three months after the onset of infection with symptoms.

A Person with Long Covid Symptoms

Pastor Ben Thomas got COVID-19 early at the start of the pandemic. He's still suffering with breathing and heart problems two years later. Source: Getty Images/Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM

A WHO commissioned study claimed that long COVID could last for at least two months and it can't be explained through an alternative diagnosis.

"The common symptoms (of long COVID) include fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction," it said. 

"Symptoms may be new-onset, following initial recovery from an acute COVID19 episode, or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may fluctuate or relapse over time," it added.

Advertisement


- the study that produced this clinical definition claimed older age and gender are factors in the occurrence of long COVID symptoms, with women reporting more persistent health issues.

There's no definite estimate about the number of people suffering from long COVID.

The UK's Office for National Statistics used the local (COVID-19) infection survey data to report that 1.5 million people were experiencing self-reported long COVID as of 31 January 2022.

A New South Wales study found that about five per cent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 had long COVID symptoms.

Clinic for Post-Covid Sufferers
Long-covid patient Jörg Schneider does breathing training in a gymnastics room at the Teutoburger Wald Clinic in Germany. Source: Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images


Symptoms of long COVID, as listed by the Department of Health and Human Services of Victoria, may include: 

  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • fatigue/exhaustion
  • concentration/memory issues
  • changes in mood – anxiety, depression, stress, feelings of guilt
  • loss of smell or taste
  • headache
  • sleep issues
  • heart-pounding/palpitations/racing heart/chest pain
  • skin rashes
  • muscle aches and joint pains


The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is progressing a project to link COVID-19 case data at the national level to administrative data. It's expected to enable research into long COVID.

Furthermore, the University of Queensland has received research grants for two separate studies, including virus-induced vascular complications and potential long-term consequences on brain cells.

A protester holds up a placard demanding research and an end to Long Covid-19 during ademonstration.
A protest group in Parliament Square, London in March 2022 demands the government invest some money into researching Long Covid-19. Source: AAP/Martin Pope/SOPA Images/Sipa USA


The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has set  on caring for adult patients with post COVID-19.

The RACGP has published a  on managing fatigue and other symptoms related to long COVID. 

Even if the experts disagree on how many are affected and research has only begun, it's becoming more and more apparent that long COVID will be a factor for years to come, even after the pandemic has ended.

If you have any of the following symptoms, call emergency services on 000 immediately and tell the phone operator you’ve previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • severe chest pain or pressure
  • a new or returning fever
  • worsening ability to concentrate and increased confusion
  • difficulty waking up
If you experience other symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, get in touch with your GP or other health provider (source: Healthdirect).

SBS is committed to providing all COVID-19 updates to Australia’s multicultural and multilingual communities. Stay safe and stay informed by visiting regularly the .


Share
3 min read
Published 4 April 2022 at 2:11pm
By Massimiliano Gugole