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Long COVID

Understanding long-term symptoms and effects of COVID-19.

About long COVID

Long COVID is a multi-organ condition that some people have after getting COVID-19.

Most people with COVID-19 feel better in a few days or weeks. For some people, COVID-19 symptoms can up to 12 months or longer. These symptoms may be:

  • ongoing – like a cough that hasn’t gone away
  • new – symptoms that start weeks or months after you first got sick.

There is no single test to confirm if you have long COVID. You should see a general practitioner (GP) if you have symptoms of long COVID. Your GP may refer you to a specialist for further assessment.

The best way to protect yourself against long COVID is to avoid getting COVID-19. You can reduce your risk by being up to date with vaccinations, wearing a face mask and meeting people in well-ventilated spaces.

If you do get COVID-19, see a GP about COVID antiviral medicine as soon as possible if you are eligible. Some studiesExternal Link show that using COVID antiviral medicine may reduce the risk of long COVID in people at risk of severe illness.

We are still learning about long COVID and researching to understand how it develops, who is at risk, and prevention and treatment options.

Long COVID symptoms

Long COVID symptoms can be different for everyone. You can get long COVID even if you only had mild or no symptoms when you were first diagnosed with COVID-19.

Some common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • changes in smell or taste
  • chest pain
  • difficulty sleeping
  • anxiety or depression
  • headache
  • cognitive dysfunction.

This list does not include every long COVID symptom. These symptoms could be caused by something other than COVID-19.

Long COVID can increase the risk of serious health problems for at least 12 months after getting sick, including an increased risk of:

  • heart attacks, strokes or heart inflammation
  • blood clots in the lungs or elsewhere
  • diabetes or worsened control of existing diabetes
  • lung fibrosis or other lung problems
  • kidney damage
  • severe mental health issues.

Who is at risk

StudiesExternal Link have shown long COVID is more common among people:

  • between 35 and 69 years oldExternal Link
  • who are women
  • who smoke
  • who have not had a COVID-19 vaccine
  • with chronic health conditions
  • with obesity
  • who had a severe COVID-19 infection (requiring hospitalisation)
  • who have had COVID-19 multiple times.

Diagnosis and care for long COVID

See a GP if you have long COVID symptoms. Your GP might organise tests and give you advice on managing your symptoms. If your symptoms are severe, prolonged, or significantly affect your quality of life, they may refer you to a specialist.

Most long COVID symptoms can be managed at home and will go away on their own within 12 months. A small number of people might experience symptoms for 12 or 24 months.

Long COVID is not contagious, even though you may still have symptoms.

Treatment for long COVID aims to manage symptoms and any acute illness complications. There is no single treatment for long COVID.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and develop new symptoms 4 weeks after your initial diagnosis, take a COVID test. It may be a new COVID-19 infection.

Reviewed 23 January 2023

Coronavirus Victoria

Coronavirus Hotline

Call the Coronavirus Hotline if you need help to report a rapid antigen test (RAT) or if you have any questions about COVID-19.

The Victorian Coronavirus Hotline diverts to the National Coronavirus Helpline every night between 4pm and 9am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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