September 12, 2023

Most people infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) recover within a matter of weeks. Some people— even those who had mild versions of the disease— may have symptoms that last a long time afterward. These ongoing health problems are sometimes referred to as: post-COVID-19 syndrome, post-COVID conditions, long COVID-19, long-haul COVID-19, and post-acute sequelae of SARS COV-2 infection (PASC).



These returning and/or ongoing symptoms can last weeks, months, or even years after a COVID-19 illness and can sometimes result in disability. Research suggests that between one month and one year after having COVID-19, 1 in 5 people ages 18 to 64 have at least one medical condition that might be due to COVID-19 infection. Among people aged 65 and older, 1 in 4 has at least one medical condition that might be due to COVID-19. People vaccinated against COVID-19 that become infected with the virus may have a higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions when compared to people who have been vaccinated.

It can be hard to tell if you are having symptoms due to COVID-19 or another cause, such as a preexisting medical condition.  People who experience post-COVID conditions most commonly report the following:

General symptoms

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical exertion or mental effort (also known as ‘post-exertional malaise’)
  • Fever

Respiratory and heart symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

Neurological symptoms

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (often referred to as ‘brain fog’)
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
  • Pins-and-needles feelings
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety

Digestive symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual cycle

As a result of the effects of post-COVID conditions, people who contracted COVID-19 may also be more likely to develop new health complications such as heart conditions, blood clots, diabetes, or neurological issues. Organ damage could play a role in these effects. People who had severe COVID-19 might experience organ damage affecting the heart, kidneys, and brain. Inflammation and problems with the immune system can also happen, however, it isn’t clear how long these effects might last.

People experiencing any severe illness after hospitalization or treatment can develop problems such as post-intensive care syndrome (PICS). PICS refers to the health effects that may begin when a person is in an intensive care unit (ICU) and can persist after a person is discharged. These effects can include muscle weakness, problems with thinking and judgment, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is defined as a long-term reaction to a highly stressful life event.

The best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to protect yourself and others from becoming infected.  The CDC recommends staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations; along with improving ventilation, getting tested if needed, and always seeking treatment for COVID-19.  Other preventative measures include avoiding close contact with people who have a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 illness and practicing good hand washing hygiene regularly.



Cynthia Alder-Smith, RHIT, CCS

Auditor | Excite Health Partners





‘Long Covid or Post-COVID Conditions’ Your Health Web Article, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 16, 2022.

‘COVID-19: Long Term Effects’ Web Article, Mayo Clinic, June 28, 2022.

‘Post-COVID-19-associated morbidity in children, adolescents, and adults: A matched cohort study including more than 157,000 individuals with COVID-19 in Germany’ Journal PLOS Medicine Web Article, November 10, 2022.

‘Emergency use of ICD codes for COVID-19 disease outbreak: It all starts from a code…’ Web Article, World Health Organization, February 2020.

‘Long COVID a New Derivative in the Chaos of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: The Emergent Pandemic?’ Web Article, MDPI Journal of Clinical Medicine, December 11, 2021.