How long does long COVID-19 last?

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Nov. 14, 2022—Scientists have learned a lot about COVID-19 in recent years. However, there are still many things we do not fully understand about the coronavirus. That includes long COVID-19.

What is long COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get COVID-19 recover in a few days or weeks. But some experience symptoms weeks or even months after they recover from the initial infection. That's what's known as long COVID-19.

We don't understand long COVID-19 yet. But one major question is: How long do the symptoms last? There's no definite answer. But a new study published in JAMA may offer some insight.

How the study worked

Scientists looked at medical records from more than 1 million people, as well as 54 previous studies. They had all had symptomatic cases of COVID-19. Using this data, the study estimated how many experienced long COVID-19. The researchers looked for reports of 3 types of symptoms linked to long COVID-19:

  • Fatigue with body pain or mood changes.
  • Trouble thinking clearly.
  • Issues breathing normally.

If any of these symptoms were reported at least 3 months after the person's original case of COVID-19, they were considered symptoms of long COVID-19. Researchers also collected information on how long these symptoms lasted.

What the study found

The researchers found that 6.2% of people who had symptomatic COVID-19 had symptoms 3 months later. Among the people who had long COVID-19:

  • People who were hospitalized for COVID-19 experienced long COVID-19 symptoms for an average of 9 months.
  • People who were not hospitalized for COVID-19 experienced long COVID-19 symptoms for an average of 4 months.
  • 15% of people with long COVID-19 still had symptoms after a year.

These findings were averages based on the available records. But individual experiences with long COVID-19 vary—and scientists are still working to understand the condition. If you are living with long COVID-19, your doctor can help you understand and cope with your symptoms. And you can learn more about COVID-19 in our Coronavirus health topic center.

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