5 facts about long COVID-19

A masked doctor shows her tablet to a masked patient.

June 6, 2022—At this point, millions of people around the world have had COVID-19. Most people get better in a few days or weeks. But some have symptoms that last longer—or that begin after they recover from the virus. That's what's known as long COVID-19.

Researchers are still learning about long COVID-19. But some recent studies have shed new light on the subject. Here are five facts we've learned about long COVID-19 and who it affects.

1. Long COVID-19 is common. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 adults who get COVID-19 go on to experience long COVID-19. It is important to know that scientists are still working to find out what long COVID-19 is. Some studies use different definitions, and they may have different results. And as we learn more, these numbers may change.

2. It can affect anyone. Long COVID-19 symptoms can affect anyone. People of all ages, including children, have experienced long-term symptoms after having COVID-19. According to CDC, the risk is higher for people who had severe COVID-19. But even people who had no symptoms while they had COVID-19 have developed the condition.

3. Symptoms vary. Long COVID-19 can affect many different parts of the body. And different people can have different symptoms. According to CDC and the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of long COVID-19 include:

  • Aches and pains.
  • Anxiety.
  • Blood clots.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Changes to the sense of smell and taste.
  • Depression.
  • Fever.
  • Heart problems.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Tiredness.
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating.

4. Older people are at slightly higher risk. Long COVID-19 affects people of all ages. However, it seems to be more common among older adults. The CDC report found that 1 in 4 people over 65 may have had symptoms of long COVID-19.

5. Vaccines offer some protection. A recent study in Nature Medicine found that people who were vaccinated were 15% less likely to develop long COVID-19 symptoms. This study looked at vaccinated people who had COVID-19 in 2021, before the spread of the Omicron variants.

The best way to avoid long COVID-19 is to avoid getting COVID-19. That means staying up-to-date with vaccines and boosters. You can find the latest advice about how to prevent COVID-19 in our Coronavirus health topic center.

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