What are the symptoms and signs of long Covid?

As the vaccine rollout for COVID-19 gets underway, the end of the cycle of lockdowns and social distancing appears to be in sight.

The virus has had a devastating effect on so many. However, it has now emerged that some patients, who appear to have recovered from the initial infection, will go on to continue to experience fatigue and other symptoms.

According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), around one in five people who tested positive for COVID-19 had symptoms that lasted for five weeks or longer, and one in 10 people had symptoms that lasted for 12 weeks or more. 

Have I got long Covid?

If you’ve have unexplained symptoms which you can’t shake off, you may be wondering if you have long Covid.

A recent study of nearly 4,000 people with long Covid symptoms found the most frequently reported were: fatigue, feeling worse after activity, and brain fog – that feeling of not been able to concentrate.

Other signs of long Covid

  • Feeling breathless with a cough
  • Chest pain and palpitations
  • Headaches, pins and needles, insomnia 
  • Stomach upsets, nausea and loss of appetite
  • Psychological symptoms – depression, anxiety 
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms – joint and muscle pain 
  • Loss of taste and smell - known as anosmia 
  • Phantom odours – smelling things that are not there (known as phantosmia)

The same study found that people with symptoms persisting for more than six months were still dealing with about 13 symptoms on average.

Relapses were also reported, with people experiencing improvements and then finding symptoms returned. Nearly half of the patients in the study had been unable to fully return to work after six months.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock has committed £18.5 million to tackle long COVID through research. He said:

I am acutely aware of the lasting and debilitating impact long COVID can have on people of all ages, irrespective of the extent of the initial symptoms.

Fatigue, headaches and breathlessness can affect people for months after their COVID-19 infection regardless of whether they required hospital admission initially.

Long Covid affects a broad range of ages (including children) and many patients were previously fit and healthy. It seems to affect women more than men.

Early in the pandemic, statistics showed that around 70% of critically ill patients admitted to intensive care have been male, and a higher proportion of men than women have died. A study of more than 4000 COVID-19 patients in New York City, found that 62 per cent were male. 

How can long Covid be treated?

Nutritionist Miss Stephanie Moore has been treating long Covid patients in her practice. 

She says: ‘We have probably all heard, especially in the early days of Covid 19, about the cytokine storm. This is an inflammatory response by the body to the virus, which, if not appropriately managed, ideally by the body itself, can cause harm to self.’

Miss Moore believes quelling inflammation is key to combatting the virus. She says: ‘We need to be immunologically intelligent, armed and at the ready to overwhelm the COVID-19 virus, should we be exposed.’

In her blog Why Inflammation Matters in Times of Covid and Beyond, Miss Moore recommends ensuring the gut microbiome is kept in good condition. She says: ‘The gut bacteria need to be enhanced in number and variety to ensure good health and vitality.’

Miss Moore recommends eating a wide range of vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and fruit, to make your gut microbes smarter, as well as other lifestyle strategies.

Find out more about Stephanie Moore and her practice at Lanserhof at the Arts Club.

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Has a sudden onset. Full medical glossary
Loss of the sense of smell. Full medical glossary
A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in life, combined with a sense of reduced emotional well-being Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
Relating to the structure and function of the immune system, the organs in the body that are specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
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One of a class of drugs that inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary