Long Covid

Contact our Long Covid Advice Line on for further help, advice or information on living with Long Covid.

Call: 0808 8010 899 (FREE from landlines and mobiles)
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Email: adviceline@chss.org.uk
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What is Long Covid?

Many people recover quickly from coronavirus (COVID-19) however for some people it takes longer to get better. When symptoms from COVID-19 are ongoing and last for a few weeks or longer, this is referred to as Long Covid (also known as Post Covid Syndrome).

Whether or not you develop Long Covid does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get coronavirus or if you were hospitalised because of it. People who had mild symptoms of coronavirus at first can still develop Long Covid.

Symptoms of Long Covid

As this is a new condition, we are still learning about the effects of Covid-19 on people’s long term health. The symptoms can vary from person to person and everyone will be affected differently. However the most common Long Covid symptoms include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Coughs
  • Pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Problems with memory or concentration often referred to as ‘brain fog’
  • Chest tightness
  • Racing heart beat
  • New skin rashes and allergic reactions
  • Prolonged fever

You should contact your GP if you have had symptoms for more than 4 weeks. It is not uncommon for people to start to feel better and then suddenly get worse especially if they overdo it so it’s important to keep track of your symptoms and let your GP know.

Diagnosing Long Covid

You may be asked to have some tests to investigate the symptoms and signs of Long Covid and to rule out other things that might be causing them.

These tests might include:

  • Blood tests
  • Checking your blood pressure and heart rate
  • A chest x-ray if you are continuing to have breathing difficulties

Managing your symptoms

Your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need and there are things you can do to manage your symptoms. If the symptoms are severe and are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service.

Fatigue

Fatigue or extreme tiredness can have a big impact on your daily life, work and relationships. However there are many things you can do to help manage your fatigue and save your energy such as

  • Pace yourself
  • Plan ahead
  • Find time to rest and relax
  • Keep active and move around as much as you are feel you are able to
  • A fatigue diary can also be useful so that you can see what makes your fatigue worse or better

Our Essential Guide on tiredness and fatigue explains more on how fatigue can affect you and gives advice on how to cope with fatigue and save energy.

Breathlessness

After contracting coronavirus you may feel out of breath and have difficulty breathing as part of your daily life. This is called breathlessness. Living with breathlessness can be difficult. It can affect you physically and emotionally. If you are experiencing breathlessness you should speak to your GP in case it is caused by something other than coronavirus. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do that will usually help your breathlessness. These include:

  • Using breathing control techniques
  • Using different breathing positions
  • Being as active as possible and feels comfortable.
  • For more information on managing breathlessness see our Essential Guide

    Anxiety and low mood

    Feeling unwell especially for a long period of time can have a big impact on your mental health. Things that you can do to help you with your mental wellbeing includes:

    • Reach out and spend time with others if you can. If this can’t be in person then speak to them on the phone
    • Try to get out and about if you can
    • Try to get enough sleep
    • Relaxation & links

    Our Essential Guide on mental wellbeing provides more information on how to look after yourself and how to recognise when you need some extra help. This is especially important during these difficult times of repeated lockdowns if you are unwell, unable to exercise or get out and about to see people.

    Other things you can do to manage your symptoms

    • Setting realistic goals with the help of your healthcare professional
    • Keep track of any changes in your symptoms – a symptom diary or symptom tracking app can help
    • Know where to get help if you are worried about your symptoms or you need more support
    • Explore resources and information that might help such as online forums, apps, support groups or support from other services including social care, employment and advice about financial support

Further help and support for people affected by long Covid

Call our Advice Line on 0800 801 0899 for further help, advice or information on living with Long Covid. The Advice Line nurses can help to signpost you to services and support in your local area.

We also have other Essential Guides that you might find useful including Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight, Physical Activity and Work and Financial Support for people affected by long-term health conditions. See our full list of resources or visit NHS Scotland.

If you are worried about your symptoms or if they are getting worse, contact your GP. If you have any emergency symptoms such as sudden chest pain or shortness of breath, call 999.

Brighid’s Story

Long Covid sufferer Brighid Ó Dochartaigh, a 47-year-old geologist from Edinburgh, knows first-hand the devastating impact the condition can have on people’s lives.

“I still struggle to walk more than three blocks from home.”

“Before Covid, I was healthy and fit – my work often calls for strenuous field work & travel to remote places round the world.

“Now, after nearly a year of long covid, I still struggle to walk more than three blocks from home. My GPs are very supportive but don’t have any medical treatment to offer, and don’t know how long my symptoms might last. All I can do is try to manage this life changing illness at home. I just want my old life back – to be healthy, able to work, run, visit my friends and family, but I’m scared that won’t happen. My employer has been really supportive, but that can’t last forever – I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get well enough to be able to work again.”

Joanne Graham, Head of Service Delivery here at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland is hearing regularly how people in Scotland are being affected by Long Covid.

We are hearing more and more from people in Scotland who are struggling with the effects of Long Covid. There are many symptoms that people are struggling with from severe fatigue through to memory issues which can all make completing the smallest of tasks a struggle.

Individuals experiencing the signs and symptoms of Long Covid can need support for months after the initial Covid infection and it can be devastating in terms of the effect it can have on their lives. Emotional support is also key and we would encourage people to stay connected, find support and don’t rush at recovery. It is essential to take time and be kind to yourself.