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Signs You Have "Long COVID," Says CDC

Long COVID symptoms to look out for, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Long COVID is estimated to have affected up to 23 million Americans, with some experts believing the number is even higher. "Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some people experience post-COVID conditions," says the CDC. "Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19." Here are five signs you have 'long COVID', according to the CDC. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How Can I Prevent Long COVID?

Woman in medical protective mask getting injection in arm vaccination.

The best way to prevent Long COVID is to avoid getting COVID at all, the CDC advises—this means being up to date with your vaccines and boosters. "If you are eligible for a booster and you haven't gotten it, you're not up to date and you need to get your booster in order to be up to date," says CDC director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH.


Certain Communities Are More Impacted By Long COVID

Worried nurse sitting in hospital corridor

"We in infectious disease have long known that where infectious diseases go are not in places of wealth, and places of poverty and places in lack of access," says Dr. Walensky. "We're going to see it again with long COVID, where those who had been more afflicted with the disease had less access to care and more comorbidities are going to bear the burden of that disease… I think there will be things we've learned here. If we had more health equity in this country I think we would all be healthier and we would be able to tackle [the next pandemic] better."


Long COVID Affects Children Too

Child girl wearing a protection mask against coronavirus

While the COVID-19 virus doesn't impact children as severely as adults, children can still experience Long COVID. "Now there's clear evidence to suggest that there are a number of children who have long COVID symptoms and their symptoms are somewhat similar to adults," says Devang Sanghavi, MD, adding that children are "complaining about fatigue and a difficulty in concentration, which is important for them in school and learning. Insomnia is one of the other symptoms that they've been talking about in various surveys and interviews… it seems like it's much lower than in adults. The key difference between long COVID in adults and children is that the symptoms may be similar, but the number of patients affected is lower in kids. And then most of these symptoms tend to go away within a couple of months."

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Women Are More Likely To Get Long COVID

Portrait of sad mature woman sitting on couch at home and looking away with worry and anxiety.

Long COVID seems to affect women more than men, virus experts note. "Recent studies have shown that there is an increased percentage of females, as compared to males, who have long COVID syndrome," says Dr. Sanghavi. "This is not specific to the Western world. This is across Asia, Europe and America, and similar trends are being seen. Predominantly middle-aged females become affected from long COVID more than males, and that is another thing—there's a historical perspective to this, and it is not a unique thing to post-COVID syndrome. However, we still need to focus more on this particular topic to discern the exact difference and why this is happening more in females." 

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So What Are the Signs of Long COVID?

Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket

According to the CDC, signs of Long COVID are as follows: 

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as "brain fog")
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Changes in menstrual period cycles

"We're not at a steady state of disease that I can be happy with," says Dr. Walensky. "We still have 900 deaths a day in this country. I still think we have a lot of work to do to make sure that we're in a place that is safe for this country and for the American people."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan