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The COVID Symptoms That "May Last Forever"

Three COVID symptoms that linger in some patients, according to experts. 

While COVID-19 affects every person differently, the average recovery period is about two weeks, but some patients are reporting symptoms that just won't go away. Yale Medicine states, "Though the typical recovery period for COVID-19 has been thought to be about two weeks, many patients report lingering symptoms that persist well beyond that, regardless of the severity of their illness. Because COVID-19 is a new disease, doctors are learning as they treat and discovering that recovery, much like illness onset, is more complicated than it appears." As we continue to wait for updated information, here's the symptoms we know for sure patients are challenged with long term according to Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience who spoke with Eat This, Not That! Health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Shortness of Breath and Cough

shortness of breath

Marchese says, "Prolonged inflammation in the lungs after a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, can cause scar tissue and irritation throughout the lungs. These areas can reduce the efficiency of oxygen transmission or trigger a cough response as the body takes time to heal. To help reduce these symptoms, you can try over-the-counter cough suppressants or practice breathing exercises. If shortness of breath is impacting your daily activities, your doctor can perform tests to measure your oxygen levels and prescribe medication that can open respiratory passages for easier breathing."

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Difficulty Concentrating or "Brain Fog"

Mature Woman At Home Suffering From Headache Or Memory Loss

As your body fights infections, it creates antibodies that circulate in the blood and direct the immune system where to go," Marchese states. "COVID-19 can cause bouts of confusion or difficulty concentrating which may be a result of mild inflammation in the brain, decreased oxygen to the brain or blood vessels damaged by the immune response. "Brain fog" or confusion can sometimes be signs of more serious medical illness. If you are experiencing dizziness or problems focusing for extended periods, your physician can order imaging tests on the brain which can identify any severe issues that require medical attention." 

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Joint or Muscle Pain

man experiencing back pain

Marchese explains, "Antibodies tend to collect in certain areas throughout the body and can cause inflammation which leads to pain and soreness. For example, after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine many people report fevers or muscle pain as a result of the body producing a large number of antibodies. These immune molecules can accumulate in muscle tissues and joints leading to pain during activity or when at rest. These reactions are typically short-lived but may linger for long periods after a COVID-19 infection. To alleviate these symptoms, you can try over-the-counter NSAIDs which reduce inflammation, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium." 

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Why are Some Symptoms Lasting So Long?

group of doctor and nurse wear protection mask checking and takecare infection people from covid-19

According to Marchese, "Some symptoms of COVID-19 can linger for long periods after infection, regardless of whether the illness was mild or severe. Doctors are still working out why some symptoms affect patients longer than others, many agree that long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms are likely the result of damage to sensitive tissue throughout the body. COVID-19 is a viral illness, and as your body fights the infection with immune cells, inflammation can occur that damages sensitive organs such as the kidneys, brain, lungs or heart." 

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Who is at Risk for Symptoms to Linger Longer Than Normal

Young woman feeling sick and sneezing in a tissue at home.

Marchese reveals, "Unfortunately, there is no clear indication of why some symptoms tend to linger in patients who only have mild disease. Post-COVID conditions can take the form of complications from severe illness, such as a risk of blood clots, or can be more mild, such as a cough that lasts several weeks. Post-COVID conditions can affect anyone of any age or health status. Importantly, if you are experiencing any lasting effects of COVID-19, you should seek medical care, especially if they worsen."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor holding Pfizer Biontech vaccine against coronavirus COVID disease

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.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather