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Long COVID symptoms, advice and support

About long COVID

After catching COVID-19, some people can feel unwell and take longer to get better than others. Long COVID can affect any part of your body with different symptoms. Ongoing or new symptoms of COVID-19 can change and can come and go over time. 

Long COVID or Post COVID-19 syndrome is defined as signs and symptoms which develop during or after an infection that is consistent with COVID-19, that continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by another diagnosis 

How to tell if you have long COVID

If you have had COVID-19 and your symptoms are not getting better, you may have ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 (4 to 12 weeks post infection) or Post COVID-19 syndrome (12 weeks post infection).

Signs and symptoms can be highly variable and wide ranging. The most commonly reported ones include: 

Respiratory symptoms:

  • breathlessness 
  • cough 

Cardiovascular symptoms (heart and circulation):

  • chest tightness 
  • chest pain 
  • palpitations 

General symptoms:

  • fatigue 
  • fever 
  • pain 

Neurological symptoms :

  • cognitive impairment (brain fog, loss of concentration or memory issues) 
  • headache 
  • sleep disturbance 
  • peripheral neuropathy symptoms (pins and needles and numbness) 
  • dizziness 
  • delirium (in older people) 
  • mobility impairment 
  • visual disturbance 

Gastrointestinal symptoms (digestive system) 

  • abdominal pain 
  • nausea 
  • diarrhoea 
  • weight loss and reduced appetite 

Musculoskeletal symptoms:

  • joint pain 
  • muscle pain 

Psychological or psychiatric symptoms:

  • symptoms of depression 
  • symptoms of anxiety 
  • symptoms of post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD) 

Ear, nose and throat symptoms:

  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears) 
  • earache 
  • sore throat 
  • dizziness 
  • loss of taste, smell or both 

Dermatological symptoms 

  • skin rashes 
  • hair loss 

Most persistent symptoms after a COVID infection will improve steadily without treatment. If you are still experiencing symptoms 4 to 12 weeks after testing positive and/or are concerned, you should contact your GP. 

It helps to keep a symptom diary or use a symptom tracking app 

Your GP will assess the following: 

Take a medical history and ask about: 
  • whether you have had a positive COVID-19 test 
  • your symptoms since having COVID-19 
  • when the symptoms started and how long you have had them 
  • if you have any new symptoms 
  • any other medical conditions you have
They may examine you to find out more about:
  • any physical symptoms you may have 
  • if you’ve noticed or are having difficulties with your memory or thinking 
  • how you are managing day to day activities, for example your work or education, getting about, general wellbeing, looking after yourself or feeling isolated 
  • changes in your behaviour, emotions or mood 

Depending on your symptoms, your GP may order tests to exclude other conditions.

After assessment your GP will discuss with you any treatment and support you may need.​

Treatments

Treatment and support varies and is dependent on your individual needs. Your GP or clinician will discuss a plan of recovery individual to you. 

The team caring for you may include experts in all fields including: 

  • cardiology 
  • neurology 
  • gastroenterology 
  • physiotherapy 
  • speech and language therapy 
  • respiratory therapy 
  • psychological and psychiatric 
  • nutritional advice 

Medications may also be prescribed: 

  • antihistamines 
  • anti-inflammatories 
  • melatonin 
  • beta blockers 
  • anti-coagulants

Long COVID is a new illness that healthcare professionals are still learning about. Most of the recommendations are based on the experience and expert knowledge of healthcare professionals. Research continues to take place and the guidance may change when its results are known. 

If you think you may have long COVID contact your GP. 

COVID-19 treatments do not replace vaccinations, vaccines are extremely important in helping your immune system fight a future COVID-19 infection. 

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