Recognizing long COVID, and what to do if you have it

| November 29, 2022
Posted in: ,

According to the CDC, 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. (7.5%) have “long COVID” symptoms, defined as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus, and that they didn’t have prior to their COVID-19 infection. 

Long COVID occurs most often in people who had severe COVID-19 cases, but anyone infected by the virus can experience post-COVID conditions. Even if your case was mild or asymptomatic or undiagnosed, you should be aware of long COVID symptoms and seek treatment if you notice them. 

As of July 2021, “long COVID,” can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can learn more about long COVID disability guidance on the Department of Health & Human Services website. 

Symptoms & Diagnosis 

Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, so at least four weeks after infection is the start of when long COVID conditions can first be identified. Anyone who was infected can experience post-COVID conditions. 

There is no test to diagnose post-COVID conditions, and people may have a wide variety of symptoms that could come from other health problems. Healthcare providers consider a diagnosis of post-COVID conditions based on your health history, including if you had a diagnosis of COVID-19 either by a positive test or by symptoms or exposure, as well as doing a health examination. 

People who experience post-COVID conditions most commonly report: 

General symptoms 

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life 
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort  
  • Fever 
  • Respiratory and heart symptoms 
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath 
  • Cough 
  • Chest pain 
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations) 

Neurological symptoms 

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Headache 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness) 
  • Pins-and-needles feelings 
  • Change in smell or taste 
  • Depression or anxiety 

Digestive symptoms 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Stomach pain 

Other symptoms 

  • Joint or muscle pain 
  • Rash 
  • Changes in menstrual cycles 
  • Symptoms that are hard to explain and manage 

Groups of people more likely to be affected by post-COVID conditions include: 

  • People who have experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, especially those who were hospitalized or needed intensive care;
  • People who had underlying health conditions prior to COVID-19;
  • People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine;
  • People who experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome during or after COVID-19 illness;
  • People who experience health inequities may be at a higher risk for Long COVID; and
  • Women are more likely than men to experience long COVID. Per CDC data, in the U.S. population, amongst those who had COVID, 9.4% of women versus 5.5% of men 1 have reported having long COVID.

Preventing long COVID

The best way to prevent long COVID is to protect yourself and those around you from becoming infected. Staying up to date with vaccines against COVID-19 can help prevent COVID-19 infection and protect against severe illness. Research is ongoing about how long COVID affects people who had breakthrough COVID, but it is likely that being vaccinated reduces the risk.  

Additionally, if you have an underlying medical condition associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19, consult your primary care provider to discuss therapies, such as antivirals and monoclonal antibodies as soon as you get infected. Some evidence suggests the higher the severity of sickness due to COVID, the higher the risk of it turning into a long COVID case. 

GetTING Help

People experiencing long COVID can seek care from healthcare providers and other professionals to come up with a personal management plan that can help improve their symptoms and quality of life.

Disability Accommodations

Long COVID can be a disability. If you want to explore accommodations to manage the continuing impact, you can contact SDS at your school or complete the online SDS initial form to start the process. 

Primary Care

If you are a Johns Hopkins student or trainee and you think you are suffering from long COVID, book an appointment with your primary care provider. 

The Student Health & Wellness Center serves all Homewood and Peabody students and trainees, and on-campus School of Education students. 

University Health Services serves students and trainees from BSPH, SOM, and SON.  

Other Hopkins learners access different healthcare options through various insurance programs including but not limited to:  

lf you have specific questions about accessing medical care, call the phone number or visit the website listed on the back of your health insurance card. If you are not the primary policyholder, check with your partner, family or employer as applicable.

PACT Clinical Referral

The Johns Hopkins Post-Acute COVID-19 Team (JH PACT) Program is a collaboration between the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. They provide interdisciplinary, standardized care to address the unique needs of COVID-19 survivors.

Ask your primary care provider if they think a referral to this specialized team could be helpful for you.

Additional Community Resources  


Taquet M, Dercon Q, Luciano S, Geddes JR, Husain M, Harrison PJ (2021) Incidence, co-occurrence, and evolution of long-COVID features: A 6-month retrospective cohort study of 273,618 survivors of COVID-19. PLoS Med 18(9): e1003773. 


  1. This statistic categorizes women and men by sex, not gender identity or expression.