Living with Chronic Pain

Recovery From COVID-19


As more and more people recover from COVID-19, medical professionals are getting a better idea of what recovery from the virus entails and insights into potential long-term effects of the virus.

Recovery varies widely

In the United States, recovery from COVID-19 is defined as being fever-free for three full days without the aid of fever-reducing medication, improvement in other symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, etc.), and a period of 7-10 days passing since symptoms first appeared.

In the majority of cases, acute symptoms, such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath, diminish within one to two weeks. Most individuals who get COVID-19 make a full recovery.

In severe cases, recovery may take six weeks or more and may have lasting health consequences. People who are more likely to experience a longer recovery period and long-term effects include individuals who are 65 years or older and individuals with chronic lung, heart, kidney, or liver disease.

Potential long-term effects

Long-term effects of COVID-19 can occur even with mild cases. Possible long-term effects include fatigue, headaches, cognitive issues, hair loss, and diminished cardiorespiratory fitness. Although more research is needed, these long-term effects could be due to cellular-level damage caused by the virus.

Long-term effects of severe cases of COVID-19 may include permanent lung damage, blood clots, and kidney or liver dysfunction. Depending on the duration of the illness, some people may experience deconditioning and weakness that requires physical rehabilitation. The part of the brain involved in breathing and circulation may also be negatively affected.

Other long-term effects of COVID-19 include mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Required hospitalizations, extended periods in the ICU, or necessary intubations may even contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. Assistance from a mental health professional may be necessary.

To minimize long-term health effects, recovery should involve strengthening muscles involved in breathing as well as muscles in the arms and legs. Walking multiple times per day, even for short periods, can improve overall conditioning. Sitting upright instead of lying in bed may also be beneficial.

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