Long COVID (Post-COVID-19 Condition) Self-Management Resource
Clinical Excellence portfolio, Saskatchewan Health Authority, in collaboration with clinical experts. Some content borrowed or adapted with permission from the Ottawa Hospital website.
Post-COVID-19 Condition Rehabilitation Self-Management
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) working group on long COVID (also known as Post-COVID-19 condition) has made a resource to help people who have been sick with COVID-19 and continue to deal with long COVID. You will see the terms “long COVID” and “Post-COVID-19 condition” used – they are basically the same.
Post-COVID-19 condition is an illness that can look different with each person and symptom duration will vary. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Post-COVID-19 condition as symptoms that last at least 2 months. The timeline will vary, and at this time, the exact duration is not known. A Stats Canada survey (Canadian Data) has indicated that 47.3% of those surveyed have symptoms greater than one year. To help with treating Post-COVID-19 condition, it is important to understand the disease and learn ways to manage it. Help from a loved one and / or from health care workers may be important.
One part of dealing with Post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID) is the work needed for recovery. This work involves physical exercise, learning about the disease and changing one’s habits. These actions will improve the health of an individual’s body and mind, make day-to-day living feel better, help reduce the effects of the disease, and give people the ability to return back to their normal life.
About Long COVID or Post-COVID-19 Condition
Some people can still feel unwell for weeks or months after getting sick with the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. This is called Post-COVID-19 condition or "long COVID".
According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O), Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. In plain terms, Post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID) usually happens three months after a person has been sick with the COVID-19 virus. It lasts for at least two months and there is no other illness present that can explain the way a person is feeling.
It is hard to know whether a person who was sick with COVID-19 will have long-term side effects. Just because a person was very sick with the COVID-19 virus, it doesn’t mean they will have Post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID). In fact, some people who had mild illness could still suffer from Post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID).
Post-COVID-19 Condition Symptoms
The following is a list of common effects that can happen weeks or months after being sick with COVID-19:
- Very low energy / feeling very tired
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Problems with focus and remembering things ("brain fog")
- Trouble sleeping
- Heart beat feels very fast and / or pounding heart beat
- Feeling of “pins and needles” on hands and feet
- Joint pain
- Mood is low
- Feelings of fear, unable to relax and be calm
- Ringing in the ears
- Ear aches
- Stomach and gut issues – stomach ache, feeling the need to throw up, watery stools, and less appetite or no appetite for food
- Higher than normal temperature
- Sore throat
- Changes in smell and taste
These longer-term effects could happen after recovering from the COVID-19 virus. They could also happen after a person who has been sick with the virus continues to feel these effects for weeks or months. Usually, a person is less active and can’t do the things they normally could before this illness.
Anyone dealing with Post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID) is encouraged to keep a symptom log. This is a record of any symptoms they have been dealing with since recovering from a COVID-19 infection. This can help to increase a person’s body awareness and provide the medical team with more insight into a person’s condition. This can also help guide the medical team on whether more tests are needed and any treatments to recommend.
When to Contact a Health-Care Professional
Post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID) can affect people in different ways. You are encouraged to get in touch with your family doctor, nurse practitioner or another health care provider such as a pharmacist if:
- You feel short of breath when sitting and it does not get better with exercises from the Managing Shortness of Breath pages.
- You become very short of breath with a little bit of activity, and this does not get better if you try the positions from the Managing Shortness of Breath pages.
- You feel sick to your stomach, dizzy, faint, very short of breath, sweaty, or you have pain in your chest before or during exercise.
- You have a hard time focusing and remembering things.
- Your energy levels are getting worse and you have a hard time doing the things you are normally able to do.
- Your mood gets worse with time and you start having thoughts of harming yourself.