Post COVID-19 condition (long COVID)
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Some people still experience physical or psychological symptoms more than 12 weeks after getting COVID-19. This is called post COVID-19 condition (also known as long COVID).
Post COVID-19 condition may occur in some people weeks or months after their initial infection. People who have been hospitalized or who needed intensive care during recovery appear to be at greater risk of experiencing longer-term effects. Post COVID-19 condition is also observed in people who didn't have symptoms or had only mild to moderate symptoms during initial infection.
People may experience post COVID-19 condition symptoms even if they weren't formally tested and diagnosed with COVID-19. This may have been due to limited testing capacity during the pandemic.
Post COVID-19 condition is not COVID-19. Symptoms can be quite different from those experienced during the initial infection. It refers to the longer-term effects some people experience after their COVID-19 infection.
The condition can impact both adults and children. Symptoms can sometimes disappear and reappear without having another diagnosis to explain them. Some patients report that over-exertion (both mental and physical) may make the condition worse.
Post COVID-19 condition can impact people in different ways. There have been reports of more than 100 symptoms or difficulties with everyday activities.
The most common symptoms that we know of in adults include:
- memory problems
- sleep disturbances
- shortness of breath
- anxiety and depression
- general pain and discomfort
- difficulty thinking or concentrating
- posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Based on early published reports in 2020, the World Health Organization estimates that at least 10% to 20% of people had 1 or more symptoms 12 weeks or longer after their initial diagnosis. These symptoms may be new or have persisted since their initial COVID-19 infection.
More recent research shows about 30% to 40% of people who weren't hospitalized for their initial COVID-19 infection still report symptoms beyond 12 weeks. Current evidence suggests that post COVID-19 condition is higher among those who were hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to those who weren't hospitalized. This percentage may change as more evidence emerges.
The most common symptoms that we know of in children include:
- shortness of breath
- lack of concentration, cognitive difficulties or delirium (confused or disoriented mental state)
- abdominal pain
- muscle aches and pains or joint pains
- sleep problems
There's still a lot that we don't know about post COVID-19 condition in children. Research about how often it occurs in children is still underway and we currently only have a small number of studies to analyze. These estimates will become more precise as further studies are conducted and new evidence emerges.
Individuals experiencing post COVID-19 condition commonly report impacts on their mental health, including anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Talk to your health care provider if you think that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression or PTSD. Health professionals can help you get the support you need.
You or someone you know may be in crisis or need mental health and substance use support. If this is the case, visit Wellness Together Canada for a wide range of resources and supports.
Prevention, diagnosis and treatment
The best way to currently prevent post COVID-19 condition is to take measures to avoid getting infected. This includes measures like getting vaccinated (including boosters) and following public health measures. Early evidence suggests that vaccination with 2 or more doses may help reduce the risk of developing post COVID-19 condition if infected. Canada continues to monitor new developments to learn more about other preventive measures that can be taken.
There's currently no universally agreed-upon approach to diagnose and treat post COVID-19 condition. If you think you have post COVID-19 condition, talk to your health care provider about how to manage your symptoms.
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What Canada's doing
Canada is reviewing published studies on post COVID-19 condition to identify:
- which symptoms are most common
- its associated risk factors
- how to prevent it
- how many individuals (adults and children) are having difficulties with regular activities and daily living
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) also collaborated with Statistics Canada on a new population-based Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey launched in April 2022. The survey was sent to 100,000 randomly selected Canadians aged 18 years and older across the 10 provinces, and will be used to:
- estimate the percentage of Canadian adults who are living with post COVID-19 condition
- provide information on symptoms, including severity, duration and impact on daily activities
- identify risk factors associated with developing post COVID-19 condition
Preliminary results from this survey provide valuable insight on the burden of longer-term COVID-19 symptoms in Canadian adults aged 18 years and older. The new results presented are in line with results from other surveys and evidence internationally.
This data blog is the first in a suite of products related to this survey planned for winter and spring 2023. Results will further our knowledge about longer-term COVID-19 symptoms.
We continue to:
- gather evidence about how common these long-term effects are in Canada
- work with partners to explore other public health monitoring activities that examine post COVID-19 condition
- these partners include:
- Statistics Canada
- the provinces and territories
- academic and professional organizations
- these partners include:
We're also working with other partners to gather evidence to support our research, like the:
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research
- Canadian Institute for Health Information
Canadians suffering from post COVID-19 condition and who are unable to work because of their symptoms may be eligible for support through:
- Employment and Skills Development Canada's employment insurance (EI) program
- Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits
Publications and information
- CANCOV: Patient resources
- World Health Organization: Clinical long-term effects of COVID-19 (PDF)
- COVID Long Haulers: Report on Pan-Canadian Long COVID Impact Survey (PDF)
- Provincial Health Services Authority (British Columbia): Post-COVID-19 care and recovery
- Post COVID-19 Condition (Ontario): Guidance for Primary Care (PDF)
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