Long COVID

To support New Yorkers with long COVID, this webpage is available in an audio format. Listen to the frequently asked questions and answers here.

Understanding long COVID

What is long COVID?

While most people with COVID-19 get better within a couple of weeks, some continue to have symptoms or develop new ones after their initial recovery. Long COVID, or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), is a condition in which individuals infected with COVID-19 continue to experience a wide range of physical, mental, emotional, and psychological symptoms after their initial infection, impacting their daily lives.

Long COVID has affected people around the world and across the United States, including a portion of the population here in New York State. Long COVID may also be known as post-COVID conditions, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, or chronic COVID.

How do I know if I have long COVID?

Currently, there is no test to diagnose long COVID. Patients with long COVID often report similar symptoms, including experiencing new, ongoing, or worsening health conditions long after their initial infection. Typically, symptoms that last four or more weeks after a COVID-19 infection could be an indication of long COVID. New Yorkers who have, or had, COVID-19 and are not getting better should contact a health care provider to discuss their symptoms.

What are the symptoms of long COVID?

Even if an individual's initial COVID-19 illness is not severe, long COVID symptoms can still occur. Unfortunately, symptoms have been reported to last for months or even years.

Symptoms associated with long COVID can vary widely, from cardiovascular symptoms like heart palpitations to difficulty breathing and excessive fatigue. Symptoms can also include difficulty concentrating or other psychological manifestations.

The most commonly reported symptoms associated with long COVID are:

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Brain fog
  • Symptoms that get worse after working hard or thinking hard (also known as 'post-exertional malaise')
  • Fever

Respiratory and heart symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart

Nervous system symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • 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, including:

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual periods

If New Yorkers suspect they may have long COVID, visit CDC's checklist here, which can help when preparing to see a health care provider about long COVID.

New Yorkers who suspect they may be experiencing long COVID symptoms can learn more at CDC's checklist (Spanish) and about how to prepare for their appointment with a healthcare provider (Spanish).

Who is at risk of developing long COVID?

Scientists are studying why some people are more susceptible to developing long COVID. At this time, the latest information available indicates that the following people may be at increased risk of developing long COVID, including:

  • People who have had 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, or who got infected before they were vaccinated
  • People who experienced MIS-C or MIS-A during or after their COVID-19 illness

What is MIS-C/MIS-A?

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) as well as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults (MIS-A) are rare conditions that sometimes occur in persons who have had COVID-19 infection. Symptoms of MIS-C/MIS-A typically develop two or more weeks following infection with COVID-19 and involve inflammation of different parts of the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal system. What causes some people to develop MIS-C/MIS-A is not known. MIS-C/MIS-A can be serious or even deadly, but most people recover with medical care. New Yorkers can learn more at NYSDOH's dedicated webpage here.

If I have long COVID, can I give it to others?

No, long COVID cannot be passed from one person to another. Having long COVID does not mean that you are still contagious. Even though you may feel sick, other people cannot "catch" long COVID from you.

Can children get long COVID?

Children, even young children, who contract COVID-19 may be at risk of long COVID. That's why NYSDOH recommends all children—including babies and toddlers down to 6 months of age—stay up to date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses. Vaccination will help protect your little one from getting very sick from COVID-19 and may also help to prevent long COVID.

What should I do if I have long COVID? Are there treatments or medications that can help?

Yes! If you are struggling with long COVID symptoms or suspect you have long COVID, don't wait to seek care. Reach out to a health care provider as early as possible.

If you do not have a health care provider, use the NYS Provider & Health Plan Look-Up tool to find one that works with your health plan.

Because management of long COVID may require a team approach, a healthcare provider can help you get referrals to other providers who offer focused care. This may include a pulmonologist, cardiologist, neurologist, as well as mental health experts, physical or occupational therapists, and social workers, depending on your symptoms and severity.

If you need affordable health insurance, NY State of Health can help you compare health plans and find the right insurance for you and your family. NY State of Health offers plans with low or no premiums, free preventive services, no co-pay for primary care, and low-cost prescriptions. NY State of Health programs include Medicaid, Child Health Plus, the Essential Plan, and Qualified Health Plans. Expanded financial help is available to lower health insurance costs for more New Yorkers. To learn more or enroll, visit nystateofhealth.ny.gov, call 1-855-355-5777, or contact an enrollment assistor for free help.

For COVID-19-related questions and other information relating to health coverage, visit the NYS Department of Financial Services' COVID-19 FAQ page here.

I'm worried my healthcare provider won't believe that I have long COVID. What can I do to advocate for myself?

Symptoms of long COVID may continue after the initial infection or may appear after the initial illness has passed, and may be difficult to explain. There is no one diagnostic test for long COVID, and the results of routine tests such as x-rays and electrocardiograms may appear normal. People experiencing these types of symptoms may be misunderstood by healthcare providers, which delays progress towards accurate diagnosis and adequate treatment. It is important to inform healthcare providers of a known history of COVID-19 infection, severe illness, or hospitalization. When conducting evaluations, healthcare providers should consider long COVID as a potential diagnosis if patients report symptoms consistent with long COVID. The New York State Department of Health will continue to work with the provider community to underscore the importance of complete and affirming evaluation of individuals who present with long COVID symptoms.

The CDC has a helpful resource on preparing to discuss long COVID with a healthcare provider, including the checklist here.

What if my long COVID symptoms are severe?

Even after a mild acute phase of COVID-19 illness, you may find recurring symptoms may range from a mild annoyance to more severe, even to the point of interrupting daily life. The federal government has determined that long COVID can be considered a disability under the ADA if it substantially limits major life activities. In addition to talking to a healthcare provider, people with long COVID symptoms that qualify as a disability have certain rights and resources available to them.

HHS guidance on long COVID's status as a disability, as well as rights and federal resources available to individuals whose long COVID symptoms qualify as a disability, can be found here.

How can I protect myself, my children, and my family members against developing long COVID?

The best way to protect yourself and those you love from long COVID is to stay up to date with all recommended vaccine doses, wear a well-fitting mask if you are or live in a high-risk area, and use the best air ventilation you can when with groups of people, particularly when the vaccination status of others is unknown.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines including booster doses, visit the COVID-19 vaccine webpage here.

Even if you have already had COVID-19 and do not currently have long COVID, taking steps to prevent COVID-19 reinfection can help protect you from long COVID in the future.

If you experience COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed, test early. If you are positive, talk to your health care provider right away about treatments or visit NYSDOH's treatment page here.

What is NYSDOH doing to help New Yorkers struggling with long COVID?

While scientists are still working to understand long COVID, NYSDOH continues to bring a wide range of health scientists and specialists together to formulate the State's response.

To support New Yorkers with long COVID as well as the healthcare providers who care for them, NYSDOH has:

  • Hosted an expert consortium that included specialists, clinicians, social scientists, and advocates to review the research, clinical, and functional aspects and inform the development of the State's ongoing work.
  • Established an internal working group that is dedicated to considering provider education and resources on the topic of long COVID, data monitoring and tracking, as well as access to treatment and care for New Yorkers.

Additionally, Governor Hochul also launched new, online education opportunities to help workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 due to an exposure at work, especially those suffering from ongoing long COVID symptoms. A new series of webinars - offered through the New York State Workers' Compensation Board - will provide information on workers' rights when it comes to filing a workers' compensation claim and the cash and/or medical benefits they may be eligible to receive. More information is available here. Long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

NYSDOH will continue to communicate openly with New Yorkers as we learn more and work with public health authorities, specialists, and clinicians on ensuring that those living with long COVID can access the treatment, support, and care they need.