Symptoms, complications and management of long COVID: a review

J R Soc Med. 2021 Sep;114(9):428-442. doi: 10.1177/01410768211032850. Epub 2021 Jul 15.


Globally, there are now over 160 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 3 million deaths. While the majority of infected individuals recover, a significant proportion continue to experience symptoms and complications after their acute illness. Patients with 'long COVID' experience a wide range of physical and mental/psychological symptoms. Pooled prevalence data showed the 10 most prevalent reported symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, cough, chest pain, altered smell, altered taste and diarrhoea. Other common symptoms were cognitive impairment, memory loss, anxiety and sleep disorders. Beyond symptoms and complications, people with long COVID often reported impaired quality of life, mental health and employment issues. These individuals may require multidisciplinary care involving the long-term monitoring of symptoms, to identify potential complications, physical rehabilitation, mental health and social services support. Resilient healthcare systems are needed to ensure efficient and effective responses to future health challenges.

Keywords: COVID-19; epidemiology; health service research; infectious diseases; long COVID; persistent COVID-19 symptoms; post-COVID-19 syndrome; public health; respiratory medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / therapy
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Employment
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Health
  • Pain / etiology
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • Quality of Life*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology