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The 12 Symptoms of Long COVID

June 08, 2023

A new federally funded study of nearly 10,000 Americans has revealed a new list of the top 12 most common symptoms associated with long COVID.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, includes analysis of more than 9,700 participants and provides some clarity about the combination of symptoms often associated with long COVID. The study is part of the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative to better understand, detect, and treat the condition.

Researchers assessed symptoms among thousands of people who had COVID-19 and applied a statistical analysis to identify a core set of symptoms for long COVID.

“One of the big takeaways from this study is the heterogeneity of long COVID,” said Andrea Foulkes, the senior study author and a principal investigator of the RECOVER Data Resource Core. “Long COVID is not just one syndrome; it’s a syndrome of syndromes."

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Formal definition:  Long COVID is defined by “ongoing, relapsing, or new symptoms or conditions present 30 or more days after infection.”
  • 12 symptoms:  The most common symptoms identified via the survey process included malaise after exertion; fatigue; brain fog; dizziness; gastrointestinal symptoms; palpitations; changes in sexual desire or capacity; loss of or change in smell or taste, thirst; chronic cough; chest pain; and abnormal movements.
  • Next steps:  The study indicated that long COVID affected multiple organ systems and that identifying biomarkers to help better understand the condition could be helpful to improve detection and treatment.
  • Noteworthy:  Long COVID was more common and severe in participants who were unvaccinated or were infected before the 2021 Omicron variant. Reinfections also were linked to higher long COVID frequency and severity.
  • Quotable:  “Americans living with long COVID want to understand what is happening with their bodies,” said Rachel Levine, MD, assistant secretary for health. “RECOVER, as part of a broader government response, in collaboration with academia, industry, public health institutions, advocacy organizations and patients, is making great strides toward improving our understanding of long COVID and its associated conditions.”

HAP continues to monitor the latest COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members. Additional information about the study is available online.