Is it true that 30% of people with COVID develop Long COVID? And does it last your whole life?


A: Estimates for the percentage of people who currently have Long COVID range from around 5% to 30%. Long COVID may go away with time in some people.

It’s very difficult to accurately count Long COVID cases. Here are some reasons why:

❧There’s no consensus on how to diagnose and define Long COVID. It includes over 200 possible symptoms and varying time frames post infection. Without a clear definition, it’s impossible for medical professionals to count cases in a systematic way.

❧In some cases, there may be undercounting going on because data on numbers of people who have it are drawn from patient records, which includes only the people who seek medical care for these symptoms. There is reason to believe many others are suffering in silence and not seeking medical treatment.

❧In some cases, Long COVID cases may be overcounted since symptoms are similar to other chronic illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. There is no control group here so it is hard to know whether symptoms that are associated with Long COVID are really due to Long COVID or some other illness. At any given time, a certain percentage of the population will report feeling fatigued, for example, and this may have nothing to do with COVID for many people.

There’s obviously a lot we still don’t know about Long COVID. It’s also not clear whether there’s a difference between symptoms that last for a few months after initial illness and ones that last for years. Whether or not these are both Long COVID is up for debate.

Despite all the uncertainties about Long COVID, it does seem to be the case that some people can recover. It is not necessarily a long-term illness in everyone. Some people experience an alleviation of symptoms over time but may not feel like they have not made a full recovery. With time, we will hopefully understand more about the course of this illness.

Recent data suggested that Long COVID cases might be falling. This is wonderful news. In the meantime, it’s important to be vigilant about any symptoms that last longer than a few weeks or a month post-COVID and bring up any concerns with your clinician.

Stay safe and stay well!

Those Nerdy Girls

Further reading:

Nature article on the different estimates of prevalence of Long COVID

CDC page on Long COVID

Recent evidence on estimates of Long COVID decreasing

UK Long COVID numbers

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