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COVID's Toll on the Body

Sometimes COVID-19 symptoms stick around – protect yourself and others

A Veteran holding a COVID-19 vaccination cardMany people diagnosed with COVID-19 recover fully, but there can be effects that last weeks and even months after diagnosis. Many people have experienced short and long-term impacts on their health, ranging from frequent shortness of breath to chronic fatigue to slowed thinking.

The CDC is continuing to learn more about who has long-term effects and why. Until there are more answers, it’s important to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself and others from ‘long COVID.’

What is ‘long COVID?’

Long COVID refers to a group of symptoms that linger after having COVID-19. Whether you had no symptoms or a severe case, you could be affected by long COVID. These symptoms could last weeks or months after your infection. New symptoms may also appear weeks later. Long COVID may present with any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Tiredness or fatigue

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating

  • Headache

  • Loss of smell or taste

  • Dizziness when standing

  • Fast-beating or pounding heart

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cough

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Fever

  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities

  • Effects on important organs

COVID-19 can have long-term impacts on organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain. Sometimes a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome can occur, where different body parts and organs can become inflamed or swollen. Since June 2020, there have been cases that the CDC is studying to learn more about how this condition impacts adults over the long term. It is more common in children and adolescents.

Continuing to research changes

Most symptoms or conditions after a COVID-19 infection are manageable, and people can get better over time. However, we’re not sure what causes or contributes to post-COVID symptoms or how long they’ll last. If you think you might be having post-COVID effects, use Secure Messaging (sign in required) to talk to your health care team.

You can protect yourself and others from post-COVID symptoms by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. VA medical centers are now offering vaccines to all Veterans, spouses, and caregivers.

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