Contracting COVID-19 is a distressing experience that affects people differently, meaning you may have different care and wellbeing needs to others.
Although most people who have a mild case of COVID-19 recover quickly, around one in ten patients will report prolonged symptoms that can last for several weeks or even months. These symptoms can include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of sense of taste and smell
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Chest pain
- Memory problems
- Low mood / anxiety
If your symptoms continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis, you might be required to have further assessments or tests. You may also require a follow-up appointment in specialist clinics, particularly if you have required a hospital stay as a result of contracting COVID-19. Post-Covid-19 syndrome usually presents with clusters of symptoms, often overlapping, which can fluctuate and change over time and can affect any system in the body.
What can I do to manage my recovery?
There are various things you can do to aid your recovery from COVID-19. Nurse Specialist Claire Adams, the Respiratory Clinical Lead for Tees Valley CCG, explains these in the video below:
Lots of self-help guidance is available online, including the NHS Your COVID Recovery website, which contains information on managing the effects of COVID-19, your wellbeing, and your road to recovery.
The NHS Eat Well website also provides useful tips on eating a balanced diet, which will help you recover. Avoiding junk food, caffeine and alcohol will also help.
Quitting smoking will also have a positive impact on your recovery, and is one of the single most important things you can do to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Support with quitting smoking is available on the NHS Better Health website, and to find details of local services that can help you quit visit NHS Smokefree.
Tees Valley CCG with local partners have developed a selection of patient information leaflets to help you manage and pace your recovery:
Getting back to work after a COVID-19 infection
After the stresses – both physical and psychological – of suffering a COVID-19 infection and/or Long-COVID, it can be tough to get back to work. You may still be struggling with day-to-day activities but need to work for financial or social reasons. With COVID-19, it is best to stay off work until you are well enough, but with the right support, it may be possible to return on a phased or partial basis as part of your recovery if you feel fit enough for some duties.
Occupational Health Professionals and the Trade Union Congress have produced a helpful guide for workers (and employers) on how to manage absence and get back to work after COVID-19 infection and Long-COVID. Read their returning to work guide here.
When to seek further support
If you are concerned that your symptoms are deteriorating, and have viewed the self-help guidance available online, you should seek medical advice. There are several ways you can do this:
- Contact your GP: Due to the ongoing pandemic, GPs will offer a telephone consultation first, but if during the call, they feel that you need to attend a face-to-face appointment, they will arrange this.
- NHS 111 Service: Call 111 to speak to an adviser, or fill out the NHS 111 webform.
If you (together with your GP) feel that your symptoms are persisting, there are secondary care teams across the Tees Valley who are able to help – your GP will be able to refer you to these.
If you begin to develop symptoms such as worsening shortness of breath, new chest pain, confusion or weakness of a limb or your face, you must seek urgent medical attention by calling 999.
Support available in the Tees Valley
- Tees Active Post-COVID programme: This service is available in Stockton-on-Tees and aims to support people with less severe post-COVID symptoms who would benefit from increasing their physical activity levels. The pathway into this service is through a referral from a GP or hospital post-COVID clinic. You can find out more about the programme by visiting the Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council website.
- Project Restart long COVID rehabilitation and prevention programme: This programme can be accessed by people in Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland and offers a 12-week wellbeing programme delivered by Middlesbrough Council and South Tees Public Health. To access the service, you can complete a medical questionnaire or be referred by a social prescriber or health professional. Full information is available on the Live Well Centre website.
- North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust Long-COVID clinics: Patients who are living with long-term effects of COVID-19 in Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees can be helped by special clinics that offer comprehensive assessment and support for symptoms. GPs and other health professionals can refer into the service using an established pathway. Visit the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust website to find out more.
- County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust Long-COVID service: Patients in Darlington who continue to have symptoms of COVID-19 for longer than 12 weeks can be referred to this service by their GP. It consists of a multidisciplinary team with specialist doctors/consultants, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychological therapists and Wellbeing for Life staff. More information is available on the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust website.
- South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Long-COVID clinics: Patients in Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland can ask to be referred by their GP or secondary care health professional into a Long-COVID clinic, which aims to help people who are experiencing long-term coronavirus symptoms. the clinic brings together doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and psychologists and appointments take place at Redcar Primary Care Hospital. Visit the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust website to find out more.
The NHS offers treatments to people with coronavirus (COVID-19) who are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill. The treatments can help some people manage their COVID-19 symptoms and reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill. The medicines do not replace the COVID vaccine so it’s really important to still get vaccinated. To find out more about COVID treatments and whether you may be eligible, click here.
The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to ensure you receive your vaccination as soon as the NHS contacts you, even if you have already had the virus, because we don’t yet know how long natural immunity lasts, and there have been cases where people have had COVID-19 more than once.
When you are contacted by the NHS to book your vaccine appointment, you may find that you are asked to attend your appointment at a Mass Vaccination Centre. Please be assured that if you do not wish to travel to a Mass Vaccination Centre, you can opt to wait for an invitation from your GP.
There are lots of rumours about COVID-19 vaccinations which might deter you from attending your appointments, but please be assured that vaccinations are safe, and any side effects that you might experience will be minor compared to the effects of the virus itself. For a list of common misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines, please read this helpful article on our website.
Please be aware that having the vaccine does not mean you will no longer transmit the virus to others. For more information on when you will be eligible to receive the vaccine, and other frequently asked questions, visit our FAQ section.