Coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery

Coronavirus (COVID-19) affects people in different ways. This information gives practical advice to help you recover from COVID-19. You can use it as a self-management guide.

Our understanding of COVID-19 and how to recover from it is changing all the time. Recovery is different for everyone.

Some people recover quickly and fully, but others have a difficult or longer recovery. This can include physical and emotional symptoms. 

Work through this information, section by section, and try to use some of the suggestions in your own personal recovery plan. Focus on the symptoms that affect you the most.

We've also made some short films about the most common symptoms of COVID. They include tips and practical advice that might help you to recover.

If you have had COVID-19

Most people get better from COVID-19 within 3 weeks. Some people get worse again after they first start to feel a bit better. This usually happens about 7 to 10 days after their symptoms started.

You might have mild symptoms and feel unwell for a short time before slowly starting to feel better. To help you recover, you need to:

  • rest as much as you can
  • drink regular fluids

You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen (unless a healthcare professional tells you not to do this). Read the instructions and leaflet that come with the medicine carefully to make sure that you take the correct dose (amount).

Do not take any other products that contain paracetamol or ibuprofen at the same time.

COVID-19 can leave people feeling unwell for a long time. If the symptoms continue for more than 12 weeks, it is called long COVID. The NHS website has more information on long COVID.

If you were in hospital

It is important that you return to the hospital if your condition gets worse, especially if you feel more breathless.

At this time, it is best to avoid using public transport. If you come to the hospital, this does not always mean that you will need to stay overnight. We do checks to make sure that it is still safe for you to recover at home.

When to get help

You do not have to take a lateral flow test if you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay at home and avoid contact with others. You should particularly try to avoid people at risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. This includes people who:

  • are older
  • have a weakened immune system
  • are pregnant
  • have a health condition that could be made worse

A positive result means that it's likely you had COVID-19 when the test was done.

Contact NHS 111 or a GP if you:

  • feel short of breath, especially when standing up or moving
  • have severe muscle aches, general weakness or tiredness
  • have shakes or shivers
  • have lost your appetite
  • are peeing less than usual
  • cannot take care of yourself (such as washing, dressing or making food)

Go to A&E or call 999 now if:

  • you cannot complete short sentences when at rest because of breathlessness
  • your breathing gets worse suddenly
  • you cough up blood
  • you feel cold and sweaty, with pale or blotchy skin (when your skin has patches that are uneven in colour and shape)
  • you collapse or faint
  • you have a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
  • you become agitated, confused or very sleepy (drowsy)
  • you are not peeing or are peeing less than usual
  • your blood oxygen level is less than 92% (you can measure this with a small device called a pulse oximeter that clips onto your fingertip)

These symptoms need urgent medical attention. You should tell the phone operator or healthcare professional you speak to that you might have COVID-19.

Information and support

Peer support groups

There are 2 peer support groups in our local area for people who have been in an intensive care unit (ICU). These are friendly and welcoming groups. Former patients and families can meet each other, share their experiences and help to make sense of life after critical illness.

  • If you were a patient at King’s College Hospital ICU and want to find out more about their group, email: [email protected]
  • If you were a patient at St Thomas’s Hospital ICU and want to find out more about their group, email: [email protected]

There are also online support groups for COVID-19 survivors, and people have long COVID. We cannot recommend any of these groups individually. However, you can look in your local area and online to see if there is a group that you find helpful.

Financial support and other social needs

COVID-19 does not just affect people's body and emotions. For many people, it affects if they can work and their finances.

Support is available through your local council. This includes advice on how to get benefits and support with food and care needs.

Your GP surgery might have a social prescriber. This is a professional who can put you in touch with support services. Call your GP to find out more.

You can also contact your local Citizens Advice, who can help you to get in touch with support services. 

Information about recovery from COVID-19

It is important to get good quality information about COVID-19 to help your recovery. We recommend these high-quality websites to help you learn more.

Resource number: 5122/VER2
Last reviewed: February 2024
Next review date: February 2027

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Contact us

Find out how to be referred for an appointment with our long COVID assessment service, or speak to our patient booking team about your appointment, phone: 020 7188 9910.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

Is this health information page useful?