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 long recovery. This can include physical difficulties 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.

After you test positive for 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 comes 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 some people feeling unwell for a long time. This 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, 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

Try to stay at home and avoid contact with others if you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19. 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 for people who have been in the intensive care unit (ICU)

    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 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. We cannot recommend any one 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.

    Finances 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.

    There is a lot of support 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 similarly 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 and your recovery. We recommend the following high quality online information to help you learn more.

    Resource number: 5122/VER1
    Last reviewed: January 2021
    Next review date: December 2023

    Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

    Contact us

    If you have any questions or concerns about your coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery, please speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you. Your discharge letter (the letter that you get when you leave hospital) should have their contact details.

    Phone: 020 7188 5082 or 020 7188 5089

    Occupational therapy department 
    St Thomas' Hospital, phone: 020 7188 4180
    Guy's Hospital, phone: 020 7188 4185

    Nutrition and dietetics department 
    Phone: 020 7188 4128

    Speech and language therapy department 
    St Thomas' Hospital, phone: 020 7188 6246
    Guy's Hospital, phone: 020 7188 6233

    Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

    Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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