Get support

We are here to support people with breathing difficulties after COVID‑19. We are also here to support their family members and carers.

What we know
What you might be feeling
Get the right support for you

If you stayed at home with COVID-19
If you were looked after in hospital
If you were looked after in intensive care

What we know

We know some people may have breathing difficulties after recovering from COVID-19. We don’t yet know if this is from the virus, or from receiving treatment for the virus. We are working to understand more about this, which is why we set up this Post-COVID HUB. We hope that together with doctors, researchers – and people like you – we can get a clearer picture.

“When I found out about this website, the Post-COVID Hub, I can’t tell you how huge it was. It was like someone was finally acknowledging what is happening.” 

People can have trouble breathing because of a condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Some people can get ARDS when they are ill with a COVID-19 infection. Some people may have trouble breathing or other complications after having ARDS. They may also have other complications after having ARDS. Some people can also get a condition called Post-ICU Syndrome after being in intensive care.

What we know about post-COVID breathing difficulties so far is from early research. We are gathering the latest information here.

What you’re telling us about your post-COVID symptoms

Over 1,000 people have got in touch to tell us about their experiences of what it’s like to have “long-tail COVID”.

Read people’s experiences

“A big shock with long lasting after-effects and limited understanding of what is happening.” – Male, aged 18-24 

“I believe it has completely changed me. I do not feel the same as I did before I had it. This illness is proving to be long term, I am taking every day slowly as it comes and overall getting better. This is week 12 now. However, I do get days where I constantly relapse and feel worse again.” – Female, aged 18-24 

“I am normally very fit and active. Post-COVID I have had no energy and get fatigued very quickly. While this is improving slowly, I have had a few peaks and troughs… [Doctors] just say to rest and take it easy (which I have been doing for 4 weeks).” – Female, 25-34 

“Gradually improving shortness of breath and cardiac type chest pains which have persisted for at least 5.5 weeks now. Noticed definite improvement in symptoms this week, but there is a cycling nature of the symptoms with regular set-backs where the symptoms can worsen significantly which is a frightening experience.” – Male, 25-34 

“Drawn out. Seems to go in waves. I feel better for a few days and then have a setback and my breathing worsens again. It feels as though I only have access to 90% of my lungs like I have the sensation to breathe deeper and my lungs won’t keep taking air in. I can’t bike or run. Even as little as 15 minutes of biking can trigger increased resting shortness of breath for days (1-3 days) before slowly improving. When I overdo it I become very fatigued and require a nap.” – Female, 25-34 

“Unexpected and frightening. Being under 40 years old, healthy and fit I would have expected to have fully recovered after 8 weeks. I’m on week 9 now and I’m nowhere near being back to my normal health and don’t even know when and if that will happen.” – Male, 35-44 

“I now live a very small life. I used to be a full time successful Internationally certified mountain guide… I can now no longer make it up a flight of stairs and am barely able to walk slowly around the block.” – Female, 35-44 

“An absolute roller coaster of physical, emotional and mental challenges. From the long nights of no sleep due to muscle pain/burning sensation/shortness of breath… to thinking it is it just you.” – Male, 35-44 

“Shocking. Bizarre. Scary. I thought it would be like flu for 2 weeks then gone… It’s not… I worry that I’m not active enough for my children. I worry that I won’t perform well or cope at work… The brain fog scares me, I worry that I’ll forget something important. I can’t sequence activities as well as I used to or transition between activities like I used to…Prior to covid, I weight trained 4 times a week. I now can’t do even light exercise without getting out of breath and dizzy and leg weakness. I worry that I won’t be able to get my fitness back. What helps me the most is a Facebook group for people recovering from COVID in the UK.” – Female, 35-44 

“I find being short of breath (along with associated dizziness) quite scary. At night it was particularly frightening… Whilst the breathing problems were debilitating, the unknown was almost as equally scary. I am much better now.” – Male, 35-44 

“I have improved but still not feeling well enough to return to my previous activities. I have to spend a lot of time resting either in bed or on the sofa watching films and reading books and even then, what I watch or read has to be gentle. I still cannot do household chores without it triggering symptoms, which is frustrating. These mini relapses are becoming less intense. However, the ebb and flow of symptoms has been psychologically torturous, and I often wonder whether I will be well again. It’s hard not to feel depressed, desperate or downright scared. I try not to dwell on these emotions as I know it will impede my recovery, but I know that I will need counselling to help me process this awful experience as soon as I am physically able.” – Female, 45-54 

“My wife and sister became ill about a week before me and we are all still experiencing ongoing breathlessness and fatigue a month later with no signs of improvement. Some days are better, but the symptoms always return with the same intensity. I was very fit (regular mountain biking) and now I can’t walk a flight of stairs without needing to catch my breath. Some days I have to return to bed during the day. My wife and sister are the same. We all had mild symptoms for about 2 weeks after getting ill. Everything I’ve read states that persistent breathlessness only affects those who were seriously ill – this is not accurate.” – Male, 45-54 

“Unsettling. I don’t know whether I’m over it or teetering on the brink of making it worse if I try to exercise. I want to get on with grinding off rust, welding, knocking masonry about – all the regular country living on a shoestring. I feel very protective of my chest.” – Male, 45-54 

“I was off for a total of 6 weeks. Now I am back at work half time as I do not have the energy to do a full day. Every day I will have a minor breathing event when it feels as though I’m not getting enough air. I have learnt to relax and breathe slowly until it passes.” – Male, 45-54 

“I have been really knocked out by this. I have struggled to do every day jobs, like cooking , ironing and even walking up the stairs is difficult some days. I have been going for a walk nearly every day, but I can only walk a fraction of the way I used to be able to do.” – Female, 55-64 

“Extreme lethargy and lack of energy and physical ability.” – Male, 55-64 

“I am recovering slowly but surely. It has been 7 weeks. My appetite has improved, but I am still trying to build my strength back. I still have breathing problems, but I am able to do gentle yoga and take slow walks in my neighbourhood.” – Female, 55-64 

“I’ve now been unwell for 69 days, having previously been fit and active. At times I have experienced real fear due to breathing difficulties. Brief periods of feeling more healthy have inevitably been followed by relapses and I have no sense of when or even if I will be able to resume a normal life.” – Male, 55-64 

“It has taken me a long time to understand and acknowledge how ill I’ve been. I went back to work ten days after I peaked. This was too soon, and three weeks later I was still feeling ill… and was signed off for another two weeks. At that point I started to take recovery more seriously… I started walking and doing Qigong (like Tai Chi) which has a lot of emphasis on breathing every day and continue to do so. This has made a massive difference, particularly to my lungs and I’m improving all round, albeit very slowly. I still have shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle pains (particularly in the morning) and am having difficulty sleeping (whereas previously I’ve rarely had, I’m a good sleeper). Circulation difficulties have improved enormously, although I can occasionally become suddenly flushed. I’m in my 12th week.” – Female, 55-64 

“I’m realising from talking with others recovering that we are all different and recovery will vary.” – Female, 55-64 

What you might be feeling

Physically

You may find:

  • You struggle to breathe while resting or being active
  • You can’t do things you could do before getting ill
  • You’re tired or low on energy
  • You lose your appetite and lose weight
  • You have problems sleeping

“[I] continue to have chest pain and a burning sensation in my lungs more than 10 weeks after first becoming unwell… I have no underlying health conditions and am normally very fit and healthy… now feel exhausted just carrying a laundry basket up a flight of stairs

Frustrating is the best word to use describing my recovery period. It has been ten long weeks for me since my first COVID-19 symptoms emerged. I was acutely ill for one month (but not ill enough for hospitalisation), got better for a few weeks, then the shortness of breath returned on a daily basis along with elevated temperatures, fatigue, loss of appetite and some mental confusion

Mentally

You may notice things like:

  • Being forgetful
  • Not being able to think clearly
  • Struggling with daily tasks that involve organising, planning, and problem solving

“I can’t work, I can’t focus enough to study on my masters…”

“I have also been very forgetful and at times disorientated with dates/process/organisation in a similar way to ‘baby brain’” 

“The brain fog scares me, I worry that I’ll forget something important. I can’t sequence activities as well as I used to or transition between activities like I used to (I need this for work) I have to concentrate really hard on driving.”

Emotionally

You may find you have symptoms of:

“I feel like I have been through a traumatic event.” 

“I feel as though I will come out of this with PTSD or health anxiety.”

“Frightening – no one knowing how the virus behaves, whether you can relapse, if you can get it again, will it leave you with long term effects. Frustration at how long recovery takes and the back and forth nature of recovery; you don’t get progressively better, it’s more cyclical. The PTSD from terror over not being able to breathe…”

Get the right support for you

Breathing difficulties after recovering from COVID-19 may be:

  • From the virus
  • From receiving treatment for the virus
  • From something else unrelated to the virus

Get support…

If you stayed at home with COVID-19
If you were looked after in hospital
If you were looked after in intensive care

WhatsApp us

You can also chat to our respiratory specialists on WhatsApp about post-COVID breathlessness.

9am – 5pm
Monday to Friday

Speak to us

Our team of respiratory specialists are here to support you with post-COVID breathlessness.

0300 222 5942

9am – 5pm
Monday to Friday

Last medically reviewed: June 2020.
COVID-19 is a new health condition, and more information is coming out all the time.  We will update this page with new information as it becomes available.

Help us help you

We need to understand more about breathing and other difficulties after COVID-19. If this affects you, or someone you care for, we would like to hear from you.

By taking our survey you will contribute important information. The data we collect will help guide research and help us develop our services. This will allow healthcare providers and others to better meet your needs.

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