Here are 12 most common long COVID symptoms found in a new study


A new federal study identifies the 12 symptoms that most distinctly characterize long COVID but falls short of explaining why approximately 10% of individuals who experience even a mild COVID-19 infection suffer from health issues that can persist for months or even years.

The National Institutes of Health’s RECOVER program analyzed nearly 10,000 participants and identified the dozen most frequently reported ailments out of approximately 200 previously recognized symptoms of long COVID. The 12 conditions range from brain fog and heart palpitations to sexual impotence and digestive disorders. 

Despite these findings, scientists still don’t know what causes long COVID, why it only affects some people, or even how to treat and diagnose it.

The team behind the study said that while the investigation is inconclusive, it provides scientists a “common language” for beginning work toward treatments. 

“Now that we’re able to identify people with long COVID, we can begin doing more in-depth studies to understand the biological mechanisms at play,” co-author Andrea Foulkes, a professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release. “One of the big takeaways from this study is the heterogeneity of long COVID: long COVID is not just one syndrome; it’s a syndrome of syndromes.”

The 12 key symptoms identified in the study were:

  • Loss of smell or taste

  • Post-exertional malaise

  • Chronic cough

  • Brain fog

  • Thirst

  • Palpitations

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Gastrointestinal issues

  • Issues with sexual desire or capacity

  • Abnormal movements, such as tremors, unintended movements, or rigidity

But those are not the only symptoms that define long COVID, the researchers said. Patients may have one of those symptoms, or many — or others not on the list — and suffer long-term consequences of the coronavirus.

“Sometimes I hear people say, ‘Oh, everybody’s a little tired,’ ” Dr. Leora Horwitz, co-principal investigator for the RECOVER Clinical Science Core at NYU Langone Health, said in the release. “No, there’s something different about people who have long COVID, and that’s important to know.”

The new research, published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved more than 8,600 adults who had COVID-19 at different stages of the pandemic, compared to 1,100 who were not infected.

The team identified 37 common symptoms that persisted after six months in COVID-19 patients compared to those not infected by the virus. Of that number, the 12 in the study were the most frequently reported. About 20% of the people who had COVID met the criteria for suffering from long COVID — also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC — at the six-month mark. 

“Americans living with long COVID want to understand what is happening with their bodies,” Dr. Rachel L. Levine, assistant secretary for health, said in the release.