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Long COVID's 200 Symptoms Have Been Narrowed Down To Just 12

These are the actual symptoms, a large study suggests.


Jack Dunhill


Jack Dunhill

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer

Jack is a Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer for IFLScience, with a degree in Medical Genetics specializing in Immunology.

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer


People have been reporting a huge number of symptoms since COVID-19 began.

Image Credit: Dragana Gordic/

After years of trying to identify what exactly long COVID is, a new study has narrowed its long list of suspected symptoms down to just a handful. Previously over 200 symptoms were thought to be associated with the cryptic lingering condition, but it has now been clearly defined with the 12 most common and consistent symptoms. 

Ever since COVID-19 first became a global health crisis, reports of chronic and long-term effects following infection grew. Symptoms included "brain fog", fatigue, and loss of smell, and severity varied from relatively mild, to serious and debilitating. The only criteria for identification of long COVID were ongoing, relapsing, or new symptoms appearing 30 or more days after infection.


Scientists wondered whether it was one condition causing these problems, or a range of post-COVID-19 conditions being grouped together, much like many neurological diseases. 

This is exemplified by the fact that long COVID has an extensive list of reported symptoms – the World Health Organization (WHO) states over 200 different health problems have been associated with the condition. If a diagnosis system is to be put in place, researchers need a clearer understanding of what long COVID actually is. 

To do so, a collaboration of researchers from the USA took patient data from a cohort of almost 10,000 people, with 8,646 of these previously having COVID-19 and a control group of 1,118 that hadn’t. From there, they surveyed each person and created a weighted list of the top reported symptoms, scoring each on how closely they are related to COVID-19. 

The results highlighted 12 of the most prolific symptoms related to long COVID and you’ll probably see some familiar faces in the list. 


Topping the charts with the maximum possible score of eight is loss of smell or taste, a characteristic symptom of COVID-19 due to its unusual ability to impact nerve cells. From there, “post-exertional malaise” (feeling tired after physical or mental exercise) comes in at second, and a chronic cough comes in at third – note there is a large score gap between second and third, indicating the top two symptoms are more common and more likely to be COVID-19 related than the rest. Take a look at the list below to see all the symptoms the researchers identified:

  • Symptom (score)
  • Smell/taste (8)
  • Postexertional malaise (7)
  • Chronic cough (4)
  • Brain fog (3)
  • Thirst (3)
  • Palpitations (2)
  • Chest pain (2)
  • Fatigue (1)
  • Sexual desire or capacity (1)
  • Dizziness (1)
  • Gastrointestinal (1)
  • Abnormal movements (1)
  • Hair loss (0)

The study does have some limitations, as with all studies of this type. The data was self-reported, leaving it open to inaccuracies, and the cohort was chosen from a separate study, which may have been prone to selection bias. Still, the results appear to be in line with previous common symptoms reported by long COVID researchers. 

The study is published in JAMA.


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