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Recovering from COVID-19

A woman seated at a desk looks at a rapid antigen test she is holding in her hand

This article was written during the Queensland response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the information available at the date of publication. Please check the Australian Department of Health COVID-19 webpage for updated information and current health advice regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations in Queensland

Queenslanders have returned more than one million positive COVID-19 test results.

If you’ve come down with COVID-19, it’s important you stay home (isolate) and avoid infecting other people.

If you’ve had or have COVID-19, here’s what you need to know about recovery.

How to isolate with COVID-19

If you test positive, you’ll need to:

See our blog I have COVID-19—now what? for further information on these steps,  isolation and self-care, and when you should seek medical care.

If you're unsure whether you need medical care for your symptoms, or what type of care you may need, you can:

The helpline can provide an interpreter and allows you to talk to a person about your health or the health of someone you care for.

How long does COVID last?

Most people who have COVID-19 recover completely within days to weeks. This is not the same for everyone, and some people may have symptoms that last much longer. These symptoms can include feeling tired (fatigue), chest discomfort, a mild cough, and others.

Recovery depends on age, general health, severity of the COVID-19 infection, and if you have any other health conditions.

A woman who has tested positive to COVID-19 stares out of her window while in isolationIf you’ve had or have COVID-19, here’s what you need to know about recovery.

Staying healthy while in isolation

Some people with COVID-19 report not feeling much like eating, but you should try to eat healthy food regularly, and drink plenty of water. See I have COVID-19—now what? for more detail on looking after yourself (and others) physically and mentally in isolation.

How long do I have to isolate for?

Most people can end isolation 7 full days after taking the test that gave you the positive COVID-19 result. You must not have a fever, sore throat, runny nose, or a cough that is bad or getting worse, on day 7 of your isolation.

If you do have a fever, sore throat, runny nose, or a cough that is bad or getting worse, on day 7 of your isolation, you’ll need to remain in isolation until those symptoms have gone away.

You do not need another COVID-19 test to end your isolation period.

Some people still have a mild dry cough, mild fatigue, or loss of taste of smell after being sick with COVID-19 – you do not need to stay in isolation if you still have these symptoms.

If you are being treated by a Queensland Hospital and Health Service, you will be able to end your isolation when a nurse or a medical practitioner from the service tells you to.

Should I be concerned about ‘long COVID’?

Some people experience long-term health problems and can have COVID symptoms and feel unwell for many weeks or months after they no longer have the virus. This is called ‘long COVID’. Long COVID can affect even those who had mild disease and did not go to hospital.

If you're unsure whether you need medical care for your symptoms, or you're unsure what type of care you may need, you can:

  • use our COVID care self-checker
  • call the National Coronavirus Helpline 24/7 on 1800 020 080. Call the helpline if you need an interpreter or want to talk to a person about your health or the health of someone you care for.

People with long COVID often have the same or similar symptoms to what they had during their COVID-19 infection, such as fatigue, headaches, ‘brain fog’, sleep problems, depression, exercise intolerance, and loss of taste or smell. Some develop new symptoms.

The virus is not usually detectable in those with long COVID and they are unable to spread it.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) recommends having a check-up with your GP six weeks following a COVID-19 infection to discuss any ongoing symptoms, or earlier if needed.

I’ve had COVID-19. Am I immune now?  

If you have recovered from COVID-19, you have a low risk of getting it again for up to 12 weeks after infection as most people develop some immunity, so you will generally not need to quarantine or get a test if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 again in that period.

There is some evidence that reinfection can occur 12 weeks or more after the initial infection — so people who have recovered should be tested again if they develop new symptoms 12 weeks or more after they leave isolation.

It is also possible to be infected with the Delta variant, recover, and then be reinfected with the Omicron strain.

Do I need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19 in the past?

Yes, being fully vaccinated and boosted is highly recommended, even if you’ve had COVID-19.

Research shows the vaccines add protection even after you’ve had COVID-19:

  • Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 if you’ve already had it significantly enhances your immune protection
  • If you’ve had COVID-19 before and are not vaccinated, research shows your risk of getting re-infected is more than double the risk of those who get vaccinated after having COVID-19
  • A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that adults hospitalised with COVID-like sickness were 5.49 times more likely to test positive to COVID-19 if they were unvaccinated and had COVID-19 before, compared with those who had been vaccinated but not had COVID-19 before.

See 4 reasons why relying on your immune system to beat COVID-19 isn’t a safe bet.

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

You can get vaccinated or boosted as soon as you recover and are able to leave isolation.  You do not need to wait. Go to the Federal Government's vaccination clinic finder to find a clinic near you. If you still have symptoms or feel unwell, discuss getting vaccinated with your doctor first. Please do not attend a vaccination appointment if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) now advises that COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered (given on the same day) with an influenza vaccine, so you can get the flu vaccine at any time that's convenient.

Starting exercise

Discuss returning to exercise with your GP before starting.

More info

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Last updated: 27 April 2022