NICE issue UK guidelines on long COVID

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

On 18 December 2020, NICE issued brief guidelines on ‘identifying, assessing and managing’ the long-term effects of COVID-19 in the UK.

It includes recommendations for adults, children and young people.

The guidelines also include advice on services to support people with long COVID.

Long COVID is defined in three categories: acute, ongoing symptomatic and a post-COVID syndrome.

  • Acute symptoms that last longer than four weeks.
  • New or ongoing symptoms from 4-12 weeks or more after the start of acute COVID-19.
  • Post-COVID symptoms consistent with COVID-19 that continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

The risk of developing long COVID is not thought to be linked to the severity of the acute COVID‑19 (including whether they were in hospital).

Potential symptoms include.

  • Respiratory (difficulty breathing, cough, chest pain, palpitations).
  • General (tiredness, fever, pain).
  • Neurological (brain fog, memory, headache, poor sleep, neuropathy, dizziness, delirium).
  • Gastrointestinal (nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anorexia).
  • Musculoskeletal (joint or muscle pain).
  • Psychological/psychiatric (depression).
  • Ear, nose and throat (tinnitus, earache, sore throat and loss of taste and/or smell.
  • Skin-related (rashes).

The guidelines refer to the importance of individualising care, based on involving relevant specialists to manage symptoms. This should ideally be through a multidisciplinary service with a single point of care.

They include research questions based on areas of limited evidence (such as impact of age, sex and ethnicity on long COVID).


The guidelines are for health workers and commissioners.

This means that technically the document does not include information for people who actually have COVID-19.

They do not include specific treatment or management recommendations or address the situation if referral services are not immediately available.


NICE. COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19. NICE guideline [NG188]. (PDF)

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.