Like so many aspects of COVID-19, we’re still learning a lot about its symptoms and how they progress. If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, started feeling better, and then developed symptoms again, you may wonder if that’s normal. Can COVID-19 symptoms come and go like that?
Based on what we know right now, yes, COVID-19 symptoms can go up and down during the recovery period.
Some illnesses, like the common cold, run a pretty straight course: Your nose becomes stuffy, you feel fatigued, and then over the course of a few days your nose dries up and your energy returns. But people with COVID-19 report that their symptoms can go from good to bad overnight as they recover. They may be free from fever for a couple of days and then develop a new, low-grade fever. Or their cough may seem to be getting better, only to get much worse a day later.
As far as we know right now, these developments are normal, and most people do get better within a couple of weeks after their symptoms began, even if their symptoms spike and drop during the recovery period.
However, a few people seem to develop a chronic case of COVID-19. Sometimes described as “long-haulers,” these people cycle through the symptoms of COVID-19 for weeks on end. Some people report needing additional care for as much as 6 months after their initial diagnosis and subsequent “recovery.”
If you tested positive for COVID-19 (or believe you had the illness but never got tested) and experience symptoms that linger longer than a month, you should talk to your doctor. Keep a daily log of your symptoms: fever, coughing, fatigue level, shortness of breath -- any symptoms you experience. This information can help your doctor develop a plan of care that might help you feel better faster.