August 17, 2022

How Many Times Can You Get COVID-19?

COVID-19 reinfections are on the rise, and there’s no limit to how many times you can get infected

Person floating by balloons over a sea of COVID viruses.

Maybe you’ve been there before. The body aches. The loss of smell and taste. The positive test.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Maybe you thought you were done with COVID-19. Maybe you thought it was like chickenpox — if you’ve had it once, you’re immune forever, and you can put your worries away for good.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. You can get COVID-19 more than once. Many times, in fact.

“The thing to remember is that viruses are very smart,” says critical care physician Abhijit Duggal, MD. “The COVID-19 virus structure changes, and it can change enough that our body’s immune system is not able to recognize the virus as something it was exposed to in the past. Your chances for COVID-19 reinfection increase when the virus changes enough that your body doesn’t remember it.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, reinfection is becoming the new norm, with people contracting the virus again and again. We talked with Dr. Duggal about how many times you can be infected with COVID-19 and why reinfection happens.

Can you get COVID-19 multiple times?

You might wonder how many times can you get COVID-19. That line from the movie Mean Girls comes to mind: The limit does not exist.

“Think about it this way: There’s no set number of how many colds you can get over your lifetime. I can’t say, ‘I’ve gotten a cold 10 times in my lifetime. There’s no way I’m not going to get it 11 times,’” Dr. Duggal explains. “The same is true of COVID-19. If you get exposed to a new variant, the risk of reinfection is always there.”

The reason is that while some viruses, like chickenpox, stay relatively the same over time, the COVID-19 virus is more like the flu virus. It’s a master of self-preservation and mutation.


After your body successfully fights off a variant of COVID-19, or gets the COVID-19 vaccine, your immune system can spot the offending virus when it tries to come back. It kicks out the virus like a bouncer on patrol for a troublesome club-hopper.

If that customer returns wearing sunglasses and a fake mustache a few months later, though, the bouncer may not recognize them and will open up the velvet ropes to usher them into the party. That’s how it is when the COVID-19 virus mutates. It changes itself just enough to slip by your body’s defenses undetected.

If you’re vaccinated and following all the recommended safety measures, Dr. Duggal says your risk of reinfection is lower. And thankfully, if you get COVID-19 again, it’s likely going to be less severe. “But we have to be mindful that having been infected doesn’t give you immunity from other variants. You can’t bank on that,” he adds.

How long does COVID immunity last after infection?

Research on when you can be reinfected with COVID-19 is mixed. Some studies have suggested that after you have been infected with COVID-19, you may be protected from reinfection for 10 months or more. Others say immunity following recovery from COVID-19 only lasts a few weeks, if even that.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says research is ongoing to better understand how soon people can be reinfected.

The good news is that if you get COVID-19 again, it’s likely to be less severe than your first time around.

“We are seeing that in people who have a good, robust immunity — people who have been infected before and/or who are vaccinated and have strong immune systems — the severity of their disease from COVID-19 reinfection is pretty low,” Dr. Duggal says.


People who have weakened immune systems because of chronic illness, medication or other factors, however, may still be at a higher risk for more serious infections, even on a second or third go-round.

Protection from reinfection

“There are so many variables that play into your chances for being reinfected with COVID-19,” Dr. Duggal says. “Prior COVID-19 exposure. Your vaccination status. The prevention measures you’re taking to protect yourself. The ways the virus itself is changing over time. It all plays into your risk of infection.”

Keeping yourself safe from getting COVID-19 again means remaining vigilant about taking precautions against virus transmission. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best ways to lower your risk for COVID-19, in addition to measures like hand-washing, mask-wearing, social distancing and keeping your distance from sick people, Dr. Duggal says.

Having COVID-19 once doesn’t grant you lasting immunity from future infection. As long as the virus continues to mutate, new variants will emerge that can sneak past your body’s bouncers … er, immune system.

Related Articles

someone taking an at-home covid test
March 21, 2023
Can You Still Use an Expired COVID-19 Test?

Antibodies used to detect the virus can weaken over time, so results may not be reliable

person getting sick with covid twice
January 27, 2023
Yes, You Can Get COVID-19 Twice (and Even More)

Despite what you’ve heard or hoped, no one is 100% protected

Two people wear face masks as snow falls around them.
October 25, 2022
Prepping for Flurona and a Twindemic (COVID-19 and the Flu)

Take extra care this season by treating flu-like symptoms as if you have COVID-19

Child tired and not engaged during e-learning class.
October 5, 2022
What To Know About Long COVID in Kids

Fatigue, mood swings and poor concentration are key symptoms

Child receiving Covid-19 booster shot from a healthcare worker.
September 8, 2022
What To Know About COVID-19 Booster Shots for Children

Vaccination is important because immunity wanes over time and reinfections are possible

Kids playing soccer outside.
September 1, 2022
When Can Kids Return to Sports After COVID-19?

It depends on how sick they were

Person in wheel chair with oxygen tank with virus floating in air.
August 19, 2022
How To Manage Fatigue and Other Long COVID Symptoms

You can feel tired and exhausted for months after your initial infection

Person with briefcase walking, looking fatigued
August 18, 2022
Can COVID-19 Cause Diabetes?

Early studies have linked the two, but more research is needed

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try