Queen Elizabeth of England has COVID-19, it has been confirmed; she is experiencing mild symptoms and has been vaccinated and boosted. And she’s hardly alone in getting infected. Omicron has proven to be much more contagious than any variant of COVID-19 so far and the increase in numbers show it. Millions of people have tested positive in the U.S. and the latest surge that seems never-ending is mostly due to Omicron. While cases are dropping in some areas and there’s good reason to be optimistic, the virus is still spreading and infecting thousands daily. Although it can seem impossible, there are ways to avoid catching Omicron if precautions are taken like constant hand washing, wearing a mask, social distancing and getting vaccinated, which makes the illness less severe if you do get the virus. That said, if you find yourself not feeling well and asking if you have Omicron, Eat This, Not That! Health talked with experts who explained what the first signs of the virus are and when to seek medical care. But always see a doctor and consult with your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Seema Bonney, the founder and medical director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia says, “The most common primary symptoms of Omicron are a runny nose and a headache.” Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse with the The Mesothelioma Center adds, “Many patients with the Omicron variant are reporting higher incidences of runny nose, headache, sneezing, fatigue and sore throat. Like the flu, these symptoms can vary in intensity and length. You may only experience a sore throat or notice that you are sneezing more frequently. If you begin to experience symptoms of COVID-19, take a test to determine if you need to self-isolate or inform others with whom you’ve had recent contact.”
Marchese explains, “Previous variants of SARS-CoV-2 tended to produce symptoms around a week after infection. Omicron is known to replicate faster and can produce symptoms in as little as two to three days after infection. Symptom length will depend on the level of infection. Omicron tends to replicate more in the upper respiratory tract than the lower, making symptoms more akin to bronchitis than pneumonia. Patients can expect sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and cough which could last as little as a week up to several months.” Dr. Bonney says, “Symptoms typically start within 2-3 days of infection and typically last for 3-5 days.”
“Plenty of rest to help fight the virus, drink fluids and stay well hydrated and use ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat headaches or muscle aches,” Dr. Bonney states. “You treat mild symptoms of Omicron with over-the-counter remedies such as fever-reduces or cough suppressants,” says Marchese. “Tylenol, Motrin, NyQuil, Mucinex and similar medications can help reduce muscle aches, fevers, sinus congestion and cough. The FDA has recently authorized a monoclonal antibody treatment for patients with severe disease at risk of hospitalization.”
Dr. Bonney says, “If you experience a significant or worsening cough, low oxygen levels, difficulty breathing, chest pain or dizziness seek medical care or call 911 in an emergency.” Marchese reminds us to, “always seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen. If you have been using over-the-counter medications but symptoms persist for more than a few days, contact your primary care physician or a walk-in clinic. Symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and fever can be potentially life-threatening if they worsen without treatment. If you begin to have trouble breathing or a fever that does not resolve, seek medical attention at an Emergency Department immediately.”
Marchese states, “There is no reason why anyone should willingly expose themselves to any variant of COVID-19. Omicron can cause long-term and severe complications, such as stroke, pneumonia and heart disease in patients who are otherwise healthy. There is evidence that infection with and recovery from the Omicron variant may provide short-term boosted immunity in addition to the vaccine. However, this immunity may only last a couple months or less and does not guarantee a reinfection with potentially more severe symptoms. Health experts do not recommend any willful infection with the COVID-19 virus. The best way to protect yourself from any variant of COVID-19 is to follow CDC guidelines such as getting fully vaccinated, practicing social distancing and hand washing, wearing a face mask, and avoiding crowded areas.”
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to live your healthiest life, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.