In the wake of the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, one of the most exhausting parts for many people is the fact that just about any upper respiratory symptom is leaving everyone wondering “Is it a cold? Is it allergies? Am I just tired? Or is it Covid?” The Omicron variant has added more confusion to the mix of this seemingly never-ending pandemic, as it doesn’t totally match those of previous strains and variants.
You’ve probably heard the seemingly good news that most cases are mild and do not require hospitalization among vaccinated individuals.
“Fortunately, Omicron has been causing less severe symptoms that are similar to seasonal allergies, such as runny nose, sore throat, and fatigue,” says Suneet Singh, M.D., an emergency medicine physician and medical director at CareHive Health in Austin, Texas. “Unlike previous variants, Omicron does not usually cause a loss of taste or smell.”
While those latter tell-tale symptoms made it easier to determine if you had Covid, the good news is that any of the above symptoms are pretty easy to treat at home no matter what they’re caused by.
In any case, you still want to do the best you can to avoid becoming infected at all, but it is reassuring to know you can take steps to pull through it on your own should you, unfortunately, become infected. As such, we consulted with an expert on what you should do if you have a mild infection that you’re left to treat at home.
Home treatment for Covid
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms that may indicate a mild or moderate case of Covid, Dr. Singh recommends:
Get plenty of rest
Drink plenty of water
Take fever-reducing medicine as needed
“Most importantly, though, if you have any questions about your symptoms, contact your physician,” he says. “Many providers now offer virtual care services which allow a safe and convenient means through telemedicine to help guide you back to the road to health.”
When to see a doctor about Covid
According to Dr. Singh, the biggest red flag for all Covid variants is the onset of breathing problems. This will typically feel like chest heaviness, combined with the inability to speak in full sentences, and the development of low oxygen levels. These are symptoms of severe cases of Covid, which would require hospital care with respiratory support and administration of medications such as Remdesivir, which is an FDA-approved antiviral medication that can only be administered via an IV.
Since the beginning of 2022, two new Covid medications, Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, have been approved by the FDA and introduced to the market, Dr. Singh adds.
“Both these medications are strictly for outpatient use and are FDA-approved for administration within the first five days of symptoms,” he explains. “At this time, they are restricted to people diagnosed with COVID and are at high risk of complications from the disease.” Patients at high risk include those with weakened immune systems, heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.
The key takeaway, though, is that people should reach out to their healthcare team to discuss if either of these medications is appropriate for their individual situation, Dr. Singh says.
The bottom line:Use your best judgment when it comes to treating a case of Covid at home. Stay in touch with your healthcare team to confirm that what you’re dealing with is mild and that you’re taking the appropriate course of action to avoid exposing others. And it can’t be said enough: if you’re not vaccinated yet, make your appointment today.
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