Anthony Fauci, M.D., head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and principal medical advisor to the president, stated during a press conference in late December that “all evidence point to a reduced severity of Omicron vs Delta.” The severity of an Omicron infection “may turn out to be milder,” he subsequently noted.
However, representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued a warning against considering Omicron a moderate variety. According to NPR, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated during a news event in mid-December that “Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant.” “We’re worried that omicron is being dismissed as’mild. We must now know that it is dangerous to underestimate this pathogen.
Doctors emphasize that even a moderate case of COVID-19 is something you don’t want to catch because it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be lying in bed contentedly catching up on your Netflix queue. What you should know is as follows.
What does having “Mild” COVID-19 mean?
According to Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, persons with minor symptoms may typically manage them at home. He adds that “most people don’t require hospitalization,” adding that those with a severe form of COVID-19 “often wind up in the intensive care unit (ICU) and may have to be put on a ventilator to assist them breathe.”
Additionally, some COVID-19 infected individuals may not exhibit any symptoms at all. Dr. Watkins asserts that “we are probably missing numerous cases here in the U.S.”
According to infectious disease specialist Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, a large variety of persons fall within the mild category. According to him, “within the mild category, some persons may have little to no symptoms while others may have difficulties doing their everyday duties for a while.”
Professor and director of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, Thomas Russo, M.D., concurs. According to him, the definition of “mild” in the actual world is “you have symptoms but you don’t end up in the hospital.” The vast spectrum exists in reality. At one extreme, you might only have a slight runny nose and a slight whiff of a sore throat, while at the other, you might have a very serious fever, extreme exhaustion, severe muscle aches and pains, headache, and a very serious cough that won’t go away.
According to Dr. Russo, those who fall into the “mild” category “may not get to the point where they have to go to the hospital, but they can feel awful and it may take them a while to get on the mend.” He continues by saying that people with more severe mild types of COVID-19 may also have protracted COVID, which can cause lasting weariness, loss of taste and smell, and brain fog.
Dr. Russo continues, “What we’re grouping together as’mild’ can be far from it.
What should you do if you suspect you may have COVID-19 and which symptoms should you pay particular attention to? What doctors want you to know is listed below.
Which COVID-19 symptoms fall into the mild category?
The following signs of mild disease are the most frequent. However, even though the following symptoms can frequently be managed at home, they can still be challenging to manage and may last longer than the typical cold or flu.
1. A fever or the chills
According to Susan Besser, M.D., a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, the medical community typically considers 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to be a fever and that this is typical with infections. According to her, a fever is typically a sign that your body is attempting to fight an infection. A fever’s side effect of chills is simply a fever.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a fever typically arises because the body is exerting significant effort to try to eradicate the virus or bacteria that caused it. These pathogens have a harder time surviving when your body temperature is higher than usual.
According to Dr. Watkins, one of the signature signs of COVID-19 is a cough. Typically, COVID-19 enters the lungs, where it can irritate the respiratory system and result in “dry cough” symptoms. This implies that no phlegm or mucus manifests. A cough can develop into pneumonia when a mild case gets worse.
3. A loss of taste or smell
According to a joint statement from the British Rhinological Society and British Association of Otorhinolaryngology, 30% of patients in South Korea who tested positive for COVID-19 and two out of every three people with confirmed cases of the disease in Germany both experienced a loss of smell.
According to Rachel Kaye, M.D., assistant professor of laryngology-voice, airway, and swallowing disorders at Rutgers University, “viruses are a common cause of changes to the sense of smell or taste that can occur with an upper respiratory infection.” “Viral infection can cause nasal cavity swelling and inflammation, which can both lead to nasal congestion and a change in smell. Additionally, there is some proof that viral infection can harm the neurologic structure of the smell receptors.
According to Dr. Besser, it is not surprising that a viral infection would make people feel absolutely exhausted. The fight against the virus is requiring a lot of energy from your body, she explains. It doesn’t give you a lot of energy left over.
5. Runny nose, congestion, and sputum production
Although sputum production, also known as extra mucus that you may cough up, is not particularly common with COVID-19, more than one-third of patients have nonetheless gone through it.
Sputum production is typical of many other respiratory conditions, such as the common cold and allergies, so you shouldn’t immediately assume you have COVID-19 if you only experience this symptom, advises David Cutler, M.D., a family medicine specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
6. Tongue sore
According to Dr. Besser, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that can cause post-nasal drip, which is when extra mucus drips down the back of your nose and throat and can irritate your throat. Additionally, a sore throat can result from coughing frequently.
7. Muscle aches and headaches
These are typical viral symptoms, according to Dr. Cutler. He explains, “When you have a viral infection, you frequently develop a fever, and that fever response can make your body feel achy all over. “With the flu and other infections as well, we see that.”
8. Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea
Dr. Besser says there isn’t a single explanation for why this occurs in some people, but she does have some theories. She speculates that it might be caused by increased post-nasal drip drainage into the stomach, which can be problematic. She adds that it might simply be the way the virus acts in some individuals.
A “unique sub-group” of COVID-19 patients experience digestive symptoms, according to research written up in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The digestive symptoms, especially diarrhea, can occasionally be the first sign of COVID-19 and may never or only occasionally manifest as fever or respiratory symptoms, according to the researchers. These symptoms, according to them, might be brought on by the virus entering your body via “a receptor found in both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract where it is expressed at nearly 100-fold higher levels than in respiratory organs.”
Consult a doctor right away if you experience abdominal pain, severe dehydration (excessively thirsty, weak, and lightheaded), and diarrhea that doesn’t improve after more than two days.
Which COVID-19 symptoms fall under the severe category?
The CDC advises going to the hospital if you exhibit any of the COVID-19 symptoms listed below because you may have a complex case:
1. Shortness of breath or breathing issues
Some COVID-19 patients may find it difficult to breathe normally or feel out of breath while performing activities they ordinarily had no trouble with, like climbing stairs. According to Dr. Watkins, this might be a sign that you have pneumonia or that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen.
2. Constant discomfort or pressure in the chest
According to Dr. Watkins, this could be a sign of pneumonia as well. Additionally, it might indicate a blood clot, a known virus-related complication. It might also be an indication of a pulmonary embolism, which happens when a blood clot escapes and travels to the lungs. Both conditions have the potential to be serious and fatal.
3. The inability to wake up or stay awake, or fresh confusion
Encephalopathy is a condition where an infection affects the brain, and COVID-19 can cause it. That may result in symptoms like disorientation and unconsciousness. The COVID-19 condition has had neurological effects on some patients, as documented in some case reports (see here and here).
4. Facial or lip bluishness
According to Dr. Watkins, this is a sign of oxygen deficiency. The oxygen in the air is taken by your lungs and transferred into your blood when you breathe in. Your blood is then transported to the rest of your body, carrying oxygen. Your lips or face may appear blue when your body isn’t able to take in enough oxygen, according to Dr. Watkins.
What should you do if COVID-19 symptoms are present?
Dr. Russo advises getting tested if you have mild COVID-19 symptoms, whether you do so with a PCR test, which is the most accurate COVID-19 test available, or with an FDA-approved at-home test.
Call your doctor if you receive a positive result. If you fall into a high-risk category for developing a severe COVID-19 illness, you might be eligible to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment or an anti-viral COVID-19 medication like Paxlovid. However, most people with mild symptoms are advised to treat their mild symptoms with over-the-counter medications.
Keep acetaminophen (Tylenol) on hand for fever, aches, and pains, and take it as directed on the label, advises Dr. Watkins. To get rid of your cough or sore throat, try taking cough medicine or drinking honey tea. Additionally advised are adequate hydration and rest. Call your doctor to discuss the best course of action if your symptoms worsen, though.
If you experience a mild form of COVID-19, you shouldn’t be alarmed, but Dr. Russo advises against dismissing it either. He warns, “Don’t get comfortable with Omicron.” “This country has a problem with both over- and under-vaccination. Omicron is not a harmless common cold virus, especially for those individuals. It may be fatal if used improperly.