We entered 2022 while watching Omicron, the new variant of COVID-19, drop into the country with the inevitability of the New Year’s ball in Times Square. Coronavirus infects over 300,000 Americans every day — setting the record in the short but violent pandemic history. Between running countless COVID tests for himself and his family, your Eat This, Not That! Health writer chatted with a New York City health worker who fought COVID from both sides— first while saving lives on the RiCU respiratory intensive care unit and last week being infected herself, along with her whole family. Read on to find out what she wants you to know and the symptoms she faced—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Being a health worker, E.W., who is an operating nurse with over ten years of NYC hospital experience, was one of the first people to get COVID vaccine. Her husband got his as soon as he was eligible. Unfortunately, she was also among the first batch of people in New York to get Omicron, since she’s on the frontlines.
“I assist during very complicated surgeries and I’m trained to avoid getting or spreading infections. This is what I do for a living. But I still got Omicron. And my family too. This virus is extremely infectious. Fortunately, thanks to our vaccinations I didn’t end up in the same unit that I used to work,” E.W. said. Read on to learn about her exact symptoms.
“I tested positive on Tuesday evening and until Sunday afternoon I felt absolutely fine without any symptoms,” E.W. said. “But then it hit me—strong with a sore throat, massive headache, runny nose and fever. Now I’m at day 5 of this ordeal and I still feel the same, meaning I feel bad,” E.W. said.
“Individuals with Omicron more commonly report early symptoms of rhinorrhea (a runny nose), a scratchy throat (as opposed to an actually sore throat), a low fever, and general fatigue or malaise but not as marked or notable as with Delta,” Dr. J. Wes Ulm, MD, Ph.D., a physician-researcher and part of the Heroes of the COVID Crisis Series, confirms.
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“And then there was the headache. Horrible pain was pulsating in half of my head for some reason. My sister—who was also vaccinated—also suffered from constant headaches, but not as much strong as constant,” E.W. said.
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“I was lucky to escape body pains that troubled my husband. He suffered a low-grade fever (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and was also a little congested. But it was muscle and body pains, especially in the lower extremities, that were the most annoying symptoms for him. It was so uncomfortable that he can’t sleep at night. Tylenol helped him a bit, but it has been going on for 3 days now,” E.W. reported.
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“My sister also suffers from constant fatigue. She feels sleepy but is not able to fall asleep. She can only lie down. Her muscle pain is horrible. She described it as feeling after the worst workout with her trainer. On top of that she complained about sweats, chills, and runny nose,” E.W. said.
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E.W.’s sister also complained about ringing in her ears. This is a sign of tinnitus—one of the most surprising symptoms of COVID. A study in Nature found COVID may enter through your ear—and damage it, causing tinnitus or dizziness. “Viral infections are a common reason for hearing loss and vestibular dysfunction,” it concludes. “A growing number of sensory symptoms have been linked to” COVID, including “new-onset of hearing loss, tinnitus and/or dizziness.” Their findings “show that human and mouse inner ear cells have the molecular machinery to allow SARS-CoV-2 entry. We further show that SARS-CoV-2 can infect specific human inner ear cell types. Our findings suggest that inner ear infection may underlie COVID-19-associated problems with hearing and balance.”
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“My niece was yet another person in our family who got COVID. She is 13, double vaccinated and she passed it with relatively mild symptoms including sneezing, sore throat, a runny nose. For her it felt like a common cold,” E.W. said.
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When the first COVD wave hit the United States, E.W. was delegated to the respiratory intensive care unit. “One of my nurse colleagues ended up in this unit. She was there for four weeks, she “got infected by one of the patients,” E.W. says. “I was taking care of patients connected to the respirators that help them breathe. Most of them were getting worse, not better. Often I was taking my iPad and video-called their families to show that they are still alive or to say goodbyes. It made me very depressed.” Patients are still filling hospitals—even if Omicron is considered less severe, so many people overall are catching it, overwhelming many medical centers.
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If you’re having any symptoms that are unusual, get tested for COVID ASAP and self-isolate until you know the results. If you test positive for COVID, the CDC now advises that you isolate for five days after the date any symptoms started (as long as your symptoms are improving and you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using any fever-reducing medications). If you test positive but don’t have symptoms, you should isolate for five days from the date of your COVID test. And follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated 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 protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.