These are the most common COVID symptoms this winter
We’re nearing the three-year mark of dealing with Covid-19 and if you feel like you’ve succumbed to the mental fatigue of following the news of the latest variant and how serious it might be compared to others, you’re not alone. In fact, you’ve likely already come down with the virus, possibly even more than once. But even if you’re of the opinion that you can’t live your life in fear, there’s no doubt that you’d still like to avoid getting sick if you can (especially if you were miserable when you were down for the count). Here, a public health expert breaks down the latest.
What are the latest symptoms to watch for?
According to Bernadette Boden Albala, MPH, Dr.P.H., director and founding dean of the University of California, Irvine’s Program in Public Health, just like with most winters, it’s not uncommon for many people to be dealing with coughing, congestion, and sore throats right now, all of which can signal the flu, common cold, RSV, and, yes, Covid.
In January 2022, the symptoms of the Omicron variant were more upper respiratory than symptoms of the original strain, which invaded the lungs. So far, the symptoms specific to the new Covid variants such as XBB.1.5, or the latest Omicron variant, are similar to other strains, including congestion, shortness of breath, fever, extreme tiredness, and dry coughs, she says. (Find out more about how to know whether it’s Covid or the flu here.)
How can you avoid getting sick?
While it may be difficult to completely avoid getting sick if you regularly see other people in public places or have kids in school, there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of falling ill.
“These viruses will continue if we don’t encourage up-to-date booster vaccinations and protective measures like masking and staying away from people when feeling sick, masking in an indoor situation with large crowds, and always practicing proper hand washing,” Albala says.
Keep up with vaccinations
Most of us know plenty of people who have been vaccinated and still ended up getting sick, which is a signifier of the importance of keeping up with getting boosters, as they have continued to help with antibody production to protect against infection and severe symptoms.
According to Albala, the latest Covid variants are also likely to more likely to evade immunity, so if you haven’t recently had Covid or been vaccinated against it, you’re more likely to be susceptible to infection.
“With infections rising due to XBB.1.5, Covid-19 vaccines have shown to be effective at preventing hospitalization and severe disease and even long Covid,” she says. “The updated bivalent Covid-19 booster is still the best protection against infection and, ultimately, severe illness.”
Should you still get tested if you have symptoms?
Since any wintertime illness symptoms will still beg the question “Is it a cold, flu, allergies, or Covid?” you should still get tested to avoid infecting family, friends, and others in your community and to know if you should mask up to protect others you come in contact with, Albala says.
Additionally, it’s also still important to get tested to assist with case reporting, which is crucial for research so organizations like the CDC and WHO can continue to monitor and identify any new variants of concern if they arise, Albala adds.
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