As the government reduces updates on the number of COVID-19 cases, it may seem like the virus has faded from public consciousness.
But experts say Australia is now in its eighth wave of COVID-19.
All states and territories have seen an increase in confirmed cases and hospitalizations over the past two and a half months, according to data from the Federal Department of Health.
As case numbers rise in the run-up to Christmas, here’s a reminder of the symptoms to look out for and expert advice on how to beat them quickly.
Are there any new COVID symptoms?
The most common symptoms haven’t changed much, even with new COVID variants such as Pirola circulating.
Here are the main symptoms:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
Some of the less common symptoms include:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Temporary loss of smell and/or taste
What is the cause of the eighth wave of COVID-19?
Mater Health infectious disease doctor Paul Griffin says the virus has evolved.
“The reason for this eighth wave is that we have seen a significant change in the COVID situation,” says Dr. Griffin.
“Every time the virus changes, our protection from previous infection or vaccination decreases, allowing more people to become infected, get sick and end up in the hospital.”
Ipswich GP Aletia Johnson says cases are also increasing because people are not as careful as they were at the start of the pandemic.
“People are not as protective of others, or of themselves,” says Dr. Johnson.
“Maybe they already had COVID and didn’t get that sick.
“Or maybe they’ve had it a few times now and have built up their immunity.
“But having COVID once doesn’t mean you won’t get it again.”
How to beat COVID-19 quickly
The basic advice of drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of rest hasn’t changed since the pandemic began.
Health Direct says drinking warm liquids can help soothe a sore throat.
Over-the-counter medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help treat pain and fever.
Health Direct recommends making sure your room has good air circulation and stresses that you should avoid smoking while recovering from the virus.
Here is advice from Dr. Griffin and Dr. Johnson:
- Keep up to date with your vaccinations: Talk to your GP or pharmacist to get the right advice for you. Ask if you are eligible for another booster
- Take good care of yourself: stay well hydrated, get enough rest, and maintain a healthy, healthy diet.
- Try to minimize the spread where possible: wash your hands and wear a mask.
- Get tested: Many viruses can resemble COVID; so find out exactly what you’re dealing with
- Make a plan: Prepare for what you will do if you develop COVID symptoms, especially if you are in a high-risk category (based on your age and if you are immunocompromised). For example, some eligible Australians may have access to antiviral drugs and these work best when used quickly.
“Remember, the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting COVID – and especially getting COVID more seriously – is vaccination,” says Dr. Griffin.
When do you get back to normal after having COVID?
There is no uniform time frame for recovery.
But for the majority of people who get mild symptoms of COVID-19, the effects of the virus typically last seven to 10 days on average.
However, this time may lengthen for people who develop a more severe COVID attack.
“You don’t have to be in a high-risk group to get more COVID,” Dr. Griffin says.
“For those who get significant COVID, it may persist for a longer period of time and usually lasts about a small number of weeks.
“From there, a portion of them will move on to long COVID.
“In Australia, the proportion of people who suffer long COVID is around 5 per cent, but some suggest it could be lower or higher.”
And there’s something else to consider: COVID fatigue.
What is COVID-19 fatigue and how long does it last?
Some people use the term “COVID fatigue” to describe being tired of talking and hearing about the virus.
Others use it to describe feeling exhausted, weak, and mentally exhausted during and after being infected with COVID-19 – and that’s what we’re focusing on here.
The term “fatigue” can mean different things to different people.
“Some people report problems with memory (and) concentration, don’t feel refreshed when they wake up, have emotions all over the place, and sometimes experience reduced executive function,” says Dr. Johnson.
“This may include difficulty planning your day or remembering what you need to do.”
It can also mean feeling really tired or exhausted after activities that you wouldn’t have felt tired before, such as a short walk to the mailbox, which feels like a marathon.
Dr. Johnson says COVID fatigue and brain fog can last up to about two months.
“Fatigue is an important symptom of a number of different infections and this is certainly true for COVID,” says Dr. Griffin.
“This is one of the symptoms of long COVID but it is not necessarily necessary to have long COVID to have fatigue.
“It’s actually quite expected, especially for people who have had a more significant infection.”
How to get rid of COVID fatigue?
Slow and steady wins the race, says Dr. Johnson.
“A lot of people are trying to get to work and get through it by returning to their normal daily activities.
“But it can be the worst thing to do because it makes you more exhausted and uses a lot of brain function.
“If you need to rest, rest.
“You’re going to have good days and bad days, and a lot of times it feels like you’re taking two steps forward, one step back.”
Here are some other things you could do to help:
- Resume exercise gradually
- Prioritize sleep
- Eat nutritious foods
Dr Johnson advises monitoring your fatigue: if your recovery declines, consult your GP.