According to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, “everyone in New South Wales at some point will get Omicron”. And, with the cases we’ve seen in recent days, all the RAT positive posts on social media and screenshots of text messages from NSW Health in the group chat, it’s seeming more and more likely you’re gonna get it.
But don’t stress, for a lot of young people that are vaccinated, COVID is at worse a really bad fkn flu. That said, one of the hardest things about getting it right now is the lack of information and support there is for people who test positive. It’s a virus that a lot of us can manage at home but knowing that doesn’t make the symptoms any easier to deal with.
Trust me, as someone who’s had it over the holiday period, I know exactly how terrifying it is to not know how to manage it at home and how easy it is to let your anxiety spiral over theories about what can help and harm your recovery.
Fortunately, the World Health Organisation has published a handy 25-page guide on how to manage a COVID illness at home. So, for all you Omg icon positive peeps with symptoms, here are the biggest takeaways we found from WHO’s guide to recovering from a mild COVID illness.
Know the red flags
First, if you experience any of the following, WHO says you should contact a health care professional:
- Shortness of breath with minimal activity that doesn’t improve with any positions that assist with breathlessness or breathing control techniques.
- Chest pain, a racing heartbeat or dizziness in certain positions or during exercise or any type of activity.
- A worsening feeling of confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
- Weakness in your face, arm or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- A worsened anxiety or thoughts of suicide ideation.
Be kind to yourself and your body
This sounds almost obvious but if you have COVID and are symptomatic, there’s a high chance you’re experiencing low energy levels. That can make doing everyday tasks like making your bed or cooking difficult.
So, WHO suggests pacing yourself by prioritising and planning around your sickness. Think of the most important activities or tasks that “need” to be done vs the ones you “want” to do. Also, try not to spread them out over a week instead of fitting them all in one day.
In that same way, plan times of the day where you can recharge – WHO says you should take “as many times as needed throughout the day”.
WHO also notes that COVID can leave you feeling mentally fatigued as well, which can affect your memory and learning and make thinking, concentrating, or taking in new information difficult. As such, “exposing your body and mind to these demands in a regular and controlled way [can] support your progressive recovery”.
If you have a persistent cough
If you have a persistent cough that even extends beyond your isolation period, try doing the following:
- Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
- Suck on low-sugar-boiled sweets.
- The second you feel the urge to cough, close your mouth and cover it with your hand. Then, try to swallow it. Pause your breathing and then breath in and out through your nose gently.
- If your cough is due to acid reflux, lay on your side or use pillows to keep your head up in bed.
If you have a sore throat
If you have a sore throat, the need to clear your throat regularly or a hoarse voice, try to do the following:
- Hydrate: “Sip water throughout the day to keep your voice working”.
- Try not to strain your voice and talk too much.
- Cover your head with a towel and inhale steam from a bowl of boiling water for ten to 15 minutes.
If you have lost your sense of smell or taste
If you have lost the ability to smell a tray of roasted garlic or taste some chilli, try the following:
- Maintain healthy oral hygiene including brushing your teeth twice a day.
- Train your nose to smell again by sniffing things like lemons, roses, cloves and eucalyptus twice a day for 20 seconds each.
- Add flavourful herbs and spices like chilli and lemon juice to your meals. Fair warning though, if you suffer from gastric reflux, this may worsen it.
If you want to improve your breathing
Again, if you feel significantly short of breath – a paramedic told me that if you walk up some stairs and it feels like you ran a marathon, call 000 – go to the hospital. However, if it’s manageable, here’s how to improve your breathing at home:
- Try to lay flat on your stomach or lay on your side with your head propped up by pillows.
- Sit in a comfortable position and put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Slowly breathe in through your nose and then out through your mouth. Make sure your breaths are slow, relaxed, and smooth, and use as little effort as possible.
Make sure you have enough good quality sleep each night.
According to WHO, sleep is one of the best treatments for mild COVID symptoms. Having a proper sleep routine and getting eight hours of uninterrupted deep sleep can do wonders for your body and your anxiety.
To improve your well-being and encourage your recovery, use a symptoms tracking report
To help track your symptoms and ease your anxiety, WHO suggests recording your symptoms on a chart and numbering how severe they are. We’ve included a screenshot of the report they use in the doc below.
Don’t rush yourself to get back to the gym
If you’re recovering from COVID at home and itching to get back to the gym, WHO urges not to go too hard too quickly because doing so may actually worsen any fatigue or other symptoms you’re feeling, and can last for hours or days after. It can also take 24 hours or longer to recover and affect your energy levels, concentration, sleep and memory, and cause muscle/joint pains and flu-like symptoms.”
It’s also worth mentioning that no exercise should be painful. If you start to experience pain, particularly chest pain, or feel faint or dizzy mid-workout, stop immediately and don’t exercise again until you’ve been examined by a health care professional.
Instead, slowly ease back into your routine via their five-step plan. Basically, WHO’s recommended approach to exercise when you have COVID is based on a system called the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) that ranks activities of differing degrees of intensity by a scale of one to ten.
Okay so here’s how to get back into exercise (if you want) after catching COVID:
- Start off with some controlled breathing exercises, gentle walking, stretching and balance exercises. Each stretch should be done gently and held for 15-20 seconds. If you feel this uses up more than a really easy amount of energy (1 on the Borg scale) then you’re not ready for this and should continue to rest.
- From there, WHO recommends low-intensity activity like walking and light household and grade tasks, so long as doing them doesn’t feel more than a 3 on the scale. If it’s a 2 or 3, you can slowly increase the time spent doing these activities by 10-15mins per day.
- You need to spend a full week doing that before your body is ready for moderate-intensity activity – going up and down stairs, jogging, inclines and resistance exercises. Here, you should only be feeling like you’re spending up to an RPE score of 5 or less.
- From there, you can re-introduce moderate-intensity exercises with coordination and functioning skills like running, cycling and swimming. Your RPE score shouldn’t be anything larger than 7.
- If you can safely manage that, then you can return to your regular workout routine post-symptoms. At the end of the day, you know your body and your limits but don’t try to force yourself to workout. That’ll just make your symptoms worse.
As always, know your body and your limits. Don’t push yourself and recognise that your body needs rest. Get boosted when you can, contact your GP if you have concerns and if you think you’re in immediate danger, call 000.