As new omicron subvariant variants continue to spread, bringing mild COVID symptoms to some who get infected, more people are experiencing symptoms, health officials have said.
So what can you do to help yourself from home?
Chicago’s top doctor addressed questions surrounding over-the-counter treatment for mild COVID symptoms Tuesday.
“Over-the-counter stuff really can be quite good,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “So don’t be afraid of taking some over-the-counter cough drops or cold and flu medication, or especially Tylenol or ibuprofen – assuming that you don’t have some other condition where you shouldn’t take those.”
Even if symptoms are mild and don’t require hospitalization, Arwady urged anyone experiencing them to contact their doctor.
“If you are having COVID, like I want you in touch with your doctor’s office, mostly to make sure that you or anybody doesn’t need Paxlovid right?” Arwady said.
Currently, the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants account for most reported cases this summer.
Those subvariants have caused more upper respiratory, cold and flu-like symptoms, according to Arwady. That incudes things like fever, night sweats and sore throat. Some patients, though not all, are again experiencing a loss of taste and smell.
Arwady has also said previously that a lingering cough is common among those infected by the most recent COVID variants.
Some doctors and researchers believe that because these new variants spread so rapidly, they more commonly impact mucosal immunity as opposed to longer-lasting immunity, Arwady noted.
The latest variants tend to sit in the nasal passage and cause infection, she said, instead of settling in the lungs. That shift could lead to a nasal COVID vaccine in the future, according to Arwady.
The U.K., where BA.4 and BA.5 infections also account for the majority of recent COVID cases, reported runny nose, sore throat, headache, persistent cough and fatigue as its most common symptoms last week.
Less than one-third of people surveyed reported fevers, according to data from the Zoe COVID Symptom Study, which allows people to self-report symptoms through smartphone apps. The symptoms are consistent with those reported in the spring, when the BA.2 subvariant was dominant in the country.
According to the University of California Davis Health, the reported symptoms of BA.5 are similar to previous COVID variants: fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, headaches, muscle pain and fatigue. At this point, there doesn’t appear to be a difference in the symptoms seen in BA.4 or BA.5 cases, compared to earlier omicron strains.