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In two short weeks, as the year 2021 closed out, the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case counts to record levels. At a time when many people were off to enjoy the company of family and friends for the first time in a long, long time, and just about to celebrate the holiday season, the threat of a new surge surfaced.

2022 came in with millions of Americans having traveled back home to start school and work again, with absolutely no one sure enough of what was coming in with the tide that was Omicron, an impending surge of infections fast on the rise.

Have you braced for impact?

The rapid spread of the highly contagious variant is still racing across the country, wreaking havoc in its path and leaving every state with case counts spiking like crazy, following a tremendous record high and disproportionate increase in hospitalizations. To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a total of 5,562,110 active cases in the last 7 days and that’s only within the United States.

So, with every side of the pandemic equation showing obvious signs of possible infection, where are we to go? Speculations run high. Many experts have been saying that this new surge might spell the end of the pandemic, but this is rather unlikely and highly unrealistic.

Better than holding on to false hopes, here is a day in, day out guide to help everyone track daily symptoms of what it is like to be infected with COVID-19.

What’s it like to be infected

At the onset, you need to be able to track and know when the symptoms began to show. Timing is relevant in making better decisions that concern hospitalization and isolation. Marking your calendars at the first sign of illness, tracking fever highs and lows, and oxygen levels are the most important steps you should set in place when monitoring COVID 19.

Remember that everyone is different. Symptoms might not be the same for you and me, and this is a truth that has been observed by most medical experts everywhere. Covid-19 has been unpredictable in the range of symptoms it can cause. But when it turns serious, it often follows a consistent pattern.

Days five through 10 of the illness are often the most worrisome time for respiratory complications of Covid-19, particularly for older patients and those with underlying conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes.

Younger patients who develop complications may begin struggling a little later, as late as days 10 to 12. Most people who reach day 14 without any worrying symptoms (other than feeling miserable and fatigued) are likely to be on the road to recovery.

However, it’s important to call a doctor if you have shortness of breath or any concerning symptom no matter what day of illness you are on. And don’t panic if you still feel lousy after a week of illness. It’s common for Covid symptoms to linger, and feeling unwell for more than a week doesn’t always mean you need medical treatment.

Here’s a look at the timeline of Covid symptoms. While this can serve as a general guide, symptoms can appear at any time. Always listen to your body and consult with a doctor for guidance about your specific case.

Days 1 to 3

Early symptoms of Covid-19 vary widely. It can start with a tickle in your throat, a cough, fever, headache, and feeling winded, or just a little pressure in your chest. Sometimes it begins with a bout of diarrhea. Some people just feel tired and lose their sense of taste and smell. Many people have several symptoms but no fever. Some patients with gastrointestinal symptoms go on to develop respiratory symptoms, while others don’t.

Days 4 to 6

Some never develop more than mild symptoms, or none at all. Others begin to feel terrible, with an ever-present fever, aches, chills, cough, and an inability to get comfortable. Some children and younger adults with mild disease may develop rashes, including itchy red patches, swelling, or blistering on the toes or fingers, similar to frostbite. The exact timing isn’t clear, and the symptom may appear early in the infection or after it has passed.

Days 7 to 8

For some lucky patients with mild illness, the worst is over after a week. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that even if you feel better, you still should wait 10 days after symptoms start, and go 24 hours without a fever, before leaving isolation. But some patients who have felt terrible continue to feel terrible or get worse. And some patients might start to feel better briefly then take a turn for the worse. Patients should monitor their oxygen levels and check-in with a doctor if they start to feel unwell.

Days 8 to 12

Monitoring should continue for the second week of illness. Patients may feel better sleeping on their stomachs or sides. Days eight to 12 are when we have a really good idea if someone is going to get better or get worse, the major thing to worry about is a worsening at eight to 12 days — increasing shortness of breath, worsening cough. A home oxygen monitor can signal if someone needs to come in. Otherwise, patients should talk to their doctors. Don’t wait too long for blood oxygen levels to get worse.

Days 13 to 14

Patients who had mild illness should be well recovered. Patients who had worse symptoms but maintained normal oxygen levels should feel mostly recovered after two weeks, although many patients report lingering fatigue and other issues. Doctors advise a slow return to activity, even if you have a mild or moderate illness. Patients with severe symptoms and those who needed additional treatment because of low oxygen may still feel unwell and fatigued and take far longer to recover.

As we gather more data on Omicron from hospitals and medical centers across the country, let us all remember to stay safe and follow protocols as advised by doctors and medical experts: Treat the current wave of infections no different from the last one.

And for crying out loud, get yourself vaccinated. NOW.

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