You have a scratchy throat. Your nose is running. You’re coughing, and on top of that you have a headache.
You’ve been here before, you might think. You have allergies. For some, the symptoms start in the spring, and we’re approaching the season when allergy symptoms are screaming, right?
But wait. Are these just allergy symptoms? Or are they symptoms of the predominant micron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 now prevalent in Cincinnati, Southwest Ohio, and Northern Kentucky.
The subspecies have driven up hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended wearing masks indoors in eight local counties.
We turned to the experts of the region about the problem that irritated Sim. Here’s what they said.
Don’t think, “It’s just allergies,” says Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, an infectious disease specialist at UC Health and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
The most common symptoms of the last subvariant passing through the region are scratchy throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, pain, sore throat and cough, he said. “There can be overlap and confusion with allergies.”
Her advice: “If you suddenly develop new symptoms, get tested for COVID.”
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Dr. Robert Frank, a pediatrician and director of the vaccine research center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said that COVID-19 “unfortunately” does not have unique symptoms. The current combination of symptoms can suggest anything from environmental allergies to the flu, he said.
“The only way to detect an infection is with a nasal swab,” Frank said. – So, what should be done?
If your child has a history of allergies, get tested for COVID-19 right away, she said. If the test is negative and the symptoms that follow are “exactly the same,” you might think it’s an allergy, but if your child has more symptoms from an infection — fever, muscle aches, yellow-green mucus, she said. , “You should get tested for COVID.”
Dr. Thomas Lamarre, an infectious disease specialist at Christian Hospital Health Network, said subvariant symptoms make it “challenging” to know what to do. Like Frank, Lamarre recommends testing for COVID-19 if your symptoms are new, atypical or worse than usual.
In addition, some wondered what to do to protect others, Lamarre said, “Are you going to visit your grandmother? Get tested for COVID-19 before you go home, just to be sure.”
Dr. Stephen Feagins, chief clinical officer at Mercy Health-Cincinnati, said what seems old for many when it comes to what to do in the event of an infection is now tried and true.
If you test positive, self-isolate for five days, wear a mask five more times when you’re not at home, and consider wearing a mask at home if others are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. away from others.
For people who aren’t infected but are concerned about the rate of community spread, Feagins, who is Hamilton County’s chief public health physician, suggested thinking about how many people are indoors and don’t have masks before going somewhere.
“If you’re uncomfortable, just leave,” he said. “And wearing a mask never hurts.”
The advice may sound familiar to everyone. How long have you been listening to public health guidance on how to protect yourself from COVID-19?
But Lamarre notes that people are coming to their decisions from a different place than they did when the pandemic started.
“Our society has moved to assess individual risk related to exposure to COVID-19.”
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Experts all point to vaccines as the best protection against COVID-19:
- Lamarre – “Vaccines are the key to slowing pandemics, reducing symptomatic infections, keeping people out of the hospital and saving lives.”
- Feagins – “Vaccine and booster have been shown to be very effective in preventing severe disease, which means hospitalization. Starting a series of vaccines will never happen.”
- Fichtenbaum – “Vaccines are one of the components that keep people out of the hospital. It’s better to have some immunity than no immunity. Getting vaccinated and boosting is very important.”
- Frank – “Vaccination is still important and our best protection. Even if you have COVID, the next dose of vaccine will give you extra protection.”