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XX Notes: It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over, Sneaky Covid’s Top Symptoms Are Changing

Published on: 28 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 30 Sep, 2021

Maria Rayner

Maria Rayner‘s observational column from a woman’s perspective…

Headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, loss of smell: my guess is only that last one would have you running for a lateral flow test.

And yet, according to the highly respected ZOE website, if you’re double vaccinated, all of them comprise the top five symptoms of Covid you’re likely to experience.

You may have noticed my absence from The Dragon in recent weeks (No? Humour me, everyone likes to be missed.)

First it was holiday, then my son caught Coronavirus – too young to be vaccinated, but old enough to party at a music festival; definitely old enough to isolate with his brother, but requiring parental disruption in the form of transport when he was well enough to be moved.

Unlike his friends’ parents, we thought we’d dodged the Covid bullet. Hahaha, we smugly gloated – what luck for us that his big brother lived close and took him back to his student accommodation, taking the viral load for the family and allowing us to continue our summer activities.

(Actually, we were so racked with guilt that our older son couldn’t celebrate his 21st birthday that we sanctioned an online supermarket delivery so large that I’m sure there was a temporary rise in Tesco shares.)

However, it turns out that Covid is sneaky. Feeling double jabbed and invincible, I travelled by train to repatriate our youngest and the family car: doing the responsible thing, NHS Covid-19 app scanning.

Like many, I’d deleted it earlier in the summer when my husband was pinged for a day when he’d been in contact with no one outside of the family, apart from a petrol station attendant behind a Perspex screen. I thought I’d rather trust common sense.

Sure enough, given I’d mistakenly chosen to travel to Reading on festival day, the scanner turned red and I had to swab my nose with a cotton bud for eight days if I wanted to go about my usual day-to-day life. Which I did.

By day eight, my nose was so sore from the cotton buds that if I could have guaranteed a safe passage through the virus, I’d have begged for it.

Nose swabbing for covid tests is not pleasant

So it was so far, so good. To recap: I’d deftly navigated the Boardmaster Festival’s effect (a superspreading teenage Covid event), the Reading pingfest and a weekend stay 10 minutes from the UK’s virus hotspot, Newquay. Happy days.

But I’ll repeat, Covid is sneaky. The very day the app told me I could ditch the lateral flow tests, my friend rang me, embarrassed and apologetic: “We’ve tested positive.”

Ok, so she’d been sneezing at my (well-ventilated) house the previous day; her accompanying daughter was under 17, too young for the vaccination and unlikely to be symptomatic or spread the disease – so there were no high-risk factors, and I was invincible, right? Wrong.

It was back to daily lateral flow tests.  I had a headache, a bit of a sore throat – neither on the list of symptoms to get a PCR test – but I had a message from Test and Trace so ordered a home test. Even before this arrived my lateral flow turned positive, and the next day I woke up with a raging fever.

I won’t go into too many medical details. What I experienced was more like a bad head cold than flu and if I overdid the housework (there’s not a lot else to do when you’re isolating) the fatigue was overwhelming the next day. I had sinusitis too, and a rash – only one per cent of people get that, mainly children.

The important thing to note is that the symptoms have changed but the official advice hasn’t caught up.

Don’t wait until you lose your sense of smell to confirm you have Covid – that was day four, well into the infectious stage.

My son had the most awful cough for weeks – I coughed for just half an hour. According to ZOE research, if you’re double jabbed that is symptom eight; for the unvaccinated it is symptom five, down from the top three but still in the official list.

Bizarrely, for those who’ve been inoculated, either once or twice, sneezing is high on the list of symptoms. However, this was only mentioned once as a symptom of concern on one of my many calls from the isolation hotline (do they really need to ring at 8am on a Sunday?).

The virus is changing and it’s important not to get complacent. It’s horrible to have to call a friend or relative and tell them you might have given them Covid – it’s possible to do it anonymously if you’re worried. I’m pretty sure I stopped the spread but would have been mortified if I passed it on to someone who then got really ill.

My advice is: try to live a normal life, familiarise yourself with the new symptoms and switch that app back on. Be socially responsible.

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