For some people, symptoms of COVID-19 may only last a few days. But it’s not the same for everyone, as symptoms can last for weeks or potentially linger for months.
With the number of cases still rising, some may wonder if those cold or allergy symptoms they are experiencing are in fact COVID. Also, with the presence of new variants such as BA.5 and BA.2.75, could the symptoms last longer than before?
According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus. The agency says most people with COVID-19 “get better within days to weeks of infection.”
Under current guidelines, people who contract COVID are advised to self-isolate for five days, followed by an additional five days of strict mask use. After that, the risk of spreading the disease decreases “significantly,” according to Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
However, you won’t want to let your guard down just yet. It is possible that people will stay positive for longer due to the ultra-contagious BA.5 omicron subvariant.
“I wouldn’t say the incubation period is getting shorter…it’s getting shorter than it was originally, but we often see people just having respiratory symptoms seniors or have a cold, they sometimes have a sore throat, they have a fever or don’t see much of this serious illness – especially in people who are up to date with the vaccine because the secondary part of your immune system comes into action and helps — but we’re seeing people…they can stay positive for a little longer,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a previous Q&A. – Answers live on Facebook.
Generally speaking, even 10 days post-COVID, some symptoms may be present. As a rule, they are no longer of concern.
“…If you are generally feeling well, especially if what lingers is a cough or a bit of a cough tends to be the last thing to go away after a virus, you are unlikely to continue spreading illness,” explained Arwady.
Doctors are warning that people can still test positive months after contracting COVID-19, especially when using a PCR test.
If you’re still worried about spreading the disease, getting tested again can give you some peace of mind. If you’re not feeling well, always make sure to wear a mask, Arwady said. However, if you take a test and the results are negative, it is “very unlikely” that you are contagious.
For those who continue to experience symptoms weeks after infection, a long COVID is a possibility. Defined as long-term effects following an infection, long-lasting COVID symptoms can range from a wide variety of ailments, some of which may even disappear and then return later.
The conditions, which include brain fog, headaches and blurred vision, can last for weeks, months or even years.
“Post-COVID conditions may not affect everyone equally. People with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems of different types and combinations of symptoms occurring over different durations,” reports the CDC. “Most patient symptoms improve slowly over time. However, for some people, post-COVID conditions can last months or even years after COVID-19 illness and can sometimes lead to disability.”