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With another COVID wave so close to Christmas, here’s how to beat it quickly

With the government scaling back COVID-19 case number updates, it may seem as if the virus has disappeared from the public consciousness.

But experts say Australia is now in its eighth COVID-19 wave.

All states and territories have seen a rise in confirmed cases and the number of hospitalisations over the past two and a half months, federal health department data shows.

With case numbers rising close to Christmas, here’s a reminder of the symptoms to watch for and advice from experts on how to beat it quickly.

Are there any new COVID symptoms?


The most common symptoms haven’t changed much, even with new COVID variants such as Pirola.

The main symptoms:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing).

Some of the less common symptoms include:

  • muscle or joint pain
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • temporary loss of smell and/or taste.

What’s caused the eighth wave?

Mater Health infectious diseases physician Paul Griffin says the virus has evolved.

“The reason for this eighth wave is that we’ve seen a significant change in COVID,” Dr Griffin says.

“Each time the virus changes, our protection from past infection or vaccination declines and that allows more people to get infected, become unwell, and end up in hospital.”

Ipswich general practitioner Aletia Johnson says cases are also increasing because people aren’t being as cautious as they were in the earlier stages of the pandemic.

“People aren’t being as protective towards other people, and also aren’t being as protective towards themselves,” Dr Johnson says.

“Maybe they’ve had COVID before and they didn’t get that sick.

“Or maybe they’ve had it a few times now and they’ve built up their immunity.

“But having COVID once doesn’t mean you won’t get it again.”

How to beat COVID-19 quickly

The basic tips of drinking plenty of water and taking lots of rest haven’t changed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Health Direct says sipping warm fluids may help soothe a sore throat. 

Over-the-counter medications like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with treating pain and fever.

Health Direct recommends making sure your room has good air circulation and points out that you should avoid smoking when recovering from the virus. 

Here’s the advice from Dr Griffin and Dr Johnson:

  • Keep up to date with your vaccinations: Chat with your GP or pharmacist to get the right advice for you. Ask if you’re eligible for another booster.
  • Take good care of yourself: Stay well hydrated, get plenty of rest and keep up a good, healthy diet.
  • Try to minimise the spread where possible: Wash your hands and wear a mask.
  • Get tested: A lot of viruses out there can look like COVID, so find out exactly what you’re dealing with.
  • Have a plan ready: Prepare for what you’ll do if you develop COVID symptoms, especially if you’re in a high-risk category (depending on your age and whether you’re immunocompromised). For example, some eligible Australians may be able to access antivirals and they work best when used quickly.

“Remember, the most important thing you can do to reduce your chance of getting COVID – and particularly getting COVID more severely – is vaccination,” Dr Griffin says.

Dr Paul Griffin wearing a navy suit with a black background behind him
Dr Paul Griffin is an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Mater Health. (Supplied)

When do you go back to normal after having COVID?

There’s no uniform time to recovery.

But for the majority of people who contract mild COVID symptoms, the effects of the virus usually last seven to 10 days on average.

However, this time frame can increase for people who develop a more serious bout of COVID.

“You don’t need to be in a high-risk group to get more significant COVID,” Dr Griffin says.

“For those who do get significant COVID, it can persist for a longer period of time and usually sits in the vicinity of a small number of weeks.

“From there, a proportion of those will go on to long COVID.

“In Australia, the proportion of people who suffer from long COVID is around the 5 per cent mark, but some would suggest it could be lower or higher than this.”

And there’s something else to consider – COVID fatigue. 

What is COVID fatigue and how long does it last?

Some people use the term ‘COVID fatigue’ to describe being fed up with talking and hearing about the virus.

Others use it to describe feeling exhausted, weak and mentally drained during and after being infected with COVID-19 – and that’s what we’re focusing on here. 

The term ‘fatigue'”‘ can mean different things to different people.

“Some people report troubles with their memory [and] concentration, not feeling refreshed when they wake up, having their emotions all over the place and sometimes experiencing reduced executive function,” Dr Johnson says.

“This may include having trouble with planning your day or remembering what you need to do.”

It can also mean feeling really tired or exhausted after activities that previously wouldn’t have felt that way – like a short walk to the mailbox feeling like a marathon.

Dr Johnson says COVID fatigue and brain fog can last up to about two months.

“Fatigue is a prominent symptom of a number of different infections and that certainly holds true for COVID,” Dr Griffin says.

“It’s one of the symptoms of long COVID but you don’t necessarily need to have long COVID to have fatigue.

“It’s actually quite expected for those people in particular who have had a more significant infection.”

Nurse holding a syringe and vial
Chat with your GP or pharmacist to find out whether you’re eligible for another COVID-19 vaccine. (ABC News: Greg Nelson)

How do you get rid of COVID fatigue?

Slow and steady wins the race, Dr Johnson says.

“A lot of people try to knuckle down and push through by returning to their normal day-by-day activities.

“But this can be the worst thing to do because it exhausts you more and uses up a lot of brain function.

“If you need to rest, then take a rest.

“You’re going to have good days and bad days, and often it might feel like two steps forward, one step back.”

A few other things you could do to help are:

  • return to exercise gradually
  • prioritise sleep
  • eat nutritious food.

Dr Johnson advises monitoring your fatigue and if your recovery is going backwards, see your GP.

Have you noticed an uptick in the number of COVID cases in your neighbourhood? Are more people wearing masks? Share your observations oin the comments section below.

� 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
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