What COVID felt like as a vaccinated 21-year-old

Omicron didn’t come to play

What Omicron felt like—and how I navigated it.  
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The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only the personal experiences of one Queen’s student whose symptoms were mild and treatable. No article, author, or publication can accurately reflect the experiences of all individuals infected by COVID-19. This article is not medical advice. For information on treating Coronavirus, please consult reputable medical sources.

Since I saw the headlines of a new, deadly virus being discovered in 2019, I existed in a state of blurry anxiety.

I wore my mask and got the vaccine and the booster as soon as I could. Before the Omicron variant began spreading, I was sure we were on a path to a maskless, infection-free future. I hadn’t tested positive for COVID-19 in the two years since it was discovered, so I thought I was in the clear.

My 14-year-old sister tested positive on a rapid test in the second week of January, and my family and I knew we would follow suit. Despite hearing about the pandemic every time I looked at the news or made awkward small talk with a stranger, I had absolutely no idea how it would feel if I actually got infected.

Here’s what COVID-19 felt like for me, a vaccinated student. 

First, I think it’s important to note everyone in my personal life who contracted COVID-19 experienced the symptoms differently. Two of my friends couldn’t get out of bed for a week, one barely felt anything, and my sister felt symptoms for a couple days before bouncing back like nothing had happened.

For me, Omicron came with a soul-crushing cough along with exhaustion and chills for about a week.

My cough started three days after I tested positive and, initially, it was comparable to other coughs I’ve had in the past. Maybe my immune system is absolutely shot from not being sick in two years—or I’ve gotten softer and more dramatic in the pandemic—but this cough destroyed me. My whole body would heave every time I had the impulse to cough, and my childhood bedroom became my home for the duration of my quarantine.

I didn’t really have any cold or flu symptoms, and, thankfully, I recovered in about a week. I found it almost impossible to focus during the time I was infected, so I used my hibernation period to comfort-watch Jane the Virgin.

All in all, my symptoms were mild—I would rank my Omicron experience as a couple steps up from having strep throat. Thankfully, the experience of my parents was similar to mine, and we’re all currently feeling healthy and revived.

One thing I wish I knew before getting infected was how over-the-counter wouldn’t ease my symptoms at all. Ibuprofen is effective in combatting a COVID fever, but in terms of cough and cold symptoms, I had to stick to home remedies.

The two cups of chai I usually drink every day increased to four, and I substituted white sugar for honey to ease my throat. In typical Indian mother fashion, my mom made me drink hot milk with turmeric and honey along with hot water with fresh ginger to support my immune system.

My doctor recommended lots of liquids, rest, and essentially listening to the needs of my body. This advice, though vague, helped me through my quarantine period and gave me some insight into how to treat the infection.

Strangely, the home remedies I mocked growing up turned out to be the best things for me as my body fought Omicron. I obviously had the added support of two vaccines and a booster, but I felt at-home treatments gave my body an added layer of strength. 

From what I’ve seen, COVID-19 is a chameleon infection—presenting itself differently to every individual who faces it.

Protect yourself by wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and only spending time with people who have navigated the pandemic safely.

As for me, I’m grateful for ginger, honey, and as much rest as possible.

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