3 Things to Know About Life After Recovering From COVID-19

Jan. 5, 2022 - Katie McCallum

When your COVID-19 symptoms were at their worst, you were probably solely focused on the basics: resting, hydrating and monitoring yourself for worsening symptoms.

Now, as your road to recovery becomes clearer and clearer, you may be wondering what your "new normal" will look like once your symptoms subside. Unlike the common illnesses you're used to, like a cold or the flu, COVID-19 comes with a few extra question marks.

How long will I be contagious? Should I be worried about these lingering symptoms? Does this mean I don't have to get vaccinated or wear a mask anymore?

Here to help you understand what life looks like after recovering from COVID-19 is Dr. Joshua Septimus, associate professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Houston Methodist Primary Care Group Same Day Clinics.

Don't leave home while you're still contagious

A person with COVID-19 is thought to be most contagious in the days immediately leading up to symptom onset (aka, the presymptomatic period) and throughout the first several days of his or her symptoms.

But, it can take several more days for a person's immune system to actually clear the virus from the body.

"Most studies show that by the end of 10 days of infection, your body has cleared the active virus," says Dr. Septimus. "A person with COVID-19 is likely no longer contagious after 10 days have passed since testing positive for coronavirus, and 72 hours after resolution of his or her respiratory symptoms and fever," Dr. Septimus explains.

When it comes to staying home long enough to ensure you're no longer contagious, be sure to follow the CDC's isolation guidelines. Completing your isolation, even if you're asymptomatic or your symptoms are clearing up and you're feeling better, is imperative to ensure you don't spread COVID-19 to others.

Some symptoms may last longer than you'd like

COVID-19 comes with a pretty long list of symptoms — the most common being fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

Both the severity and duration of these symptoms vary from person to person, but some symptoms are more likely to last well into your recovery period.

"Some symptoms of COVID-19 linger longer than others," says Dr. Septimus. "In particular, fatigue and loss of taste and smell can persist beyond the period of contagion."

While uncomfortable and/or inconvenient, Dr. Septimus adds that these lingering symptoms aren't too worrisome for most people.

You still need to get vaccinated or get your booster, wear a mask and social distance

Immunity is complicated and, yes, you can still get reinfected with COVID-19.

In fact, a recent study found that unvaccinated adults were twice as likely to get reinfected with COVID-19 than those who got vaccinated after they'd recovered from their illness.

"We still know very little about the immune system's response to this virus, including how long protective immunity may or may not last," Dr. Septimus warns. "What we do have a clear understanding of is the strong protection that vaccine-induced immunity provides."

What does this mean for you?

Even after recovering from COVID-19, it's imperative that you get vaccinated and continue to practice the preventive measures that protect yourself and others from the virus, including social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands regularly.

For those who are vaccinated and experience a breakthrough infection, you'll still want to get a COVID booster. If you are 16+, it's recommended that you get your booster once your symptoms resolve and you have met the criteria for ending isolation — and the recommended time has elapsed since your primary series of either Pfizer (5 months), Moderna (6 months) or J&J (2 months). People who received monoclonal antibodies as part of their COVID-19 treatment plan will need to wait 90 days before getting a COVID booster.

"The universal precautions that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are just that — universal," Dr. Septimus adds. "We're all in this together, and we're all responsible for keeping our community safe. Each and every one of us needs to take these precautions seriously, regardless of whether you've already had COVID-19 or not."

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Categories: Tips to Live By
Tags: Coronavirus
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