This Is How Long Your Omicron Symptoms Will Last, Doctors Say
More data is showing how long the latest variant can make you feel sick.
In the relatively short time since its discovery, the Omicron variant has drastically altered the trajectory of the pandemic. Fortunately, while research now shows that the virus is less likely to cause severe illness in those who are fully vaccinated or boosted, it's still found to cause breakthrough infections with mild symptoms at a higher rate than previous variants. Now, data is also providing answers as to how long symptoms from Omicron are likely to last once you're infected. Read on to see what the variant's timeline looks like.
COVID-19 symptoms from Omicron could last for a week or two.
As with previous variants, Omicron has proven to be different in how it affects people in terms of the symptoms that it causes. Mounting research also shows that the latest version of the virus also appears to incubate in the body more quickly than Delta, cutting down the time from infection to the first sign of symptoms from an average of four days later to three. And now, data is becoming available on how long Omicron symptoms can stick around, suggesting the virus may run its course in about seven days.
"Those with a mild case of COVID-19 usually recover within one to two weeks," Lisa Maragakis, MD, wrote in an article for Johns Hopkins Medicine. But, she adds: "For severe cases, recovery can take six weeks or more, and there may be lasting damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain."
One study found that Omicron symptoms could last anywhere from a few days to a week.
Some of the earliest information on the duration of the virus comes from a study that looked at one of the first recorded Omicron superspreader events at a holiday party in Norway on Nov. 30. Results found that of the 66 guests out of 117 fully vaccinated attendees who tested positive for Omicron and the 15 who were found to have probable cases, over a dozen reported that their symptoms cleared within a matter of days. However, while none of the cases required hospitalization, 62 of the infected guests were still experiencing symptoms from Omicron about a week later when they were interviewed for the study, NBC News reports.
Researchers say that symptoms from Omicron might last shorter than previous variants.
As the virus has spread, more data has pointed towards symptoms from Omicron running their course more quickly than previous variants. Research from the Zoe COVID study in the U.K., which collects information from 4.7 million public users, has supported earlier findings of which ailments the latest viral offshoot commonly causes and appear to uphold its abbreviated incubation period.
"It does suggest that these symptoms are of shorter duration than they are of Delta," said Tim Spector, MB, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London who runs Zoe, according to The Mirror. "People are having symptoms for a shorter amount of time, especially in that first week. If people are testing negative with lateral flow tests at the end of those five days, [it's] because the whole period of that infection and getting over it appears to be faster."
Omicron infections appear to be more serious in unvaccinated patients.
Even though the mild breakthrough infections caused by Omicron tend to clear up quickly for most, some doctors point out that the experience isn't the same for everyone. "A lot of these patients are not having the symptoms for the 10 to 12 days that I saw when there were no vaccinations," Rahul Sharma, MD, the emergency physician-in-chief at the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told NBC News. He also added that most saw their symptoms clear up within three to five days, with illness appearing to be shorter and milder for people who were fully vaccinated compared to those who were not.
In the instances where symptoms were severe enough to warrant medical care, Sharma also said those who had received their shots were typically discharged faster than those who had not. "What I can tell you is that patients that are unvaccinated are definitely our sicker patients," he explained. "Those are the patients that are more likely to go to the ICU. Those are the patients that are more likely to be admitted to the hospital."