While the omicron variant is infecting more people than COVID-19 ever has in the U.S., most people who catch the virus are experiencing pretty mild symptoms and avoiding hospitalization, especially those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. But just like with the variants that came before it, how long omicron symptoms last varies from person to person.
“Those with a mild case of COVID-19 usually recover within one to two weeks,” said Dr. Lisa Maragakis in an article for Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The most common early symptoms are a runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and a sore throat, research out of the U.K. found. These omicron symptoms often feel like a cold, but there could also be coughing and flu-like symptoms, including fever and body aches.
Exactly how long those symptoms last is highly individualized, and depends on many factors like your age, vaccination status, overall health and how much rest you get while sick. For some people with especially mild COVID cases, these symptoms resolve in as little as five days, allowing them to end isolation.
“For severe cases, recovery can take six weeks or more, and there may be lasting damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs and brain,” said Maragakis.
Since omicron has only been in the United States for about six weeks, it’s too soon to say whether omicron causes “long COVID.” The CDC says it’s still gathering data on the severity and duration of omicron infections.
That being said, long COVID — a condition where COVID symptoms persist for months or even years after diagnosis — is more closely associated with people who fall seriously ill, especially those who have to be hospitalized. People with mild cases are less likely to experience long-haul symptoms, research suggest, though it’s still possible.
On the bright side, it appears that one of the most persistent COVID-19 symptoms, the loss of taste and smell, is less common with omicron. With other variants of the coronavirus, loss of taste has been known to persist for weeks or even months.
The best way to protect yourself from the omicron variant, especially severe illness, is to stay up to date with vaccinations, says the CDC.