JUNE 1 — After dodging Covid-19 for years, I finally tested positive for it over the weekend.
The quick onset of it was unnerving — I was exposed Thursday, showed symptoms Saturday, got very ill on Sunday, stayed in bed on Monday and am writing about it on Tuesday.
In case you still haven't got it yet, here are some important takeaways from the experience.
Disclaimer before I go on: do not consider this as a substitute for legitimate medical advice and please consult with an actual health practitioner instead of Malaysia's crankiest columnist.
1. Don't go near anyone with even the mildest of symptoms
My most important lesson from this is if someone tests negative and even if they have a doctor tell them it is just a routine flu, run away.
The Omicron variant presents the same way as an upper respiratory infection — scratchy throat, cough, runny nose, headache and even sinus pain.
I thought it was just my routine allergies that come from living next to a highway in a very damp house with three furry housemates.
When my symptoms did not ease as quickly as they usually did, I took a test and now I am writing this column.
2. Always have a few tests handy
You will need one test to check your status and another one to counter your state of denial.
Then you have a choice for the rest of your seven days in quarantine: you can either hoard your tests, assume you're positive during the entire period and only test at the end or (for science!) test every single one of those seven days.
I was lucky enough to have some tests in stock as well as a few that were gifted so I am testing every day just to keep an eye on my viral load.
Not everyone can afford this so if you need to be frugal, keep enough to test for the final two days of quarantine and a few more after, should you still test positive on the seventh day.
The good news is that it is pretty easy to just have tests delivered via Grab should you be stuck at home after reporting your status via MySejahtera like a dutiful citizen.
If you still test positive after the mandatory seven-day period, please continue staying at home else you will end up giving someone like me Covid (again).
3. Please take care of your heart
As I am writing this in the relaxed environment of my bedroom, my pulse is at a very high 100bpm.
During the worst of my sickness my pulse was in the high 90s and this underscores an important point about Covid-19: that it is a vascular disease and not a respiratory one.
General advice states you should rest and take it easy for at least six to seven weeks after an infection so I am resolved to further couch potato adventures.
Am fortunate enough that I started testing negative by the third day of quarantine with no fever, headaches or brain fog, heart issues notwithstanding, but for the moment my throat is so shattered you'd think I smoke two packs a day.
4. Probably skip that famous Chinese medicine
Despite almost every old Chinese person I know (and the CCP) swearing about the efficacy of lianhua qingwen there is no proof it does more than perhaps provide symptomatic relief.
Australia has also banned it for containing ephedra, a known component of methamphetamine.
My own personal experience after two courses of it is that it made little to no difference to my symptoms and my usual routine of nasal irrigation as well as decongestants worked better.
Cough medicine, however... get two bottles. No less and preferably more.
Prospan is fairly inexpensive if you prefer syrups but for persistent dry coughs ask your doctor if taking copastin pills, a widely used dry cough treatment in Japan and Europe, is an option for you.
5. What you should be stocking your medicine cabinet with
I found paracetamol insufficient to cope with my symptoms and only found relief after taking ibuprofen as well as using a fever patch.
A thermometer is a good thing to have. Without one I wouldn't have realised I was running a very high fever.
You should probably also have cough medicine for both dry and wet coughs, lozenges and medicine to deal with a runny nose.
I'm just glad that what I had on hand was enough to relieve the symptoms so I didn't need to end up at a quarantine centre.
Omicron is very contagious and whatever they say, it is not mild. As someone described it, it feels like getting several mild diseases at the same time.
To use that old phrase, it felt, to me, like getting hit by a truck.
I was honestly very frightened to see my fever spike as high as it did as I haven't run fevers that high since I was a child and it scares me more to think what might have happened if I hadn't immediately taken measures to lower my temperature.
Credit also goes to my brother who came over with fever patches as soon as I texted him. Not everyone is as lucky to have friends or family able to drop by with food, medicine or at the least, friendly concern.
It also helps that I was prepared for the worst so I didn't have the additional stress of worrying on top of recovering from the virus.
What I also think is that the current 'back to normal' office environment is unsustainable.
In organisations where fully work-from-home isn't possible, it makes sense to do rotations to reduce the probability of infections or at the very least ensuring that you won't get an entire workplace infected at the same time.
Factoring in the effect of Covid in operations planning is a must because the virus keeps getting harder to evade.
You can't expect workers to come to the office and not get sick or think that the most expedient solution is to let go of them if they do.
Until that time we can finally snort vaccines up our nose like asthma inhalers, everyone should have a Covid action plan, as well as ambulance numbers.
Remember: this pandemic still isn't over, no matter how much we try living as though it is.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.