There is so much anxiety around catching COVID, especially with the recent surge in cases due to the highly contagious omicron variant. Given that experts have said omicron is milder than previous variants, you may be thinking about exposing yourself on purpose just to get it over with. This idea is similar to the "chicken pox parties" of the '90s, before a vaccine was developed, where parents would purposely send their kid to an infected child's house (that's how I got it!). Is this a good idea? POPSUGAR asked former FDA policy director John Whyte, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer at WebMD, to answer.
Should You Purposely Expose Yourself to COVID?
A vaccinated person who's not at high risk for a severe case of COVID may want to purposely expose themselves, assuming they'll have mild symptoms (if any) and that afterward, they'll feel calmer and have more flexibility with social situations or traveling. Dr. Whyte responds, "This is a horrible idea."
He explains that while we do hear about mild or moderate COVID infections for people who are vaccinated and boosted, "everyone is a little different and you might react very poorly with infection." It's also worth mentioning that many people are experiencing long COVID, which can include symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, muscle soreness, and a persistent cough. "Why subject yourself to this if you don't need to?" Dr. Whyte says.
And just because you get COVID doesn't mean you'll never get it again. A prior COVID infection offers some immunity, but it differs between people. You might catch the delta variant one time and then get omicron later. And no one knows what emerging variants are in our future or how severely your body may react.
What Can People Do to Ease Their Anxiety About Getting COVID?
To ease your anxiety about contracting COVID, Dr. Whyte says, "Stop watching the daily counts. Do what is in your control, which is get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a high-quality mask, and try to surround yourself with people who do the same." He also advises to get some rapid tests, so when you're concerned about exposure, you can test — here's how to order four free at-home COVID tests from the government. "And take a break from social media so you don't think about it every day," he says.
It may make you feel more at ease to know that "most experts agree that this Omicron surge will be over in a few weeks. So, hunker down for a few more weeks, and you'll likely avoid infection," Dr. Whyte says.