Coughing in public can attract a few glances or even glares from the COVID-wary, but many of the virus's symptoms are less easy to identify.
- Many families are reporting gastro-like symptoms when they have COVID
- Diarrhoea, vomiting and loss of appetite can be quite common
- GPs urge people with gastro-like symptoms to get tested
Perth mother Kellene Elder tested positive for COVID-19 alongside her newborn baby and two daughters, who all exhibited a range of symptoms.
"I had a really weird symptom – really sore eyes," she said.
"My four-year-old, Lucy, said her belly wasn't feeling great. My newborn had diarrhoea.
"They were all off their food as well. No-one knew what to expect.
"I'm still recovering from the lethargy and the bone aches."
Ms Elder said her daughters recovered quite quickly, but the symptoms came as a shock in the beginning.
"I didn't expect it to happen to us. I know it sounds silly, but we all think we have good immune systems and thought we'd be fine," she said.
"I also had a bit of post-natal depression. Being stuck at home with three young children and feeling isolated was quite difficult."
Gastro-like symptoms 'quite prevalent'
WA chair of the Royal Australian College of GPs Ramya Raman said gastro-like symptoms were relatively common in COVID-19 patients.
"We are seeing that these are quite prevalent symptoms, along with cold-like symptoms," she said.
"Diarrhoea and vomiting, or gastrointestinal symptoms, are being seen with the Omicron variant."
Dr Raman said it was crucial for people, especially children, to avoid becoming dehydrated when they presented with those symptoms.
"Keep up their fluids. Lots and lots of fluids. Gastrolyte or Hydrolyte would be a good supplement to have," she said.
Most WA cases occur in younger people
People under 40 make up the vast majority of new cases in WA, according to the most recent COVID-19 surveillance report.
While it is relatively rare for younger people who test positive to require intensive care, or die, Dr Raman warns parents to remain vigilant.
"The symptoms are very much similar for children as well as with adults," she said.
"Fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea — it's really important to consider COVID as a possible source.
Another Perth mother, Abby Thorp, said her family also experienced a variety of symptoms when they tested positive after a day of fevers.
"My four-year-old had high temperatures and diarrhoea. My eight-year-old son was vomiting, has fevers still and headaches.
"I had fevers, aching body, lethargy and throbbing headaches, loss of appetite."
COVID-19 symptoms have evolved
Curtin University population health researcher Jaya Dantas said COVID-19 symptoms had changed with each strain.
"The Delta variant impacted the lungs. The breathing capacity of people was significantly impacted," she said.
"[With] the Omicron, it's the upper respiratory tract. So people feel it more on the nasal side, they're coughing."
Professor Dantas said there were also several unusual symptoms which might not prompt people to get tested for COVID-19.
"People have reported having maybe a rash, people have reported in rare cases inflammation of different parts of their body," she said.
She urged parents to err on the side of caution when they were unsure about symptoms.
"If they see their child is unwell and is presenting with several symptoms they're not sure about, it's best to have them tested," she said.