Just over three years after the world heard about Covid, and despite getting vaxed and boosted, I finally got hit with the virus. Although it’s possible I had it in January 2020 when I was in southeast Asia since I had all the same symptoms , I never got tested since there were no tests yet. And by the time there was an antibody test available — over 6 months later — any antibodies I may have had would not show up.
So I’m going with the idea that this was my first experience having Covid. I got the disease from a good friend who got infected attending his 4-year old granddaughter’s birthday party, definitely a super spreader event with many kids and parents around. He and I went out to dinner 3 days after the party and the following morning he texted me that he tested positive! Oh great, I thought. I’ll have that to look forward to in a few days!
Sure enough, 3 days after our dinner I started feeling a bit off and had a very slight cough. The next morning I knew I had Covid and a test confirmed my suspicion. Say what you will about the reliability of the home tests. They may show a negative result when you’re positive, but they don’t show false positives.
I called my friend to let him know and to see how he was feeling. He said he had felt pretty bad the day or two before but was starting to feel a bit better. He still was fatigued and somewhat congested, but not nearly as intensely as he felt before. He was hopeful that he was starting to recover.
This was now Saturday afternoon so calling my doctor to get the antiviral drug Paxlovid meant reaching the answering service and having them contact her. Since my friend had already started to recover, I thought I’d wait to see if my current mild symptoms got any worse. The next day they did.
So on Sunday I got through to my doctor who ordered a prescription for Paxlovid. By that time the pharmacy was closed but since my symptoms weren’t awful and I was still within the recommended timeframe, I felt okay waiting another day. On Monday I was definitely starting to feel a little better but I picked up the Rx anyway. I did not start the regimen that afternoon (it’s 3 pills twice a day for 5 days) but decided to wait to see how I felt the next morning. I was concerned about the fact that the drug was still experimental and some of the side effects could be tough. Also, I had read that taking a statin for high cholesterol is not recommended and I had already taken my statin.
When I woke up the next day the cough was deep in my chest and I got concerned that it could lead to pneumonia. I decided that I would take the drug that morning.
It didn’t take more than an hour or two after ingesting the 3 pills that I started feeling effects. The accompanying documents mentioned 7 side effects. The first was “altered sense of taste.” Since I had read that it would affect taste I was careful to not have the pills touch my tastebuds. It didn’t matter. I began having that awful metallic taste in my mouth very soon after swallowing. I described it to my wife who said it reminded her of how she felt when she had chemotherapy years ago. I also noticed some new aches and pains I had not had before and then I began having diarrhea, two more of the possible side effects. By the afternoon the taste was awful and nothing really helped get rid of it. My diarrhea worsened, as did the aches and pains and the “feeling generally unwell” effect. And this was only after one dose!
I spoke to my friend who by then was almost fully recovered from his bout with Covid (without taking the Paxlovid) so I decided I really didn’t think continuing the drug regimen was a good idea. I called my doctor again and explained to the nurse what was going on. She had gone through the same ordeal and was extremely sympathetic. She said her side effects didn’t happen right away and that my effects seemed much worse much more quickly. She said she’d talk with my doctor but that I probably should hold off taking the second dose. That was a huge relief. I couldn’t bear the idea of taking the drug again. My doctor got back to me and with her blessing I thankfully stopped taking the medicine.
The next day I began feeling much better, with just a slight cough and little congestion. And two days after that, I tested negative for Covid.
The whole ordeal lasted 6 days, beginning and ending with a slight cough and congestion, both of which were easily remedied with over the counter medicines.
Was taking Paxlovid a good idea? The short answer is “Yes.” Although I’m not necessarily compromised, I am in my seventies. So despite my reaction to the drug, I think it was the smart — and right thing to take the drug. There was no way I could know how bad my reaction would be, and if the disease got worse, I could easily end up with pneumonia.
Risking the side effects to prevent a serious condition is smart. Only a tiny proportion of people taking Paxlovid experience diarrhea (3% according to the manufacturer) and even fewer experience some of the other reported side effects. Apparently many more do have altered sense of taste, but that’s a small price to pay to prevent the potential serious complications associated with Covid.