I tested negative in Germany, and boarded my flight. I felt great. When I woke up on the plane I noticed that I had a slight runny nose and just felt a bit “off”. I figured that the runny nose was probably just caused from the humidity of wearing a mask for so long and that I might just feel off because I stayed up all night to prepare for my flight.
Still, I was about to see my family for the first time in two years and they probably, on average, think I take too much risk by traveling, so I thought I’d get a covid test just in case.
And it came back positive!
I never had very bad symptoms. One day I coughed a couple dozen times, and another day I had a bad headache. I did have a general sense of discomfort that’s hard to describe exactly, but that was really only for a day or two. Most interestingly, I lost my sense of smell!
How Did I Get It?
Ironically, Germany is way more strict than Vegas with covid. At everything you go to you have to fill out a contact tracing form, prove you are vaccinated, and wear an actual KN-95 mask. Doing the same sorts of activities in the US vs Germany, you would be much safer in Germany. However, as a visitor I did more activities, so maybe the risk averaged out.
The one time I wasn’t forced to wear a mask (and thus did not wear one) was during a 90 minute ballet where everyone was vaccinated and spaced by at least 2 empty seats. Given that I never even talked to anyone without a mask on and really didn’t do much besides eat a few meals and go to museums, I think I probably got it during the ballet.
Should I Have Done Something Differently?
I previously wrote about how I evaluated covid risk, and now that I’ve had a bad outcome I think it’s worth asking the question of whether or not I should have done something different.
I will say that I really thought that even if I was exposed to covid, I wouldn’t actually contract it. I didn’t write this in the post, but I believed it. I was wrong on that count.
You have to be careful when analyzing decisions, because you can only make them based on what you knew or should have known. Of course if I had known that I would get covid at the ballet I would have worn a mask or not gone, but there is no way I could have assumed that.
If you zoom out and ask “was getting covid and derailing plans for 1-2 weeks worth living a relatively full life for most of covid?”, it’s a definite yes. However, I think that if I had done more research I could have realized that Pfizer efficacy decreases after around 6 months (and it had been almost exactly 6 months since I got it), and that Delta was breaking through vaccines. Couple that with the fact that a really important family trip was coming up and I think you could make an argument that I should have worn a mask at the ballet.
Then again, it’s hard to really remove the hindsight bias and I’m stubborn and proud enough of my immune system that I may have still not worn it.
Losing Smell and Taste
By far the most interesting part of this whole thing has been losing my sense of smell. I really saw it as a huge opportunity, because there are no normal situations where you lose one of your senses!
One day I was drinking my tea and I oversteeped it, but noticed it wasn’t bitter. And then I realized that I couldn’t taste it at all. I had been drinking on autopilot and wasn’t really even paying attention to what it tasted like.
What other sense could you lose and not immediately notice that you lost it?
My wife has a really bad sense of taste and small naturally, so when I ask her if she likes a tea she would say things like, “it tastes like any other tea”. This was really offensive to my tea snobbery, but now I totally understand it. While my sense of smell was bad I tried to drink all of least favorite teas to get rid of them. I think that now I understand her better. I also feel really bad now that I understand what her experience is like when we go to nice restaurants. She can’t taste anything that I enjoy!
I got very excited about maybe permanently losing smell, thinking I could make the grossest nutrient slurry by blending up fish and vegetables and drinking it every day. My sense of taste has come back mostly, though, so I guess that dream is out the window.
One interesting thing is that I believe my brain was getting at least some of the taste information but not translating it into a sensation. I ate some pineapple and could “tell” which pieces were sweeter, but couldn’t taste anything at all. It’s very hard to explain this, but I noticed several times that I could tell that something was sweet but really search and not taste anything.
The days when I didn’t have a sense of taste I really didn’t want to eat Chipotle, which surprised me. I guess the texture and consistency of a bunch of cold meat and vegetables mixed up isn’t great without the flavor.
I could experience spicy things. One day I ordered Korean food and even though I really couldn’t taste it I could feel the spice like normal. My wife really likes spicy food and doesn’t really like Chipotle, so this all makes sense.
There’s no way to know if anything I did mattered or not, but I did a few things to try to help myself heal faster.
The most interesting thing is that I used the sauna. I did 15-30 minutes on several days. My thinking was that since covid produces a fever response, the body must use heat to fight it, so I could maybe help it out by raising my body temperature. Interestingly, I got noticeably better on days following night-time saunas. For example, I took a sauna on day 1 and felt better on day 2. I didn’t take a sauna on day 2 and I felt worse on 3. After that I took a sauna every day and felt better every day. Might be a coincidence, but who knows?
I didn’t take any medicine, but I did drink tea every day, drink a lot of water and ginger tea, sleep as much as I could, and increased my intermittent fasting window.
Going foward I don’t plan on changing much. If there’s a can’t-miss trip coming up I may take extra precautions. I am probably much more immune for a while due to contracting covid, so I won’t have to worry about that for maybe six months.
I would always be willing in taking a booster shot, but I am now much more eager and will try to take them aggressively.
Photo is from the Ballet (Swan Lake) where I probably got covid. Maybe it was from that guy on the right!
Tea Time with Tynan #9 is this Sunday at 9am PT. If you have questions in advance you can leave them in the comments on YouTube. Please join live as it’s a lot more fun!