I think I might be getting COVID-19, what should I do?
It all depends on your symptoms and your risk factors. For most healthy people, COVID-19 is going to be the type of respiratory infection that we all develop from time to time. Symptoms are a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath. Some people also have head and body aches, and nausea, diarrhea or loss of smell. You can read more about symptoms here.
Everyone in a high-risk group who is experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately. This includes the elderly; people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma; pregnant women; and people whose immune systems are compromised because of cancer treatment, organ transplant or other conditions. Alert your provider by either calling your clinic or sending a MyChart message. You can also do a video visit. Do not go to the clinic, urgent care or emergency department without calling first.
The exception is for people experiencing emergency warning signs, which include difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or difficulty waking up or bluish lips or face. If you have those symptoms, call 911 and be sure to tell the 911 operator that you suspect a COVID-19 infection.
Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, but are feeling ill and uncomfortable, call or send a MyChart message to your clinic.
Shouldn’t I come in for a COVID-19 test?
Right now we are unable to test everyone who may desire a test. For most people, knowing they have the COVID-19 virus wouldn’t change their treatment. Plus, testing uses up limited protective gear and potentially exposes more people to the virus when you leave home to be tested. Right now, the tests are being used mostly for health care providers and people so ill they need hospital treatment.
I’m sick, but not that sick. How do I treat it at home?
If you can breathe comfortably and have someone to help you access food and hydration, you can treat your disease at home. Treat a COVID-19 infection the way you would treat another respiratory infection like the flu. The cornerstones are rest, hydration and nutrition. If you have a fever, headache or body aches that are making you miserable, try Tylenol first. You can take a decongestant if you’re stuffed up. There’s no evidence that Ibuprofen causes problems, so if the Tylenol doesn’t work, you can try it if you don’t have a known allergy to it. The biggest problems are secondary infections such as pneumonia, or dehydration. Drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest. The vast majority of people can ride it out for a few days and they’ll recover.
What about my family or roommates?
If you suspect you have an infection, you need to isolate, even from the people you live with. Confine yourself to one or two rooms in your home. Keep your hands clean, dispose of used tissues and wipe surfaces with disinfectants frequently. Remember that you could spread the infection to others who may not show symptoms, and they in turn pass it on to others.
What about my children?
In general, children don’t seem to be made very ill by COVID-19. But they could be experiencing anxiety because of our national emergency or fears for the safety of their loved ones.
Remember that kids need reassurance. Being out of school and the change in their patterns of being able to directly interact with their peers are going to affect their psyche. Talk to them about their feelings. Online hangouts and other ways of staying in touch with friends remotely may help.
Between isolation and the news, I’m really stressed out
Many people are feeling significant isolation, anxiety and depression. Depression can create other issues that make it difficult for people to function and take care of themselves. Isolation can be very hard on caregivers, too. If you are feeling you need help, reach out to your primary care physician or behavioral health specialist via phone, MyChart or Care Anywhere for a video visit.
Any good news about COVID-19?
The good news is the vast majority of people recover. As of March 22, Johns Hopkins University reports that nearly 100,000 people have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
If you have more questions, call the UW Health COVID-19 Hotline at (608) 720-5300.