Across the nation, our hospital systems anticipate being overwhelmed with the most critical patients during this COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital systems and provider offices are asking people to stay at home during mild to moderate illness and visit offices or the emergency room only when necessary. So, what should you do to care for yourself while home?
With social isolation guidelines increasing, doctor offices across the nation are transitioning to telehealth visits when possible. While each office routine is different, most providers are setting up time blocks to call patients.
During calls, they review symptoms, concerns, possible testing, and treatment plans. Some are utilizing video conferences, some are just old-fashioned over the phone discussions. Whatever your office can provide, know that you have your provider’s attention to discuss your concerns.
Currently, most COVID-19 symptoms include fevers (above 100 F), dry cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and headache. Other symptoms that have been reported include nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, weakness, and loss of taste and/or smell.
If you’re concerned about how you are feeling, and start to have symptoms that worry you, please call your provider first. They know your medical history and can review what the next steps will be to take.
One of the most important steps to stop the spread of illness is to self isolate. While this can be difficult at home with family members, here are some simple steps to help prevent the spread within the home:
- Remain in bedroom & limit movement throughout the house
- Wash towels/linens often
- Use own bathroom if possible
- Avoid sharing personal household items
- Clean high touch surfaces often (knobs/handles, countertop, light switch)
- Avoid time in the kitchen preparing food; let others do this task
The second step to prevent the spread of illness is to wash your hands often. Use soap with twenty seconds of scrubbing, followed by a good rinse. All family members should do this throughout the day. Also, try and avoid touching your face to decrease the spread of germs.
Keep Track of Symptoms
Set aside a notebook and start to keep a log each day of symptoms. This will come in handy to refer to when discussing concerns with your provider. Monitor & track throughout the day, starting in the morning upon waking, the following:
- Temperature (before taking fever-reducing medications & two hours after)
- Cough, Shortness of Breath, Runny Nose, Congestion
- Headache, Muscle Aches, Chills, Sweating
- Nausea, Diarrhea, Abdominal discomfort
- Eating & Drinking Intake
- Medication Dose & Time
During this time at home, do not set lofty goals. This isn’t the time to reorganize the closets, deep clean the house, or start a new project. Focus on your health and rest.
Drink enough fluids and eat small meals throughout the day. Avoid spicy or heavy meals if your stomach is upset.
Continue to move around the house as able because sitting or sleeping for long periods of time can cause deconditioning. Standing up during commercial breaks, walking around periodically each hour can help prevent this.
If you are running a fever, have a headache, or experiencing body aches, consider taking acetaminophen to help relieve these symptoms. Keep track of when you take it, how much you are taking and if you have any improvement. The maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is 4,000mg daily, so track how much you are taking and stay below this dosage.
When to Seek Further Care
Most data is showing that almost 80% of those affected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover within 7-14 days. However, as discussed daily in new reports, this virus can cause serious respiratory complications.
Reach out to your provider if your symptoms worsen, especially if you are having shortness of breath or increased/productive cough. If your fever is trending above 102 F without improvement, and this is causing additional issues with eating or drinking, call your provider.
There is a chance your provider can have you come into the office for blood work or X-rays. They might also be able to provide additional medications (such as inhalers, antitussives) that will help while still at home. Only drive yourself if you feel alert enough to do so, and if you have a mask please wear it once out of your home.
If you are unable to drive, or live alone and find yourself having breathing issues, increased weakness and find yourself unable to perform basic tasks such as walking to the bathroom, calling 911 might be your only option.
Notify the 911 operator of your condition and symptoms. If you are able, meet the first responders at the door and wear a mask if you have one. Expect a mask to be given to you once they arrive if you do not already have one on.
Since most hospital systems have instituted a no-visitor policy, pack a small bag of essentials (emergency contact list, phone, charging cord, change of clothes, personal care items, identification cards, medication list, etc.) since you’ll have a difficult time obtaining these once you leave your home.
For many of the 80% of COVID-19 cases, you might not even be aware of your illness and recover without complications or concerns. With testing limitations across the country, there is a chance you will not even know if you were positive during your illness.
There are many viruses present this time of year (rhinovirus, influenza, RSV) so continue to practice good social distancing, hand washing, and avoid touching your face.
If your illness progresses and you’re within the 20% of moderate to severe cases, your recovery could be a long one. You still might not have a positive test to confirm the virus. By most reports, with the onset of symptoms, the virus can last 7-14 days. Until your symptoms improve and your fever has been resolved for 72 hours, you should continue your isolation.
For those patients who are hospitalized, on supplemental oxygen or those requiring ventilator support, recovery will also be a long one. Most hospitalized patients are able to be tested, to help diagnose and treat. It is still very unknown what their recovery will look like.
If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter, click here to receive our Self Care Guide. This infographic is a helpful guide to knowing how to take care of yourself in the event that you do get sick or feel as though there’s a chance that you have the disease. Print it out so you have it nearby or share it with others.