MAR 15, 2020 8:55 AM PDT

COVID-19 - What To Do If You Get Sick

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

It now seems that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading through communities in many places worldwide. A slow start on testing for the pathogen in United States citizens means we don't have a good handle on where the hotspots are and who to isolate because they are infected, which are the first steps to curbing the spread of an infectious disease. Some attempts now being made may not work at stopping the pandemic (travel bans are largely ineffective) though importantly, mass closings may slow the spread of the disease and relieve pressure on our healthcare system. Many experts are suggesting that we are heading for a public health crisis, and that a huge portion of the American public could eventually become infected.

So what do you do if you get sick? First, it's important to contact your healthcare provider, assuming you have one, and to stay home and not go to a hospital or clinic, which may be overwhelmed, if your symptoms are relatively mild. Right now, there is no specific treatment for the illness.

The most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 include tiredness, dry cough, and fever. Symptoms are often mild and start slowly. They may also include "aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea," according to the World Health Organization. New research has also suggested that the loss of the ability to smell is a symptom.

If one does become ill, it will be important to try to minimize the chance that they infect other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized that people who might be sick with COVID-19 should stay at home and avoid public areas and public transportation. At home, they should limit contact with pets and stay away from other people. They should continue washing hands often, and covering their coughs and sneezes with elbows or tissues that are then thrown away. Household items like drinking glasses, plates, utensils, towels, or bedding should not be shared and items and surfaces should be cleaned often with a disinfectant.

The CDC notes that surfaces that are touched frequently should be cleaned every day, like "counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables."

A sick person should also wear a face mask to reduce the chance that they will infect others.  

Mild symptoms can be eased a little at home, and sick people should try to get as much rest and sleep as possible, stay warm and drinks lots of fluids. Humidifiers may also relieve a sore throat or cough. Around 80 percent of infected people will not need special treatment, according to WHO. Some will be infected but won't feel sick at all, though they will be contagious for a while.

It's estimated that one of six infected individuals will become seriously ill, and will have trouble breathing. Underlying medical issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and advanced age make this more likely. Once fever and breathing trouble set in, people should seek medical attention.

 

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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