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Focus On...What To Do For Your Mild Coronavirus Symptoms at Home With Jeanne Carey, MD

April 2, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak hasn’t yet peaked in New York City, or anywhere else in the US. Chances are, you or someone you know will contract a mild case of COVID-19. What should you do if that happens?

The first thing to know is, stay calm. Most people who have a mild case of coronavirus can recover at home without professional medical care. Here are a few things you need to know to keep yourself and others in your home safe.

Symptoms And How To Handle Them

The most common symptoms are sore throat, a cough, muscle aches, and fevers. However, you may also have loss of your sense of smell or taste, or GI symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea. You’ll also be very fatigued. And one extremely important fact to be aware of is that when you have COVID-19, you are very contagious.

Here are some steps to get better:

  • Get plenty of rest — COVID-19 will wear you out, and you’ll need to sleep to recover. Quite frankly, you will be so tired that you just want to sleep anyway. Do it.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Fever causes fluid loss, which can result in dehydration, so this is really important.
  • Take Tylenol to reduce your fever and relieve your muscle aches.

If there are others in your home, separate yourself to avoid getting them sick. You will be most contagious early on, but you are contagious throughout the duration of your illness.

Ways to avoid others in your home getting sick:

  • Move to a separate room in the house, and seclude yourself there.
  • Do not share items, such as food, dishes or glasses, phones, even TV remotes. Everything you touch will be contaminated.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Disinfect everything from countertops to doorknobs after each touch.
  • Wear a face mask at home if you are encountering others.

How Long Will It Last?

You may have significant symptoms for about a week. That means your fever may be higher during that time, or your cough or muscle aches might feel worse. Most people with mild cases of COVID-19 will recover within one to two weeks. Studies have found that people may still “shed” coronavirus, and thus remain contagious, even after their symptoms have gone away. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that, in general, most people will be able to return to their normal activities after at least seven days have passed since their symptoms started AND 72 hours after fever has gone and symptoms are improving.

What If I’m Not Getting Better?

If you feel like you’re not getting better, call us at 212-749-1820 to schedule a telehealth visit to discuss your symptoms before you go to the hospital. We can advise you whether or not you should come in. If you do need to see a doctor, wear a face mask in public, and travel in the manner that puts you in contact with the fewest number of people.

Two danger signs that you need to be aware of, and for which you should call 9-1-1 are:

  • First, if you have difficulty breathing. For instance, if it’s tough to catch your breath, or you wake up from sleep because you can’t breathe, or your breathing is labored as you conduct basic tasks like personal hygiene.
  • Second, if you have persistent pressure or pain in your chest.

Know Yourself

The reality is that you know yourself better than anyone else. You know how you react to illness, and when you’re not feeling your best. Be aware of that. Under normal circumstances, a springtime sore throat or fever might not mean anything. But these are not normal circumstances, and you need to take precautions to ensure you keep yourself and those around you safe.

Remember too that you may not have any symptoms but can be a carrier for coronavirus. That’s what makes this virus so dangerous. Please remember to keep six feet away from others, where possible.

One Final Thought

Stress and anxiety are not conducive to healing. Your body and your immune system need to be relaxed to help you recover from illness.

You need restorative sleep to get better and get your body back to good health.

Take charge of the things you can control — don’t obsess about the coronavirus news cycle. Identify a few trusted news sources and tune in minimally just to stay updated. Step back from the unnecessary urgency of social media so you can relax.

Please know that we are “Here for You” if you need us.

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This article is for informational purposes only. Any discussion herein of medical conditions or treatment is not intended as a substitute for advice from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.