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COVID-19 – Symptom Guidance

First, a fly-by lesson in virology terms:

  • Coronavirus: a family of viruses that usually cause upper respiratory illnesses
  • “The novel coronavirus” or SARS-CoV-2: the virus that has dominated our lives the past few years
  • COVID-19: the disease that is caused by SARS-CoV-2

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Unfortunately, COVID covers a wide range of symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of smell / taste (this usually precedes any other symptoms)
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

What should you do if you think you have COVID-19?

If you think you have COVID, you should get tested - either at your doctor's office or get an at-home test. Then, stay home for 5 full days following the start of your symptoms or the positive test, whichever came first. You can leave isolation after the 5th day, if you've been fever-free for 24 hours (without meds) and your symptoms are resolving.

Once you leave isolation after day 5, continue masking around others for 5 more days.

Technically, you don't need a negative COVID test to leave isolation, but it's not a bad idea to continue testing until you get a negative test.

Are there any alarming symptoms I should look out for?

If you’re having a hard time taking full, deep breaths or are experiencing discomfort in your chest / ribcage, call your doctor, even if you don’t think you’ve been exposed to coronavirus.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 911:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to wake
  • Bluish lips or face

What can I do to treat this at home?

  • Hydrate. Make sure you pee at least every 8 hours. Popsicles are a great way to get fluids in and alleviate sore throat – even for adults!
  • Don't overdress. Make sure you stay cool to keep your fever manageable.
  • Use an air humidifier. Moist air can help with a cough, sore throat, and/or stuffy nose.
  • Take Tylenol or ibuprofen. If you're very uncomfortable or your fever is moderate or high, it's okay to take some medication to try to find some comfort!
  • Ask your doctor about a prescription for Paxlovid. Paxlovid is an oral antiviral medication to treat mild-to-moderate COVID. It has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by about 90% among high-risk individuals. In order to be effective, it must be taken within five days of when symptoms start. To learn more, pop over to an article from one of our epidemiologists here.

How do I prevent others from getting this?

  • Stay home. We mentioned this above but it bears repeating. Stay home until it’s been a full 24 hours fever-free (without meds), your symptoms are resolving, and it's been a full 5 days since either symptoms started or your COVID test was positive.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Keep tissues and a lined trash can by your bedside. Cough or sneeze directly into a tissue and toss that tissue into the trash after you’re done. Wash your hands right after.
  • Avoid sharing personal items. This is a no-brainer. One utensil set, one person. One glass, one person. If you’re sick, make sure you have your own towel and set of bedding too.
  • Wear a quality face mask. If you’re sick, cozy and alone in your bedroom, no need to wear a mask. Put it on when you’re interacting with your family members.
  • Self-quarantine in one bedroom. This keeps germs isolated to one area of your house. Designate a bathroom for yourself too.
  • If you need to leave your home for essential activities, like grocery shopping, wear a mask.

Continue to wash hands, avoid the face, disinfect and monitor your temp. Stay alert but don’t panic. If you'd like to learn more about isolation guidelines, vaccinations, or really anything COVID-related, we have many articles on our blog.

Blake Wageman

Blake Wageman, RN, BSN has over 14 years of nursing under her belt, primarily focused on NICU babies and, just as importantly, their worried parents.