Fast facts: COVID-19 management

If you have or believe you have the novel coronavirus, a physician explains these key tips to help you stay on track for recovery
March 31, 2020

We know to wash our hands and stay six feet away from our neighbor, but what exactly do we do if we have the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19? A Texas A&M College of Medicine physician, Gabe Neal, MD, director at Texas A&M Health Family Care, explains some keys facts that you should know if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Should I call my doctor if I have symptoms of the coronavirus?

“If you have symptoms of COVID-19 like a cough, fever and shortness of breath, you should call your primary care physician to let them know,” Neal said. “You do not need to physically walk into their clinic or into the local hospital to seek treatment. Call your primary care provider first, and they can instruct you on what to do.” More than likely, if your symptoms are not severe, they will ask you to stay home and quarantine, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Neal explains that you do not need all three of those symptoms, or even any symptoms at all, to have COVID-19. However, a fever, cough and shortness of breath are the three most common symptoms and a definite sign you should call your health care provider for instructions. They may ask you to get tested, but more than not, if you have mild symptoms, they will ask you to self-quarantine and self-monitor your symptoms at home.

Who in my family should stay home and quarantine with me?

Everyone living in the same household as someone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home to prevent the spread of the illness in the community. If you are in quarantine, you should only leave your residence for basic human survival needs like going to a health care provider or to the pharmacy.

“Even then, if you are showing symptoms, you should ask a friend or family member to pick up your groceries or prescriptions for you. Try to avoid leaving your residence, at all costs,” said Neal. “If you are living with someone with symptoms and leave for an essential reason, you should practice social distancing and frequently use hand sanitizer when on the go. If you do not have hand sanitizer, you should wash your hands before you leave, when you come back and throughout the day.”

How can I manage COVID-19 symptoms while at home?

The symptoms for this coronavirus are respiratory in nature, so treat and manage it like you would if you had symptoms of the flu or a cold. “When managing COVID-19 symptoms, feel free to use the same types of medications you would use if you had the flu,” said Neal. “To name a few, think cough syrup, acetaminophen and nasal decongestants.”

In other words, according to Neal, the best medications you can take for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 are over-the-counter cold and flu medications that are safe to use. Be sure to read the medicine labels and follow dosage directions.

What else can I do to set myself up for a quick recovery?

“For the most part, you will likely need to wait it out until you feel better,” said Neal. “However, you should try to stay hydrated with plenty of water and electrolytes, eat a healthy diet even if your appetite diminishes, and periodically walk around your room or home.” He also recommends getting plenty of rest to improve your immune system and some sunlight to help maintain your mental health.

“A person with COVID-19 can expect to have this illness for anywhere between two to six weeks, depending on the severity,” Neal said. “COVID-19 can be quite serious, so do your part and stay home, especially if you are feeling ill.” If your symptoms are getting progressively worse or if you are finding it difficult to breathe, call your health care provider again as you may need to be hospitalized for more advanced treatment.

— Mary Leigh Meyer

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