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COVID-19 – Symptom Guidance

Are you worrying that you have COVID-19 every time you cough or sneeze? Are you giving people on the street the side-eye when they clear their throat?

That’s okay. We’re living in strange times right now.

As the coronavirus pandemic is evolving daily, our clinical and public health teams update this content regularly so you know what to look out for and what to do. Check back often!

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’s currently at the forefront of everyone’s mind
  • COVID-19: the disease that is caused by SARS-CoV-2

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Main symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Less common symptoms:

  • Loss of smell / taste (this usually precedes any other symptoms)
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

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

Call your doctor for advice if you think you’ve been exposed to coronavirus and develop a fever or cough. If you don’t have a primary care physician, call your local board of public health or local hospital.

Due to the limited availability of test kits, your doctor will only test you if necessary. If he decides not to test you, he will likely advise you to self-isolate at home until your symptoms are gone.

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!
  • Use an air humidifier. Moist air can help with cough, sore throat and stuffiness.
  • Take Tylenol or ibuprofen to alleviate fever. There’s been some news circulating about avoiding ibuprofen and other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) while treating COVID-19. Currently the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs.

How do I prevent others from getting this?

  • Stay home until symptoms completely resolve. If you have the option of telecommuting, now is the time to do it. Here are some tips to make working from home maximally productive.
  • 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 cloth or surgical face mask (fitted N95 masks should be reserved for our front line healthcare providers). 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.
  • Limit contact with pets. Little is known about whether the virus can spread to (or from) pets. In light of this uncertainty, designate another caretaker for your pet until your symptoms have subsided.
  • If you need to leave your home for essential activities, like grocery shopping, wear a non-medical, cloth face mask. This is primarily to prevent unknowing spread of the virus, as many people who have it can be asymptomatic. If you’re having a difficult time getting your hands on a mask, check out this guide on how to make one at home.

How long should I stay at home?

Stay home until it’s been a full 24 hours with no symptoms and a full 10 days since symptoms started. If you’ve gotten an official coronavirus test, your doctor may ask you to take 2 additional tests and wait for them to come back negative before leaving your house.

I’m still a bit worried. Are there other resources I can keep my eye on?

You bet! Good resources from reputable news outlets can change day-by-day, so we recommend this page from the CDC. They update it as they learn more!

Bookmark that CDC page and continue to wash hands, avoid the face, disinfect and monitor your temp. Stay alert but don’t panic. Your choice to stay at home is a public service! By self-isolating during this uncertain time, you’re exposing fewer people to whatever bug you have and keeping your community well.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].
  3. Christina Farr, S. (2020). Facebook, Amazon, Google and more met with WHO to figure out how to stop coronavirus misinformation. [online] CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/14/facebook-google-amazon-met-with-who-to-talk-coronavirus-misinformation.html [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].
  4. HealthyChildren.org. (2020). 2019 Novel Coronavirus. [online] Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.aspx [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].
  5. Who.int. (2020). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – events as they happen. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen [Accessed 4 Mar. 2020].

Blake Wageman

Blake Wageman, RN, BSN has over 11 years of nursing under her belt, primarily focused on NICU babies and, just as importantly, their worried parents.