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What to Do if You Experience Symptoms During an Outbreak

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Hearing and reading about the novel coronavirus is nerve-wracking. But what if the virus comes to your community and you (or a family member) show symptoms, such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing?

Whether you’re caring for someone with COVID-19 symptoms or you feel them coming on yourself, knowing what to do can give you peace of mind and help prevent spreading disease. This coronavirus disease action plan can help you take the right steps.

Know the Symptoms to Watch For

According to the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should seek medical advice if you develop symptoms and you have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or you live in or have recently been in an area with the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

1. Know What to Do First

If symptoms of COVID-19 develop during an outbreak, you may be tempted to go to the hospital emergency department. To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, you should avoid the emergency department at your local hospital except in the event of an emergency.

If you have mild symptoms or are not in a high-risk group, you may be treated at home. If you become sicker, the best thing to do first is to contact your primary care physician from home. Call your doctor’s office or make an appointment for a video visit using the secure AdventHealth App.

You can access the AdventHealth App via a computer or mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. Simply download the app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Why Call Your Doctor First?

One of the major reasons to call your doctor first is because coronavirus is highly contagious. According to the CDC, the virus spreads mainly from person-to-person. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets in the air can travel to others who are within about 6 feet.

If you’re feeling sick and leave your house, even for medical care, you could infect others who may have compromised immune systems in the hospital emergency department or doctor’s office waiting room.

Calling or scheduling a virtual visit with your doctor first helps protect yourself and others, including medical staff. Also, a phone call or virtual visit with your doctor can help prevent you from contracting novel coronavirus if you’re not infected. You may have a cold or the flu instead; COVID-19 symptoms are similar to those illnesses.

What to Discuss With Your Doctor

During the phone call or virtual visit, tell your provider if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms. Your doctor will have access to your electronic medical record during the appointment. Calling your doctor or scheduling a virtual visit soon after you experience coronavirus symptoms is especially important if you’re pregnant, you’re age 65 or older or you have an underlying health condition at any age, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Diseases that cause a weakened immune system
  • Heart disease
  • HIV
  • Kidney failure or liver disease
  • Lung disease, including asthma
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroids, like prednisone
  • Severe obesity (BMI>40)
  • Undergoing treatment for cancer

According to the CDC, people older than 65 and those of any age with an underlying medical condition are at highest risk for serious complications from coronavirus. The CDC is still learning how COVID-19 may affect women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you or another family member is advised to come in to the doctor’s office, you’ll be directed to the most appropriate place for care.

2. Keep Tabs on Your Symptoms

Most people with coronavirus can recover safely at home. If you feel you’re in an emergency situation because your coronavirus symptoms are severe, however, call your doctor or 911. Tell the dispatcher you may have coronavirus so that emergency responders can protect themselves and other people they may come in contact with.

Severe coronavirus disease symptoms include:

  • Bluish lips or face
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • New confusion
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

Otherwise, follow your doctor’s advice on how to care for yourself at home and monitor your symptoms. Call or have a virtual visit with your doctor again if you think your symptoms are getting worse.

3. Rest and Stay Hydrated

Follow your doctor’s advice on how to best take care of yourself. Unfortunately, there’s no medication to treat coronavirus yet. Generally, the CDC recommends supportive care: resting and staying hydrated as the virus runs its course.

4. Keep Up the Good Work of Managing Your Chronic Health Condition

If you have an underlying medical condition, try not to let coronavirus distract you. Be sure to follow your regular management plan.

If you have asthma, for example, you’ll want to continue taking your asthma medication exactly as prescribed and avoid your asthma triggers, such as dust mites and tobacco smoke.

It’s also a good idea to get an extra supply of your medications, if possible. Make sure you have an abundant supply of your routine prescription medications for high blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions you have, and any over-the-counter medications you may need for fever and other symptoms in case you do come down with COVID-19.

If you can’t get an extra supply of medications at once, sign up for a mail-order service to have your medication delivered to your door.

5. Stay at Home

To avoid infecting others, don’t leave your house. If you live alone and need to buy groceries, pet food or other essentials, ask someone to help you get what you need, such as a family member or neighbor, or sign up for a grocery delivery service.

If these ideas aren’t options for you, the CDC recommends contacting a community organization to help you get staples while you’re housebound. Organizations could include a nearby religious organization or even your local health department.

6. If You Think You Have COVID-19, Stay Away From Family Members

To help prevent the coronavirus disease from spreading to other members of your family, quarantine yourself in a designated room in your house, such as your bedroom, and stay there as much as possible. To avoid spreading the virus, use a separate bathroom, too, if possible.

To protect family members and other caregivers you live with from getting sick, stay about 6 feet away from others, especially if you’re coughing or sneezing. Consider communicating by texting or talking with family members from across the room.

7. Use Your Own Dishes and Items

Use your own designated dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels and bedding, as you cope with COVID-19. After using your kitchen items, wash them in soap and water or the dishwasher.

8. Keep Tissues Handy

If you cough or sneeze, follow the proper hygiene steps, including covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, then tossing it in a lined trash can. Wash your hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Encourage family members to do the same.

9. Don’t Touch Your Face

Avoid touching your face, nose and eyes, which provide access for germs to enter your body. Even though you’re already sick, this is still a good practice. Whether you have the novel coronavirus or not, avoiding touching your face in any of these areas can help prevent germs from making your condition worse.

10. Clean High-Touch Surfaces Daily

In your room and bathroom, clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces: areas you touch every day, such as your bedroom side table, doorknobs, sinks, faucets, toilet, desk, light switches, handles and trashcans.

Use household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface and following label instructions. Use the search box here to see if your favorite brand of household cleaner made the list.

Bleach can also get the job done. To make your own household cleaner, the CDC recommends mixing one-third cup bleach per gallon of water or four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

11. Limit Contact With Pets

Currently, there aren’t any reports of COVID-19 spreading to household pets. But as a precaution, the CDC recommends limiting your contact with any pets you may have. If there’s no one else to take care of your pet, wash your hands before and after interacting with them.

12. Stay Home Until the Coast Is Clear

As you begin to feel better, you may be tempted to leave your room and even venture out of the house. To avoid infecting others, however, the CDC recommends staying put, in your isolation room, until these three things happen:

  • You have three full days with no fever, without taking fever-reducing medication
  • Your symptoms, such as cough or shortness of breath, have improved
  • At least seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

Your doctor can also advise you on when it’s safe to take yourself out of quarantine and resume your regular activities.

We’re Here to See You Through

At every stage of the pandemic, we’re dedicated to giving you the news you need to take care of yourself and your family members. For more information about the coronavirus, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub.

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