Are you, like me, completely fascinated by all the news about COVID-19? As a doctor, even I am becoming a bit of a hypochondriac. Maybe you have started wondering: Could I, right now, have the dreaded virus, lurking somewhere in my body? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as opening your mouth in front of the mirror, poking out your tongue and saying “Ah!”—even if you do have a fine pair of tonsils! Read on to discover eight warning signs COVID-19 is in your body—and how to treat them.
You Have a Fever
You may not believe it, but a fever is actually a good thing. You develop one when you have an infection because your immune system has been activated and is working hard on the front line—to defend you from the invading virus. The virus cannot survive at higher temperatures. Your body releases heat shock proteins which help protect your own cells from damage. Some research studies have shown people who have a fever have a better prognosis than those who do not.
How to Treat Your Fever
It may seem counterintuitive but in fact, try not to get anxious about lowering the fever. You can take Tylenol within the prescribed doses. Drink plenty of fluids and cool yourself with a damp sponge and a fan.
“Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C),” says MedicineNet.
You Have a Dry Cough
Cough is a common symptom of COVID-19, and common at this time of year due to hay fever and asthma. The typical COVID-19 cough is dry and irritating.
How to Treat Your Cough
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued recent guidance about treating cough with COVID-19.
- Encourage patients to sit up and avoid lying flat.
- Take 1 teaspoon of honey when needed.
- If the cough is distressing, a doctor might prescribe a codeine linctus/codeine phosphate tablet, 15-30 mg every 4 hours, the maximum dosage is 4 doses in 24 hours.
Always discuss taking any medication with your healthcare provider in advance.
You Have Shortness of Breath
If you are living with COVID-19 infection at home, breathlessness may be a troublesome symptom.
How to Treat Your Shortness of Breath
If you feel breathless, you should seek medical help right away. COVID-19 infections can worsen rapidly, and it is not possible to assess the severity via the Internet.
Here are further NICE 2020 recommendations:
- First, try to stay calm. Anxiety makes breathlessness feel much worse.
- Keep your bedroom cool and open the window.
- Concentrate on your breathing, sit upright, try to relax your shoulders.
- Sometimes leaning forward and gripping something like the back of a chair may help.
- Some people get relief with pursed-lip breathing. This means breathing in through your nose, waiting a few seconds, then breathing out slowly over four seconds with pursed lips. Breathing against the pursed lips creates pressure in the airways and helps relieve the sensation of breathlessness.
TAKE NOTE: Other signs of respiratory distress are blue lips, blue fingernails/fingers and toes, shaky hands, confusion and dizziness. Call your doctor if you experience any shortness of breath whatsoever.
You Have a Sore Throat
Sore throats are very common with any respiratory infections. Although unpleasant, they usually settle as the infection settles. Most sore throats don’t need any treatment. If your sore throat is especially bad, do ask a doctor to check it out in case you have tonsillitis for example.
How to Treat Your Sore Throat
Sore throats can be eased by drinking plenty of fluids, sucking lozenges, gargling with salt water, and/or the use of throat sprays. Sucking an ice cube or eating an ice pop may help.
You Have Diarrhea
Around half of all people infected with COVID-19 have digestive symptoms; 18% present with diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain. Usually, this is just up to three loose stools per day.
How to Treat Digestive Symptoms
It’s important to drink plenty of fluids and not become dehydrated, so consider the use of rehydration sachets or a drink like Gatorade. Gastroenterologists sometimes prescribe antibiotics or antivirals for infective diarrhea due to changes in the gut flora that occur in a COVID-19 infection. Of note, in Wuhan, the Chinese treated COVID-19 diarrhea with probiotics.
You Have Chills and Muscle Pains
Chills and muscle pains are common non-specific signs of many infections. They may, however, be a sign of more severe infection. Chills occur when your core body temperature has increased, and your peripheral muscles then contract and relax to create more body heat. Muscles feel painful and may be tender to touch because they are being directly damaged by the virus.
How to Treat Your Chills and Muscle Pains
You can try a variety of treatments for muscle pains such as Tylenol, ice, gentle stretching, or massage.
You Have a New Loss of Taste or Smell
A recent study in the International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology reported that if you have a loss of smell and taste, you are 10 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than have any other infective cause. At the time of the study, 70% of COVID-19 patients reported their symptoms were improving. Loss of taste and smell is common after many respiratory infections but seems even more common as a presenting symptom of COVID-19 infection.
How to Treat Your Loss of Taste of Smell
It seems more commonly found in people with only mild infection. Try not to forget to eat, as you may have a reduced appetite.
You Have Fatigue
Fatigue is stated in the publications from Wuhan, as one of the main presenting features of COVID-19 infection. In one report—46% of patients complained of extreme fatigue in the early stages of the disease. Fatigue is a common symptom of many different diseases, so is not specific to COVID-19 infections.
How to Treat Your Fatigue
You’ll have a full-body tiredness. So do what you know is right—and rest that body.
One Final Note from the Doctor
Look out for these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.