You have COVID-19, now what?
April 3, 2020
Texas MedClinic has compiled frequently-asked-questions to help patients and our communities better understand COVID-19 testing, symptoms, and care.
1. I have a fever of 101, and a cough and feel terrible; tired, run down. I went to the doctor, and he told me I have the virus, but I was not tested, as test collections kits were limited.
What do I do now that I have a clinical diagnosis, but not a positive test?
If you are sick with fever, lethargy, body aches and cough, you have COVID-19, whether you have been tested or not. It’s a clinical diagnosis, which means those symptoms are the key.
If experiencing these symptoms, stay home, with limited/no contact with others.
Why didn’t they test me for COVID-19? *
When testing became available in March, test collections kits were limited. CDC protocol and worldwide standard practices asked physicians to test for COVID-19 based on the following criteria that included testing health care workers, first responders, those over age 65 and/or with pre-existing conditions like lung and heart disease and diabetes that could put that persona at risk for complications.
Testing based on these criteria has been doing its job to provide doctors valuable information on how to manage patients who have severe symptoms and are hospitalized.
*As of April 1, Texas MedClinic is now testing any person with COVID-19 symptoms.
2. I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and have 5 people in my household. Are they going to get the virus?
Scientists are still trying to understand the progression of COVID-19, who it impacts, its severity in some, but not others.
As a physician for 40 years, I can share my observations of another virus that has severely impacted people in the U.S. for decades; influenza or flu. Thousands in the U.S. die from influenza each year, and hundreds of thousands more are diagnosed with the flu and recover. When one person in the household has flu, does the entire household get the flu all the time? The answer is no.
We do understand that the droplets from coughs and sneezes of those infected with COVID-19 stay alive on surfaces longer than influenza.
Hand washing, disinfecting and social distancing are important tactics to keep the virus from spreading within your home.
When in a household or when caring for someone with COVID-19, reduce/limit the spread of the disease to others by creating 2 zones in the house; contaminated and clear.
Continually disinfect the clear area.
If you are fortunate to have two bathrooms, reserve one for the use of those who are ill and at least a single room nearby for them to occupy. Those who are NOT ill should avoid as much as possible entry into the contaminated areas.
If a healthy person is having contact with the ill, then limit that as much as possible; stay 6 feet away from the infected person. Keep interactions very, very brief.
When in contact, both the infected and healthy persons need to cover mouth and nose with a scarf, towel or handkerchief. After interactions hand wash, hand wash, hand wash!
3. I have tested positive for COVID-19 with mild symptoms and I am self-isolating so as not to infect others. I keep hearing people talk about symptoms worsening. What does that mean, and how would I know?
The primary concern with this virus is its potential to infect and thus affect the lungs.
Cough is a common symptom, but of itself is not a reason to be overly concerned.
Shortness of Breath (commonly abbreviated as SOB in medicine) is the key symptom to monitor. However, determining/measuring SOB outside a medical setting can be tough. Some things to watch for:
- The inability to finish a complete sentence without taking an extra breath
- Only being able to say a few words without taking another breath (similar to above)
- The inability to walk a few blocks or across a parking lot or to the mail box at your normal pace without feeling SOB or pausing to breathe.
- The inability to hold your breath for more than 10 seconds
(The ability to hold the breath is NOT a test that proves you do not have COVID-19; this information is offered to help patients determine if what they are experiencing is significant enough to warrant further medical evaluation.)
These are examples to consider and if they develop, medical care should be sought. In an emergency room or physician offices, the rate of breathing and other vital signs such as pulse oxygenation (a simple measure of the amount of oxygen in your blood) can give medical staff more information about the reasons you might be SOB.
4. I have COVID-19 and am isolating at home. What do I do if my symptoms get worse, and I have more difficulty breathing?
Seek medical attention immediately. Go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.
5. I have COVID-19. I have body aches and wish to take ibuprofen for relief. Is it safe to take ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)?
At this time, there is no clinical evidence that proves taking over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen is unsafe.
6. I have COVID-19. What are ways to make it easier to breathe? Are there any over-the-counter medications that help with this type of cough?
Keep your mouth and throat moist. Drink fluids, hot or cold. Use throat lozenges; suck on hard candies, whatever is available to you.
Over the counter cough suppressants help cut the number of times you cough. The active ingredient listed is dextromethorphan (DM). Other cough suppressants include camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol.
Cough medicine is used to ease symptoms as the body heals.
Texas MedClinic was established in 1982 by Dr. Bernard T. Swift, Jr., as a group medical practice that specializes in urgent care and occupational medicine. Texas MedClinic has grown to 19 locations in San Antonio, New Braunfels, Austin, and Round Rock. Texas MedClinic is staffed with 82 medical providers including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners and over 450 employees.38