So the unthinkable has happened and you or you and a family member have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Even though this can cause plenty of feelings of fear, worry and even embarrassment, the best thing to do is to focus on getting well and keeping other family members safe. You can do this with a well-thought-out plan.
There are a few crucial steps to take once you’ve received a positive test for COVID-19. By taking charge and executing a plan you can regain a sense of calm and confidence in the face of the virus. Remind yourself that by taking action now, you can get through this trying ordeal.
Don’t Wait – Isolate
Separating the infected person from others in the household is one of the most important things you can do if someone in your home is diagnosed with COVID-19 in order to limit the spread of the infection to others both in your home and outside of it. Isolation means maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from anyone living with you. Ideally, you should try to identify a separate space that is well ventilated that would allow you to remain away from others in your household such as a guest room or other room in your house that is not heavily trafficked or used by others. Most importantly, you want to avoid close contact for extended periods of time with members of your household and avoid sharing meals with them as well. If all household members wear face coverings/masks while indoors this would also further limit any spread. Obviously, if the infected individual is a child this would need to be modified based on their age.
Monitoring Makes Sense
If you have not already contacted your primary care doctor or pediatrician after being diagnosed with COVID-19 it is a good idea to do so. This is important so that your physician or physicians can evaluate your current symptoms if you have any and assess you for and the need for any additional treatments or therapies. If you have access to a home pulse oximeter (a device that clips onto your finger to measure your pulse and oxygen saturation in the blood cells) it would be reasonable to use it intermittently, especially if you have or develop any kind of breathing related symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath during rest or while walking.
Treatments to Try
Most people with COVID-19 will recover with rest and occasional over-the-counter fever or pain medication such as Tylenol. If you have a fever or muscle pains, over-the-counter anti-fever medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen are usually appropriate. There are some medical conditions where these treatments can be potentially risky so if you or the infected individual has any questions about the safety of taking such medications, they should discuss it with their primary care doctor or pediatrician before taking.
Some physicians will recommend different vitamins such as zinc, vitamin D or vitamin C for patients diagnosed with COVID-19. In small to moderate doses these are likely to be safe, however, large doses or using these vitamins if you are taking a lot of other medications for other conditions may be unwise. There is no conclusive evidence to date that suggests taking vitamins of any sort speeds up the recovery from COVID-19 or reduces the chances of severe illness or death.
For patients who are at increased risk of serious or severe COVID-19 such as the elderly or individuals with multiple chronic medical conditions, there may be a role for treatment with specialized medications such as monoclonal antibodies. These need to be prescribed by a physician and administered in health care settings. This is another important reason why it is good to stay in contact with your primary care doctor or pediatrician.
Self-Care is Key
While recovering from COVID-19 it is important to remain well hydrated and stay at least partially active by standing, walking and moving around at least a few times a day if not more frequently. Individuals who are being treated for other medical problems should continue taking all prescribed medications unless instructed to stop by your physician. Patients with severe COVID pneumonia may benefit from sleeping at least part of the time on their stomachs (called “proning”). Whether or not this helps individuals who have much more mild forms of the infection is not known.
Being diagnosed with COVID-19 can be a scary development but it is important to remain calm and to be aware that the vast majority of people who contract the illness will recover in a short period of time. Focus on taking slow deep breaths, getting plenty of rest and staying well hydrated if you are symptomatic. Keep track of your symptoms as they develop or change and keep your physician updated with any concerning changes to you or a loved one’s condition.
Dr. Jason Kessler MD is Section Chief of Infectious Disease at Morristown Medical Center, Atlantic Health System and is a married and a father of two young children.