Medical experts say that the majority of people who come down with COVID-19 experience mild enough symptoms that they can stay home and get well without needing to be hospitalized.
For the 36 million Americans who live alone, along with the people who can’t risk getting other members of their households sick, coming down with coronavirus will mean having to take care of themselves without any help.
These are the steps that people in that situation should take before, during, and after getting sick with COVID-19. It is important to note that if you experience severe symptoms of the illness, you should seek medical attention immediately. Make sure that you notify the hospital or paramedics ahead of time that you have COVID-19 symptoms so that they can make sure that they are adequately protected when they treat you.
Prior to getting sick with coronavirus
Take preventative measures. The best way to beat the coronavirus is to never get it in the first place. Practicing social distancing, frequently washing your hands with soap and water for a minimum of twenty seconds, and not touching your face are essential. Taking all of these steps doesn’t ensure that you won’t get sick, but it lowers your risk of infection.
Know who to call if you get sick. If you already have a primary care physician, contact them to see if they have telemedicine options available. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, it’s not a bad idea to find one. That way if you get sick, you already have an established relationship.
Create a support network. Think about the family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues who live nearby who could bring you food or medicine if you get sick. Talk with them to make a plan of action so that if you get sick, you’ll be able to notify them, and they’ll be ready to help you.
While sick with coronavirus
Isolate yourself. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you need to distance yourself from other people. It is entirely possible that you have mild symptoms that allow you to move around, but to avoid infecting other people, stay home. If you need groceries or over-the-counter medicine, order them through no-contact delivery.
Notify your doctor. Tell them your symptoms and ask if there are any specific steps that you need to take. Depending on your level of health and other illnesses or conditions that you may have, your doctor will create a specific plan of action for you. For the next two weeks, your doctor will be able to monitor your symptoms remotely and will be your primary point of contact for medical information.
Pay attention to your symptoms. Reports indicate that the mildest coronavirus symptoms occur in the first few days. Lalita Abhyankar, a family physician at the Institute for Family Health, told Time that “the first seven days are kind of key. It’s on day seven or eight that you end up feeling really bad. Day seven or day eight is when people who have more severe illness tend to deteriorate.” Fevers tend to break around the third or fourth day, says Abhyankar, but shortness of breath comes later, around the eighth day.
Take advantage of the days you feel better. When you start to feel sick, rest. If you start feeling better a few days in, without overexerting yourself, use that time to lay out clean clothes, prepare foods that you can reheat later on, and set up your bedroom so that it’s a restful place. That way, if your health takes a turn, you’ll be able to focus on resting and not on washing clothes, cooking, or tracking down your phone charger.
After you’ve had coronavirus
Protect others. It’s not known exactly how long people are still contagious after recovering from COVID-19, so even if you feel better, try to limit your contact with the outside world once you’re on the mend. Wear a face mask and gloves if you need to leave the house to lower the chances of infecting others in your community.
Listen to your body. Remember that recuperation is different for everybody. Don’t push yourself, keep monitoring your health, and if you begin to feel like you’re taking a step backwards, let your doctor know your symptoms.
Return to normal. Once you truly feel better, then you can begin to clean and disinfect your home, wash your pajamas, and change your bed sheets.