In the last week alone, the number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States has increased drastically. Some people have sought out tests after being exposed to someone who had the virus, but a number have also found out their status due the symptoms they’ve noticed they’ve come down with. That has led many to worry that a cough, any cough, is a sign of infection, or that the congestion they’ve experienced while trapped in the house with all kinds of dust and particles could be a sign of COVID-19. However, Dr. David Nazarian, founder of My Concierge MD in Los Angeles, says the symptoms of the virus presently gripping a number of countries stands out in terms of its characteristics.
“When you have the combination of fever, dry cough and respiratory symptoms like difficulty breathing, those three really go along with this COVID-19 infection,” he said over the phone. “You can start with fever, and then after fever, if you’re dealing with shortness of breath or respiratory compromise, you might have it. But if you’re not experiencing shortness of breath, it could just be the flu.”
He noted that both COVID-19 and the flu can come with a cough and fatigue, but the latter illness shouldn’t go further than that. If you are dealing with allergies, or a cold, you shouldn’t have a fever, but you may face itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. Presently though, Nazarian says that if you’re facing any symptoms, it’s necessary to quarantine yourself.
“It’s really important for people to understand that if they get symptoms that are even a mild cold, they should assume until proven otherwise that this can be COVID-19 infection and isolate themselves,” he said. “Not everybody presents with strong symptoms, so until really proven otherwise, to help try to decrease the spread, people should just really try to isolate themselves even if they have flu-like symptoms or mild cold symptoms.”
Medical professionals like Nazarian say that if you’re dealing with symptoms, contact your primary care physician to be guided on what the next best step is. You shouldn’t assume you need to come to the hospital looking to get tested as staff at them are already overwhelmed.
“There’s a real shortage of testing kits at the moment,” he said. “If someone does have the COVID-19, coming to the physician’s office, they can infect others. If it’s just cold and flu symptoms and they visit the emergency room, they could theoretically become infected by someone else who is.”
While home, in quarantine, it’s recommended to opt for an acetaminophen like Tylenol for relief as opposed to ibuprofen, which according to recent reports, could make your symptoms worse. You should only consider visiting the hospital when your symptoms become even more problematic. Signs of that include a fever that won’t quit even with the help of Tylenol, and trouble breathing. In those cases, you may need to seek medical attention and be monitored.
“A percentage of patients who do contract COVID-19, it can lead to pneumonia, and some patients go into ARDS, which is acute respiratory distress syndrome,” he said. “So those are all really concerning.”
For those who don’t find their health on a serious decline, or just have mild symptoms, Nazarian said that it should take about 14 days for the virus to subside. If it seems to take longer, but you don’t feel worse, you should still stay put until all indicators of illness let up.
“The estimated incubation period is around five to six days. The majority of the symptoms will develop in patients within 12 days. Studies point to 97.5 percent of patients developing symptoms in 11 and a half days. That’s why the recommendation is to self-quarantine for at least 14 days,” he said. “It’s thought that after 14 days, the symptoms should resolve and patients should be less or not infectious at that point.”
All that being said, if you feel fine, self-isolate. If you feel under the weather, quarantine. If your’e feeling feverish, have a persistent cough and have a hard time breathing, then and only then should you make your way to the hospital. Whatever category you fall under, take all precautions seriously for the benefit of your own health, and that of your neighbor.