What to Do if You Get Sick
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reported symptoms ranging from mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms generally include fever, cough and shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
At this time, the CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days, after exposure.
If you may have had contact with a person with COVID-19 or recently traveled to countries with community spread and start to experience symptoms, call your medical provider so that they can take appropriate precautions.
If you have a cough, a fever or difficulty breathing, and you are worried that you may have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, here are recommendations from Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins, on what to do, step by step.
Coronavirus: What do I do if I Feel Sick?
1. Stay Home and Call a Health Care Provider
Unless it is an emergency, to reduce your risk of catching or spreading illness, stay home if you feel sick, even if your symptoms are mild. Do not go to work, school or public places, and avoid public transportation.
If your symptoms are severe or you feel like you need medical care, call before you go to a doctor’s office, urgent care center or emergency room. Describe your symptoms over the phone.
If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and tell the dispatcher about your symptoms and recent travel history.
2. Answer Questions to Determine Your Risk
When you call a health care facility, you will be asked about your risks for COVID-19. Risk factors include recent travel to certain countries or areas of the U.S., or exposure to an infected person.
For instance, people calling Johns Hopkins Health System hospitals or clinics are asked:
- Have you had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus? (Close contact means having been within 6 feet of that person for an extended time, or being exposed to their cough or sneeze.)
- Do you have a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing?
- Has a public health officer said you were potentially exposed to COVID-19?
3. Follow Your Health Care Provider’s Instructions
Based on your answers to these questions, the care provider will provide instructions over the phone. You will be told if you need to be evaluated, and if so, what to do next. Based on your risk for COVID-19, your health care provider may recommend that you:
- Continue to monitor your health and call back if you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms.
- Stay home and await further instructions.
- Report to a designated medical care facility for evaluation and treatment. It’s best to go alone to your appointment. Do not bring children or other family members unless you need assistance.
- Go to a clinic or emergency department if you have more severe symptoms, such as higher fever and severe shortness of breath.
4. Practice Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
- If you do leave your home to go to a care facility, wear a mask so your coughs and sneezes are less likely to infect others. (Masks are NOT recommended for healthy people in the general population.)
- Wash your hands thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) after sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing or using the bathroom, and before preparing or eating food.
- If you cough or sneeze, do so into the bend of your elbow, not your hand. Or use a tissue, and then throw it away immediately afterward.
- At home, clean often-touched surfaces such as doors and doorknobs, cabinet handles, bathroom hardware, tabletops, phones, tablets and keyboards regularly with disinfectant.
5. Stay Calm
The possibility of having a contagious illness is scary, but doctors, nurses and other caregivers are learning more about COVID-19 every day. They are working together with national and international agencies to identify and provide care to patients while avoiding spread of the illness in the community.
Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs
France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Twitter on Saturday for pain relief it was better to take paracetamol because over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus.
“The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice,” said Veran.
Patients should choose paracetamol, also known known in the United States by the generic name acetaminophen and commonly by the brand name Tylenol, because “it will reduce the fever without counter-attacking the inflammation”, the health ministry added.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.
What Residents Can Do to Prepare for COVID-19
It’s important for the public to be prepared should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in your community. To limit the spread of infection, you should:
- Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. It should contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then wash your hands.
- Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Follow these important tips to help prepare to respond to this public health threat.
- Store a two-week supply of food, beverages and water, including food for family pets.
- Ensure an adequate supply of prescribed and routine medications are on hand.
- Plan ways to care for those who are at greater risk for serious complications and who will take care of sick family members.
- If you have family members with increased risk of getting seriously sick, check with your medical providers about symptoms and treatment.
- Create an emergency contact list of family and friends, teachers and employers.
- Have a plan in case your school, childcare, or employer closes temporarily.
- Talk with your children, family, and friends about what to do if an outbreak occurs and what each person would need.