Ask the Doctor: How to Care for Yourself If You Get COVID-19
Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, some information may not be up to date. Stay informed by following information from your local officials and by visiting the Texas Department of State Health Services website.
If you get a mild case of COVID-19 and need to be your own caregiver, what steps can you take to support your at-home recovery? We asked Dr. Nagakrishnal Nachimuthu, infectious disease specialist at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group in Livingston, to help us answer some questions you may have.
If I have a mild case of COVID-19, how can I take care of myself at home?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, your doctor will direct you to stay home, self-quarantine, and rest. They may recommend you take certain medications. Monitor your symptoms and keep in touch with your primary care physician.
What symptoms can I expect to experience?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, and muscle pains. Some patients have reported new-onset diarrhea along with nausea, vomiting, loss of taste or smell, and neurological symptoms, like muscle weakness or confusion. These symptoms generally start about 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
Some studies have shown that up to 25% of people infected with COVID-19 may not show any symptoms. This could be a possible explanation for the rapid spread of the virus. Contact your primary care physician if you experience any concerning symptoms.
What can I do to alleviate these symptoms?
If you have mild symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and rest. You can take over-the-counter fever-reducing agents recommended by your physician. We typically suggest taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) as appropriate for pain relief.
Is there anything I can do to help my body recover sooner?
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. However, it’s a good idea to keep yourself hydrated and get plenty of rest.
Should I avoid certain medications?
There have been some reports that anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen could worsen symptoms in patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19. At the moment, there is not enough evidence to suggest this is the case. Based on current information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen for COVID-19.
There has also been recent concern using medications like ACE inhibitors (Lisinopril, Benazepril) or angiotensin receptor blockers (Losartan, Olmesartan), which are usually prescribed for patients with heart failure and hypertension, increase the risk of COVID-19 complications.
However, there is no current experimental or clinical data to show that these medications can cause adverse outcomes among patients with COVID-19. The American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and Heart Failure Society of America currently recommend the continued use of these medications for those who are prescribed them, as they are known to be beneficial for those with ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and hypertension.
COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving topic, and updates will be made based on research.
What if I have an underlying medical condition?
For people with diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, or other chronic medical conditions, continue your medications unless your physician advises otherwise. Do not discontinue or alter your medications without talking to your doctor. To minimize trips to your pharmacy, make sure you have an adequate supply of your maintenance medications. Additionally, avoid anything that exacerbates your condition.
At what point should I seek medical attention for worsening COVID-19 symptoms?
If you develop any chest discomfort or difficulty breathing, it could indicate serious illness, and you should call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
What precautions do I need to take if I require in-person medical care?
If you have COVID-19 (or suspect you do) and you require inpatient care, make sure you inform the emergency medical personnel and emergency room ahead of time, so they can prepare for your arrival. Wear a mask to prevent spreading the virus.
The healthcare team you encounter will also take certain precautions. There is a separate triage area for patients who are diagnosed with (or suspected to have) COVID-19, and you will be admitted to a floor that is entirely dedicated to taking care of COVID-19 patients, with nurses and ancillary staff who are specially trained. They will be wearing PPE (personal protective equipment).
There will be no visitors allowed in your room; therefore, we recommend you bring a portable communication device to keep in touch with your loved ones.
Upon discharge from the hospital, you are still encouraged to wear a mask and self-quarantine yourself from others until your symptoms have subsided for at least three days and it has been seven days since your symptoms first appeared.
Throughout your at-home recovery, discuss your symptoms and concerns with your primary care physician. Remember, call your doctor before coming into the office or schedule a virtual visit with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician.
Learn more about scheduling a virtual visit with a doctor in your area: