5 Ways to Cope with COVID-19 at Home
By Angela Skrzynski, DO, Family Medicine – Virtua Clinical Lead, Virtua Urgent Care, Telehealth, and Remote Patient Monitoring
COVID-19 has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our daily lives. There are arrows directing traffic down grocery store aisles. Stickers on seats remind us where to sit in waiting rooms, restaurants, and public transportation. Not to mention 9 a.m. Zoom meetings with toddlers sitting on your lap.
The point is, the abnormal has become somewhat, well, normal - a part of the routine. Which is why it might be easy to forget that thousands of people are testing positive for this virus every single day. And while most are dealing with mild symptoms, they're still isolated at home, feeling lousy, and probably a bit scared.
So if you recently tested positive, or perhaps someone close to you is sick with COVID-19 - here are some pro tips to get you through the thick of it.
1. Don't panic. Create a plan.
Receiving a positive test result can be frightening. With so much uncertainty looming ahead, it's easy for your anxiety to spiral. To reduce your stress - take a breath, try to relax, and consider a plan for the days ahead.
I usually tell my patients to do three things when they are diagnosed with COVID. First, isolate yourself from everyone. Second, take care of yourself as if you have the flu or a bad cold. And third, closely monitor your symptoms and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you notice any new or worsening symptoms, contact your primary care clinician right away.
2. Treat your symptoms.
From mild to severe symptoms - everyone's experience with COVID-19 is different. But despite the year we just had, this virus is still considered "new," meaning we're still learning more and more each day about how to treat it effectively. For now, I suggest grabbing some over-the-counter medicine to make your symptoms more bearable.
- Cough: That dry, body-wracking cough is the absolute worst - equal parts painful and annoying. Cough drops or suppressants can alleviate some pain to make you feel more comfortable.
- Congestion: Use a decongestant like phenylephrine or Sudafed to clear up stuffiness. A decent humidifier will help add moisture to the air, making it easier to breathe.
- Fever and aches: Keep it simple. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve – use everyday pain relievers to reduce inflammation and body aches.
- Shortness of breath: You might experience shortness of breath after walking up the stairs or other light activities. Whatever you do, don't freak out. Try taking some slow, deep breaths until your breathing returns to normal. If your breathing is getting worse, definitely contact your clinician. It might help to buy a fingertip pulse oximeter, which measures oxygen saturation in your blood. It's a simple device that can alert you that it’s time to seek help or reassure you that your lungs are still doing what you need them to. Plus, you can easily find them online or at local pharmacies.
- Loss of taste: Admittedly, this one's tough. Symptoms could last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks and beyond. And naturally, loss of taste can affect your appetite. But to maintain your strength, keep your body fueled with nutritious eats like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Above all else, it's so important to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will help maintain your blood pressure and reduce headaches. Plus, with all those extra trips to the bathroom, you’ll be up and about a couple of times a day.
If you need a little help getting comfortable, Virtua’s Urgent Care telehealth service is here for you seven days a week.
3. Set up a support system.
Regardless of your living situation - you'll be in complete isolation for at least 10 days. And you know what, it's not great. To stay connected, check in with friends and family by phone, Facetime, or Zoom. Look up contactless delivery services or reach out to neighbors for help getting food and essentials. If you’d like to connect with our emotional isolation support group, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The point is, don't do this alone just because you're in isolation.
4. Stay Positive.
Keeping up with your physical health is a given - but don't forget to show some love for your mental health as well. After a year of social distancing, it can feel daunting to completely isolate yourself for a week or two while recovering from COVID. It’s important and stay positive and find the silver lining in this mess.
Try to use the ten days to the max of your ability. If you're feeling up to it, try thinking of it as a staycation. Whatever books you're trying to catch up on, whatever shows you want to binge, just make the best of it.
5. Look out for red flags.
The number one issue to watch out for is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Many people who have COVID, even young, healthy people, experience shortness of breath. And most times, it's manageable.
I always tell patients that if this were pre-COVID, and it would have taken you to the ER, you should go to the ER. If you're having significant shortness of breath, you need to be seen right away because that situation can deteriorate pretty quickly.
Want to learn more about COVID-19 and its symptoms? Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center. And remember, even if you’ve had COVID, it’s still important to get vaccinated. To learn more about the vaccination process, click here.
Updated February 16, 2021