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Having COVID-19 symptoms? Here's what you should do


Fri, Mar 20th 2020 05:20 pm

By the University at Buffalo

At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all become experts in the principles of prevention: Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Cough into the crook of your elbow. Avoid crowds and stay 6 feet way from others. Wipe down frequent touched surfaces often. Wash towels daily.

But what should we do when the inevitable happens – when we or someone we love exhibits symptoms of being infected with the novel coronavirus. What then?

Michele McKay, MS, RN, undergraduate clinical coordinator in the School of Nursing at the University of Buffalo, offers several strategies for action if we suspect we’ve been exposed.

Stay away from others. “If you think you have been exposed, quarantine yourself away from others by staying in one room in your home; it can take 14 days for the virus to present with symptoms,” she says. “This is a long time to have to wait – use phones and computer programs to communicate with others.”

Call your health care provider – don’t go anywhere. “If you do develop symptoms, the last thing to do is go to the doctor’s office, urgent care or the emergency department,” McKay says. “Instead, call your health care provider’s office and ask them for advice on what to do.”

Only go to the emergency department if it’s medically urgent. “If you are having shortness of breath or trouble breathing, that is medically urgent, and you should go to an emergency department. When you arrive, immediately put on a mask and stay 6 feet away from others,” McKay says.

Stock up on the right things. “You should have on hand what you would normally use in a one- to two-week time frame for food, liquids, toiletries and over-the-counter medications,” she says. “This virus causes fever, so have some fever-reducing medication on-hand, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.”

As with any virus, staying hydrated is crucial. “Any time you have a fever, you need to stay hydrated; small sips of water or juice two to four times per hour will help to keep you hydrated enough until you are feeling better and can return your usual fluid intake patterns,” McKay says.

Anyone with a prior medical condition needs to be extra careful. “People with asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions should be extremely cautious during this time. The virus is most detrimental to the elderly, people who are immunocompromised and those with underlying conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. Because it attacks the respiratory system so aggressively, people with these conditions do not have the full strength of the lungs to fight it off as well,” she says.

Designate one person to be the caregiver for the elderly. McKay says, “If you have family members, especially older family members with chronic health conditions, you should have only one designated caregiver for them. This caregiver should be someone who has not been out in the community or traveling, and therefore is less likely to have been exposed to the virus.”

Be aware of your health. McKay recommends being very aware of what to watch for in terms of symptoms. “Be aware of what the major symptoms are – fever, shortness of breath and cough. Runny noses and sore throat are not typical symptoms of COVID-19,” she says.



Niagara Frontier Publications shared this press release because it came from a credible source that aims to educate the public. That said, we make no guarantee as to the claims stated herein, or that any of these techniques will work. Please consult with your own doctor before starting, continuing or ending any medical treatment.

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