I think I have been exposed to a coronavirus case and I am concerned I may have coronavirus, what should I do now?
As you think about your activities in the past two weeks, it’s possible you may think about a situation where you believe you could have been exposed to a coronavirus case or someone that was ill. And, you’re thinking, What should I do now? I know this is challenging to do but I will say first, don’t worry. There is some good news here: there are very proactive steps you can take that will help you and help your doctor, clinic or hospital know how best to help you. With any illness, including coronavirus, it helps your doctors take better care of you if you can write down what you are feeling. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. If you prefer, you can write using your phone or computer and save it as a note or a word processing file.
To create your own record, I’m going to have you focus on writing about any signs or symptoms of coronavirus illness (we call it COVID-19) that you may be experiencing. By having this written record, you will have a clear list of information to show your doctor or to discuss with your clinic nurses and doctors by phone. You can also use this list for an older adult who may be at home or in your family.
Keep in mind that not everyone will experience the same signs and symptoms of coronavirus. For each of the signs and symptoms shown in this list, write down the sign (such as “Fever”) and then describe your experience in your own words. For each of these items below, also write down how long (in hours or days) that you have been experiencing each of these:
Fever. If you have a thermometer at home (digital or other), measure your temperature and write it down. If you feel feverish later, measure your temperature again and write it down. Also, write down the time when you measured your temperature.
Cough. Think back to when you first started coughing and record that time and day. This cough may be dry where you don’t cough up phlegm.
Phlegm. Write down if your cough is dry or if you are coughing up any phlegm. Write down the color of the phlegm that you cough up. This color may be clear, yellowish, greenish, pinkish, reddish or a mixture of these.
Shortness of breath with walking or exercise. Are you feeling winded or needing to stop for a few seconds when you are walking?
Shortness of breath just sitting or laying down. Are you feeling winded or feeling like you can’t get enough air when you are sitting in a chair or laying down in bed?
Pain in your chest area. Do you have pain or tenderness anywhere in your chest or do you experience pain when you take a deep breath?
Pressure in your chest. Does it feel like you have a tight belt or wrap around your chest so that it feels difficult to take a deep breath?
Feeling very tired (fatigue). Do you feel tired more than usual?
Drowsiness or difficulty staying awake: Do you feel more drowsy or have difficulty staying alert and focused more usual?
Muscle aches. Do you feel muscle pain when you are still or moving? Muscle aches can occur anywhere in the body including back, stomach, arms, and legs.
Joint aches or pain. Does it hurt or feel tender when you move your joints like your wrists, elbows, hips or knees? You may or may not have joint swelling with joint aches or pains.
Sore throat. Does it hurt when you swallow any food or liquids? This may be more noticeable in the morning when you wake up but can occur any time of day.
Headache. Are you experiencing any headache pain in the front, sides, back or top of your head? Headache can come and go or be more constant depending on the person.
Chills. Do you feel cold even when the temperature indoors is set at its usual level? Some people may have mild chills and others may have shaking chills that require you to cover up with multiple layers or covers in bed.
Nausea. Do you feel sick to your stomach and do you feel as if you may vomit?
Vomiting. How many episodes of vomiting have you had and when did these episodes occur (write down the day and times of your vomiting episodes)?
Nasal congestion. Do you feel stuffiness in your nose? Do you feel unable to breath in and out through your nose? Do you have a runny nose or fluid draining from your nose?
Diarrhea. How many episodes of diarrhea have you had and when did these episodes occur (write down the day and times of your vomiting episodes).
After writing down this list above, you can talk with your doctor or clinic by phone to work with them and decide what your next step should be.
Dr. Paul Kilgore