COVID-19 and what to do if you test positive
As some of you may or may not know, I have recently tested positive for COVID-19. This post will review my experience and symptoms and some steps to take if you find yourself in this situation. As always, I am not a doctor, and this is not a diagnostic tool for COVID-19 or any other treatment purposes.
My week started fairly mundane as I finished my stretch of overnight shifts while the sun was coming up Monday morning. While walking to my car, I noticed a little tickle in my throat. Nothing all that uncommon for me after wearing a mask and being in the dry hospital all weekend. I drank some tea and went about my day. After resting and drinking some soup, I started to get congested and not feeling all that well. By Tuesday, I was miserable. My throat hurt so bad I could not swallow pretty much anything, my head hurt from all the sinus pressure, and I honestly thought I just had a head cold. After taking my temperature (usually 97-98 degrees), I knew I should get tested for COVID. My fever was around 99 when I got tested but would soon get to 99.9. For me, this is very warm as I run low, although the CDC has defined fevers to only be >100, I knew my body, and this was way out of the ordinary for me. When looking at your symptoms to examine if a COVID test is necessary, always keep in mind your baseline. If you have IBS, for example, and have diarrhea and no other symptoms, this is likely not all that out of the ordinary, but if you had other symptoms that may align with COVID, testing would likely be a good idea.
While awaiting my test results, I did not consider them being positive as I genuinely thought I had a head cold. Wednesday night, my results came back detected or positive. By this point, I felt like I was on the mend but was starting not to taste or smell anything. During this process, I have not had any trouble breathing or a cough, which I am very thankful for. Many people have a wide range of different symptoms, which is one reason why this virus is so unpredictable.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, use these tips to help you through the process!
Step 1: DO NOT FREAK OUT!
After receiving a COVID diagnosis, the first thing to do is not to freak out. Most people that test positive are recovering safely at home. I do have asthma that I do not notice much outside of working out. Those with more severe conditions/comorbidities, definitely go to the ER if you can’t breathe or are having trouble breathing. COVID is not a death sentence for most people, but that is not to say that anyone can’t become very, very sick from this virus. Statistically, the virus that causes COVID-19 is about ten times deadlier than the seasonal flu. Although my experience was relatively mild, this does not mean the virus is not severe, and precautions should continue to be taken accordingly. Let your employer know if you haven’t already that you were tested and tested positive. In my case, my occupational health department sent my manager my work restrictions pretty soon after I got my results. In this, they outlined how long I needed to be symptom-free before being released to go back to work. If you are not sure what this timeline would look like for you, refer to the current CDC guidelines on best practice. Typically the isolation period is 10-14 days from symptom onset.
Step 2: Treat your symptoms
Again, I am not a doctor and cannot prescribe medications, but like most viruses, there is no known cure for COVID, and mitigating the symptoms at home will be the best treatment for most people. When taking any over the counter medication, be sure to read the directions and only take them recommended by the drug manufacturer. I remember early on, and people were saying take Tylenol and not Aleve. From my understanding, there is little truth to this as far as science goes. I used Theraflu tea with acetaminophen in it, so I could not take extra Tylenol, so I took Ibuprofen to help with my sinus pressure/headache. I also took a homeopathic cold medication that is also over the counter. Behind the counter, you can get Sudafed. Yes, there is also Sudafed that is over the counter, but they are different! The kind behind the counter will be more potent to problematic congestion that can be hard to break up and has worked like a charm. Again, be sure you read the manufacturers guidelines on how to take the medication properly. Another one of my favorite remedies is a sore throat tea, and it was a saving grace when I could hardly swallow. Also, be sure to have someone pick you up some sports drinks or what I did was I drank a whole container of Pedialyte because I was worried I would be dehydrated since I could hardly drink.
Once you are feeling a bit better, start to contact trace as best you can. I had not seen but a few people outside of work, so I let them know I had been tested and had tested positive. The soonest anyone you have been exposed to should be tested is 48 hours from their exposure to you. If they get tested sooner, it has not been a long enough incubation period to catch the virus on a test anyway. Say anyone you have exposed gets tested, and they are negative. This does not mean they should go about their life. At any point during 2 weeks from exposure, they could become positive and be symptomatic, which is why the quarantine period is 14 days. Another challenging part of this virus is that you are contagious 48 hours before symptoms or testing positive. So you need to contact anyone you have been in contact with before when you were sick as well. For me, I contacted my gym since I had taken a class 48 hours before getting sick, and a few other establishments that I had been within 6 feet of any of the workers even if I was masked. I wanted to be sure to do my part as I would like to know if I had been exposed too.
Take care of your mental health during this time. You are in isolation to keep others safe, but you have to keep a safe mental health area. Do things you enjoy, catch up with an old friend, or do something that has been on your to-do list for a while now. It can be very challenging to connect with others during all the events this year but know that you are not alone, and some so many people care about you and want to make sure you make it through this ok. I have not been physically active given the pathophysiology of the virus. I have taken this time to rest and honor other areas of wellness.
I do hope this post is helpful and that you never need it, but in the chance you do, bookmark this for future reference!
Stay safe and stay beautiful! -MM