What should you do if you test positive for COVID-19?

What should you do if you test positive for COVID-19 and your doctor is treating you at home

Stephanie Tardieu, MD and Marie-Ange Tardieu, MD  

One common mistake we all might make, particularly during the winter season, is to attribute sniffles and cough to our usual common allergy or to a common cold. Before the pandemic, if we were to develop a cough or the sniffles, it would be safe to assume that we caught the common cold (or maybe the flu). Most of us would treat it with usual remedies like tea, honey, keeping warm and get some extra rest until the symptoms get better. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, making such assumption could cost us valuable time in diagnosing and treating COVID-19; this could worsen your prognosis in the long run. Therefore, during the pandemic, if you have any coughing – sneezing, loss of taste or smell, fevers, difficulty swallowing, muscle aches, headaches – or diarrhea, you should assume that you have contracted COVID-19 until it is confirmed or proven otherwise by testing. In this article, we will review what steps to take if you have any of the above symptoms or if you test positive for COVID-19.

1) Call your Doctor:

You should always call your Doctor, go to an urgent care center or an emergency room (if you don’t have a Doctor or urgent care center available) when you first start experiencing any of the following symptoms: coughing, sneezing, loss of taste or smell, fevers, difficulty swallowing, muscle aches, headaches, vomiting or diarrhea. Your Doctor will assess the severity of your symptoms and determine if you can be cared for from home or if you require a higher level of care in the hospital. Your Doctor may tell you to get tested for COVID-19 or you may decide to do so on your own.  If your test is positive, but your doctor thinks that your symptoms are mild enough that you can be monitored at home, there are steps you can take in conjunction with the CDC recommendations to help you recover and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

2) Isolate and practice strict social distancing:

Isolate yourself and practice strict social distancing as recommended by the CDC (CDC link on quarantine and social distancing). Once your test turns positive, you should notify anyone with whom you have been in contact with in the week before you started to notice symptoms or got your test result. Stay away from others, including friends, neighbors and family members at home and in public. If you live with others, you must always wear your face mask and refrain from going to the common areas in your home. Keep the windows open to keep air flowing through the home. Try to stay in a secluded room as much as you can. Someone should sanitize common areas that you use (such as the restroom) wearing goggles, a face mask and gloves with a bleach based product after each of your uses. If you are an essential worker, consult the guidelines of the department of health for when you can return to work in your particular state. Your doctor or health care provider can also guide you on how to and how long to safely isolate or quarantine yourself.

3) Monitor your temperature:

At Anoki Skin Clinic, we recommend that our community of patients purchase their own digital infrared thermometer to monitor their temperature because the first symptom of COVID-19 is usually a low-grade fever (temperature of 100 or higher). Monitoring your temperature is a good practice even if you feel healthy during the pandemic. If you are monitoring your temperature, you should do so twice a day or as needed when you feel warmer. You should also monitor your temperature if you test positive for COVID-19. If you record a temperature of 100 or higher, contact your physician or health care provider immediately for guidance. 

We recommend that you get tested for COVID-19 even if all you have is a low grade fever at a COVID-19 testing center or urgent care center in your community. This is because a low grade fever is the first symptom of COVID-19 in the majority (88%) of the cases. If you go into the community with a fever, do so while maintaining social distance (at least 6 feet apart from others) with a face mask and face shield to prevent transmission to other persons around you. 

4) Monitor your oxygen saturation:

At Anoki Skin Clinic, we also recommend that everyone purchase their own pulse oximeter (this can be purchased at your favorite drugstore or on Amazon). This will allow you to monitor your oxygen saturation if you have COVID-19. This is important because low oxygen saturations (less than 93%) are not normal and require oxygen supplementation treatment in the hospital. At 93% oxygen saturation, even if you are not experiencing any difficulty breathing, it is a sign that you soon may begin to develop respiratory difficulty. 

Your oxygen saturation level should be 94% or above

You should monitor your oxygen saturation at least twice daily and as needed if you test positive for COVID-19. Call your physician or health care provider immediately if your oxygen saturation is trending toward 93% or lower. Also, if you begin to experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing at any point you must call 911 immediately because this can be a sign of respiratory failure and of severe COVID-19 disease, which may require an oxygen tube (intubation) for treatment to keep you alive and breathing. 

5) What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms or mild symptoms:

If you test positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, and your doctor feels that it is safe for you to stay home for your care, we suggest the following: 

 – Update your provider about your condition daily and as needed. Report any changes in symptoms, especially if you are concerned about something. Remember in medicine, questions are always welcome.

– Monitor your oxygen saturation levels and your temperature at least twice daily and as needed. 

– Follow all your doctor’s recommendations for care and treatment.

– Keep yourself well-nourished and well-hydrated with fluid like water, tea, soup, all sorts of fruit juice and electrolyte rich fluid like sports drinks. Monitor the volume and color of your urine. If your urine is darker than usual or you are not making much urine, call your provider, it means you are not hydrated enough and that may affect your kidneys. 

– Go to the hospital if you can’t eat or drink or if you cannot contact your medical provider should your symptoms change or deteriorate.

– Supplement your nutrition with foods and vitamins that boost your immune system. Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin C, probiotics, and Quercetin have all been cited as good immune boosters. 

– In our skin clinic, we recommend the following protocol to patients who test positive, but are being monitored and treated at home by their physician, to boost their immune systems:

  • Vitamin D 3000 to 5000 per day. Keep in mind, your provider must monitor your serum vitamin D level to adjust the dosage.
  •  Vitamin C (preferably the time-release form) 1000 milligrams every day
  •  Zinc 50 to 100 milligrams a day (If your kidneys are healthy) 
  • Quercetin 250-500mg twice daily
  • A Vitamin B complex daily
  • An Omega 3 fatty acid daily
  • A Probiotic daily

If you are going to follow this protocol, we recommend you speak with your own physician to make sure that it is safe for you to take these vitamins and medications with your medical history or pre-existing medical conditions. 

If you have any of the following symptoms at any point during your illness, please call 911 immediately to go to the hospital: shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing without relief, chest pain, difficulty eating or drinking, high fever (greater than 101 °F) that is not going down with Tylenol or Motrin, changes in your mental status, any other symptoms that are concerning to you or if you are unable to contact your physician or health care provider. 

Hopefully with these measures your COVID-19 illness will stay mild and you will soon be on the road to recovery. With the COVID-19 vaccine soon becoming available, hopefully at some point in the not-so-distant future, this pandemic will become a thing of the past. We encourage you to continue your efforts to socially distance, wear your mask in public, and wash your hands frequently. And our hope at Skin Post is that you and yours make it to the finish line in good health! 

Hope this helps! 

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