For the past year, COVID-19, has impacted the entire world. It has caused over 1 million deaths and left many millions with moderate to critical symptoms. Overall, the virus has shown our vulnerability to certain viruses we have not builta up immunity to.
With common symptoms of a cold or flu being possible indicators of a far more serious condition, it is natural that even a sore throat, minor fever, or a sense of fatigue can cause concern. Not all symptoms are indicative of a possible COVID-19 infection; however, knowing when to opt for a medical opinion or a test becomes important.
As a rule of a thumb, if you suspect a likely exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus you should immediately get tested for COVID-19. Beyond that, an understanding of the symptoms of the virus can help you get the medical assistance you need.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Dry cough
- Extreme fatigue
Other symptoms of a COVID-19 infection can include:
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of speech
- Loss of movement
- Shortness of breath/Difficulty breathing
- Chest Pain/Pressure
- Temperature above 100.4°F
In some cases, those who tested positive for the virus also experienced other symptoms, including:
- Pain in the joints
- Skin rash
- Red eyes
Regardless of your age, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your medical care provider immediately.
COVID Risk Factors
While the virus can affect people of any age, there are some groups that that have a higher risk of infection. These include:
- Patients above the age of 60
- Those with pre-existing medical conditions such as a heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disorders, cancer, obesity, etc.
If you fall under any of these categories and are experiencing one or more of the symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance.
When to get tested for COVID-19
If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, or if you are in a group with a higher risk of infection and are experiencing even mild symptoms, it is important to get a COVID-19 test immediately.
What if you are asymptomatic? If you are not experiencing any of the symptoms and don’t qualify for any of the risk criteria but suspect a likely exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus or have an impending travel, it is best to get yourself tested for COVID-19.
Types of COVID-19 Tests – Differences Between the Tests
Even if you have decided to seek medical assistance and/or to get a COVID-19 test, you may be unclear about the various tests available. Below are details on the current COVID-19 tests available:
- Antibody Test – If you suspect a likely exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks (even if you continue to be asymptomatic) you can opt for an immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody test. These tests are done via a blood sample and results are ready in less than 30 minutes. Antibody tests look for any antibodies that the body has produced in response to an infection in the past 2 weeks. This test cannot detect a current infection; it can only indicate if a person has had the infection in the past.
- Rapid Antigen Test – These tests are performed by collecting samples via a nose or a throat swab and the results are also ready quickly (within the hour). Known as a rapid diagnostic test, these tests detect any viral proteins in the body and are best performed when an individual is suspected of contracting the virus.
- PCR test – A molecular test or a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is considered to be the most accurate test for an active infection as far as results are concerned. These molecular tests look for the virus by amplifying the viral genetic material to a point where it can be detected. Samples are again collected as a nose or a throat swab. These tests can confirm an active infection within mere days of exposure to the virus or at the first manifestation of a symptom(s). Results, however, take longer (5 to 7 days).
Depending on your specific situation, your medical care provider may recommend that you get a PCR test done even if your rapid test results came back negative.
COVID-19 Treatment – Pre-exposure
It is important to remember that there are no specific treatment plans or medicines that are available to treat COVID-19 yet.
The best option is preventing exposure by taking the following precautions: Follow the guidance of local health authorities, such as:
- Wear a mask anytime you are near another person who does not live in your household.
- Regularly use soap and water or an alcohol-based rub/sanitizer to keep your hands clean
- Maintain social distancing
- Try to refrain from touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stay home if you suspect a likely exposure or are experiencing any symptoms.
- Contact your medical care provider if you suspect an exposure or are exhibiting symptoms.
COVID-19 Treatment – Post-exposure
If you suspect a possible infection and have already contacted your medical care provider, we recommend you take the following steps:
- Clean and disinfect all possible areas you have recently come into contact with.
- Stay away from your family members by isolating yourself in a separate room.
- Maintain a healthy diet with nutritious food and plenty of fluids.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Stay positive and find ways to avoid being overwhelmed.
If your test comes back positive for the virus and the physician rules it as a mild infection, follow these steps for treatment along with the medication prescribed by the physician (if applicable):
- Get plenty of rest.
- Quarantine/self-isolate yourself in a separate room and avoid all contact with other family members.
- Keep yourself well hydrated.
- Constantly monitor your symptoms and vitals including temperature, oxygen levels, and pulse.
However, in case of more serious manifestations of the symptoms, your physician might advise you to immediately admit yourself into a COVID hospital to expedite treatment. While there are no universally accepted treatment plans yet, doctors are treating symptoms on a case by case basis
Recovering and Getting Reinfected
Symptoms usually manifest themselves between 2 and 14 days of exposure. If you have a mild infection, recovery is usually a maximum of 2 weeks. Approximately 80% of people who contract the virus get the infection in a mild form and recover at home. Approximately 15% of cases result in serious illness and require oxygen. An estimated 5% of cases may become critically ill and need to be in the intensive care unit) with recovery taking as long as 6 weeks. In most cases, isolation and precautions are discontinued after 10 days of initial symptoms with an improvement in fever without the need for medication.
In some cases, patients continue to experience symptoms even in post recovery such as fatigue and other neurological and respiratory signs – even after they are discharged.
It has also been observed that in some patients, chances of reinfection can reoccur after antibodies diminish within 3 to 5 months, however, this is very rare.
The findings regarding COVID-19 (or SARS-COV-2) are still coming in as scientists across the world work on discovering a way to end the outbreak of this novel coronavirus. Until then, precaution and prevention remain the best protection against contracting the virus.
Can I get tested for antibodies if I am sick with COVID-19?
The antibody test is not able to detect a current infection as the body makes antibodies only 1 to 3 weeks after recovery from the infection. This test is only used to check if you have had the infection in the past couple of weeks.
Where can I get an antibody test for COVID-19?
Many healthcare providers and laboratories are equipped to conduct antibody tests. Here at Integra Urgent Care, we offer this test at our three Dallas/Fort Worth-area urgent care clinics: Irving/Las Colinas, Grand Prairie and Weatherford.
Do antibiotics work against the coronavirus disease?
Coronaviridae is a family of viruses to which COVID-19 belongs and is not a bacterial infection but a viral one. Because of this, antibiotics do not work as part of the treatment for viruses. In rare cases, however, a bacterial infection could be a side effect of the actual infection, which will then be treated with antibiotics.
When should I seek emergency medical care if I am sick with COVID-19?
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, get immediate medical assistance:
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of speech
- Loss of movement
- Shortness of breath
- Continuous pain in the chest region
- Temperature beyond 100.4°F
Are there any antiviral drugs to treat coronavirus disease?
Remdesivir is the only antiviral drug that is currently under evaluation for its possible usage against COVID-19. However, its efficacy has not been proved.
Are masks effective in preventing COVID-19?
Masks are considered to be the main measure to control the transmission of the virus as they reduce any potential risk of infection from symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. The usage of masks is effective when combined with practices such as social distancing and frequent washing of hands.
Can I recover from COVID-19 and then get it again?
All viruses mutate and so does COVID-19. The antibodies which are produced by our immune system can help protect us for 3 to 5 months; however, there are cases where patients are getting re-infected with a different strain of the same virus. It has been observed, though, that reinfection cases are usually much milder.
How will I know whether I have a reinfection or if it is the prolonged shedding of the previous strain of the virus.
Even patients who recover can continue to have the virus strain in their upper respiratory system for about 12 weeks and shed detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA during that time period. However, there are no studies/cases to prove that prolonged shedding of the virus strain has resulted in the transmission of the virus to others.
What percentage of COVID-19 patients’ needs to be hospitalized?
Approximately 1 in every five infected patients exhibit stronger symptoms requiring hospital care. About 15% become seriously ill and require oxygen. Approximately 5% may become critically ill and need to be in the intensive care unit. 80% of people who contract the virus recover at home.
What should I do if I test positive for the coronavirus disease?
Start by isolating yourself at home, and informing everyone that you may have come into contact with in the past 2 days of your positive test since they may want to get tested as well. Reach out to your medical care provider to understand your test results and any subscribed treatment plan.
Are there long-term effects post recovery?
COVID-19 is primarily a virus that strikes the lungs; however, it has been seen to damage several other organs as well. Even post complete recovery, imaging tests have shown, in some cases, prolonged damage to the heart and other organs. While this is still under clinical evaluation, do follow all precautions and consult your medical care provider for any concerns.