Senior Health

Right now, any cough might raise the question, “Do I have COVID-19?” However, we’re still in cold and flu season and seasonal allergies might be starting up. How do you know which tickle in your throat is caused by pollen, and which could be caused by the coronavirus? Here are some steps to take if you think you might have symptoms of COVID-19.

Review Your Symptoms

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are a fever (over 100 degrees), a dry cough, tiredness or lethargy, and shortness of breath. Dr. William Schaffner, Vanderbilt University professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease describes the cough that comes with COVID-19 as a dry, “bothersome” cough “you can feel in your chest,” and comes “from your breastbone or sternum. Shortness of breath means if your chest becomes tight or you feel like you just can’t get a good breath. The WHO also adds that some people with COVID-19 experience “aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea.” 

Call 911 for Emergencies

If your symptoms are severe, call 911 for emergency medical help. If you are experiencing extreme shortness of breath, you should call 911. According to the CDC, other emergency warning signs of COVID-19 include … “a persistent pain or pressure in the chest” or “bluish lips or face,” which signal a lack of oxygen. If you feel like you might pass out or are experiencing confusion, that’s also a reason to call 911.

Check Your Symptoms Online

In an effort to ease the strain on doctor’s offices, clinics, and emergency rooms, doctors at the Emory University and developers with Vital, a health care software company, have developed an online tool for people to check their symptoms before heading to an emergency room or doctor’s office. The chair of Emory’s Department of Emergency Medicine, David Wright, M.D., said, “Doctors know that crowded waiting rooms could make the problem worse because people sick with COVID-19 could infect others, speeding the overall rate of infection.” The tool is online at c19check.com.

Call Your Doctor

Unless you do have severe symptoms, call your doctor before heading to an emergency room or your doctor’s office. According to Dr. Patrice Harris, American Medical Association president, any shortness of breath warrants a call to your doctor. When you call, you’ll need to describe your symptoms; you’ll need to discuss recent travel or other activity.

Because COVID-19 is more dangerous for people over 60 and those with medical conditions like asthma, chronic lung disease, heart failure or heart disease, or diabetes, your doctor will want to discuss your medical situation with you. They will also ask you if there’s a chance you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. For example, if you’ve traveled to a country or area with ongoing community spread of the disease; or if you’ve been in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19. Depending on your symptoms and your medical situation, your doctor may order a test for you and ask you to come into the office; or he or she may recommend that you self-isolate.

If You Have to Self-Isolate 

If you have mild or moderate symptoms, and no underlying health issues that could make the disease worse, your doctor may recommend that you self-isolate at home, so you don’t spread the disease. Self-isolation means you stay at home and don’t go to public places. Ask a family member or friend to run errands like grocery shopping or pharmacy runs for you. Get food delivered and discourage visitors. If your symptoms don’t get better in seven days, or if they get worse, call your doctor. But – we do have tips on how to make isolation more bearable!