.

I think I might have the COVID-19 virus: What now?

08 April 2020

If you have a fever or cough, it’s possible that you have the coronavirus. Stay calm and take the following steps.
 
As confirmed cases of the coronavirus continue to climb in South Africa, you might be wondering if that slight scratch in your throat means you’ve caught it too. 
 
Many of the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus overlap with those of the flu or common cold, making it difficult to know if it’s just another seasonal bug or the new virus that has sent so much of the globe into lockdown. So what should you do if you’re worried you might be infected?

Stay at home! 

If you develop symptoms, do not head straight for your doctor or the hospital emergency room. If everyone with a slight temperature rushes to hospital, we’ll quickly overwhelm our healthcare system. Not only do you risk infecting others; if you don’t actually have the virus, leaving your home increases your chances of getting it.
 
Because the spread of the virus has resulted in extreme disruption and unprecedented measures, such as national lockdown, you might feel very anxious about experiencing potential symptoms. But, while the social impact is substantial, the virus only causes serious illness in a small number of cases. Remember that more than 80 per cent of people who catch the virus will recover at home without complications. 
 
According to the Department of Health, the most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Some, but not all, infected people may experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, a sore throat or diarrhoea.
 
It’s also possible to carry the virus but not experience any symptoms, which is why it’s so important for everyone to practice preventative measures. 

Practice self-quarantine

If you think you might have become infected, make it an immediate priority to avoid passing the virus on to others in your home. 

Maintain physical distance

If possible, confine yourself to one room in your house with the door closed. When you need to use common areas such as the bathroom, keep at least 1.5 metres from others.

Keep things you touch separate

Don’t share towels or eating utensils with others in your home. Don’t put your toothbrush in a shared holder.

Clean what you touch

Use disinfectant to clean any surfaces you touch, including bedside tables, doorknobs and light switches.

Wash your hands frequently 

Especially after coughing or sneezing or touching your face. 

Practice good respiratory hygiene 

This means coughing and sneezing into the inside of your elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately and wash your hands. 

Contact a healthcare provider 

Phone your family doctor to let them know your symptoms. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you need to be tested and how to go about doing this safely and responsibly. 
 
Your doctor will also know your health history, including chronic conditions such as lung disease, diabetes and heart disease, which can put you at risk of developing complications from the coronavirus.
 
If you don’t have a family doctor, phone the Department of Health’s 24-hour coronavirus hotline on 0800 029 999 for advice on what to do next. 

Get help for emergency warning signs  

If you or someone you are caring for develop any of the following symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Pain or pressure in your chest 

  • Bluish lips or face

  • Confusion or trouble waking up

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. Keep track of your symptoms and let your medical provider know if you experience any other severe or concerning symptoms. 

Follow your doctor’s orders

Your doctor or local health authorities will give you instructions on checking your symptoms, reporting relevant information, and preventing transmission. It’s very important that you follow these instructions carefully, even if you start to feel better.
 
Check with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking any medication. 

IMAGE CREDIT: Shutterstock