Many people who contract COVID-19 will not notice any symptoms ever and some hardly any for a period of days. This is one of the reasons it has been so hard to contain the spread of the virus.
For those who notice, there may be a fatigue, mild headache and sore throat. On examination, these patients may have a low fever. The appearance of the throat is variously mildly to moderately red with very indistinct tiny bubbles which glisten in the light of the examiner’s instrument. This appearance is absolutely typical for almost all the rhino/corona viruses, i.e. the common cold and influenza. The local lymph glands are typically mildly tender but rarely enlarged. Loss of taste or sense of smell is relatively common.
- The presence of a runny nose makes it very unlikely that this is COVID related.
- The presence of a cough without nasal symptoms makes the COVID diagnosis more likely.
Almost all patients who develop symptoms will be included in this group. These milder symptoms do not generally warrant an emergency department visit and may usually be safely managed at home using the common sense approaches below.
For those who become more ill…
For those people in whom the virus will create a deeper impact, the fever and headache may intensify and be accompanied by body ache and mild to moderate neck stiffness with additional chest discomfort and shortness of breath. The latter scenario calls for advanced medical care. For some there may be accompanying diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Good care at home is preferable to care in crowded hospital waiting rooms or corridors, reducing the risk of virus spread, provided that the patient is not experiencing shortness of breath nor dehydration.
- Continue to take your usual medications. If you are in danger of running out, your family doctor can authorize repeat prescriptions by phone and can similarly respond to your questions.
- Hydration with hot liquids – teas (elderberry seems the best), soups, coffee, hot water is very important. A very good hydration approach which can nourish and provide some electrolytes and fluids is rice cooked in lots of water, called Congee by the Orientals, . Recipe here.
- Keep warm. For chills try a hot bath. Try to keep your core temperature over 37.5*C. The virus is defeated by heat.
- There are a range of supplements which can encourage your immune system. If cough begins, add NAC to help break up the mucus.
- In dealing with the common cold and seasonal flu we have had very good results at reducing fever and cough with a herbal combination Ultra MFP Forte (Douglas Labs) containing goldenseal, berberine, grapefruit seed extract, black walnut, burdock and olive leaf extract. Take one or two up to three times daily as needed.
- NSAIDS may create problems according to some experts. The common anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Voltaren and ASA may make the symptoms worse. Tylenol (acetaminophen) may be used.
- Should you develop diarrhea, the advice to avoid sweets including fruit and fruit juices as well as dairy products holds true. Please see my pages on dealing with these symptoms.
- Ivermectin, a safe antiparasitic medication, may be obtained by prescription and has been reported to virtually stop this illness completely when taken in the early to middle part of the disease. Please see Alternative Medical Approaches for further information.
It generally takes a few days, or even a week or more for the innate immune system to activate and overcome the virus.
How do you know when you’re better?
To my knowledge no one has adequately defined this. When the finger-prick blood tests (in development) which demonstrate the presence of COVID antibodies become available, it will prove you had it and that you have recovered.
Barring this proof, your fever should have been gone for at least several days with an improvement in general fatigue and a disappearance of body ache and any sign of digestive upset before you venture out. Any cough likely means that you can still spread the virus so it’s a sign you should remain at home until the cough is all gone.