LIMA — You’ve likely heard that most people who develop COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, will only experience mild to moderate symptoms. Some may not show any symptoms at all.
But what does that mean?
The Lima News — a sister neewspaper to the Sidney Daily News — talked with Dr. Sophia Tolliver, a family medicine physician with The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, about those mild and moderate cases of COVID-19 to understand the symptoms, when you should be concerned and what to do while managing symptoms at home.
There’s been a lot of talk about asymptomatic transmission, or the period in which an infected person has not developed symptoms but may still be contagious. Do we believe some people remain asymptomatic for the duration of their disease?
Tolliver: Yes, but it’s difficult to prove that because we’re not testing widely. There is no mass testing going on right now. There is thought to be a significant group in the population who are asymptomatic carriers who may never show symptoms of COVID-19, meaning they may never have a fever. They may never have shortness of breath or chest pain or chest discomfort. They may never have a cough. But they have the disease and because they may not feel ill, they may not feel sick, they might be more likely to go out and about, go to functions, unknowingly shedding the virus to people who could be a part of those high-risk groups. …
That is really part of the reason why the CDC is starting to recommend cloth masks when you’re out and about, because at this point we just don’t know who has this invisible disease, virus.
What about mild symptoms. What do those look like?
Tolliver: This could be you developed a light, dry cough. Coughing every now and again during the day. Not really having any shortness of breath but maybe you have a little bit of uncomfortability in your chest. Maybe you only experience shortness of breath if you’re really exerting yourself, maybe more so than you typically would have noticed in the past. Having shortness of breath when I just went up one flight of stairs, but I recover very quickly and I’m back to my day.
Maybe you have a mild fever … I would consider those mild symptoms.
For moderate symptoms — maybe your fever’s getting a little bit higher. Maybe you’ve actually hit 100.4, which is what we typically consider the benchmark of a standard fever. Maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s waning up and down. Your cough becomes more frequent. You’re not really coughing any mucus or phlegm up, but wow (there’s) irritation or inflammation in my throat. Now I’m noticing it a little bit more prevalent, more frequent.
Then maybe you’re coughing, and then after coughing you’re noticing the time to recover back to my baseline of not having shortness of breath, or I’m tugging to find that air more — that could be an indicator of more moderate symptoms. Or your coughing really hard, you’re now having fever and you’re noticing that shortness of breath. (Those are) moderate symptoms.
But some people, they might be able to manage that at home. You don’t necessarily need to go to the emergency department or see if you need to be assessed for hospitalization. But for some people, depending on your health status, that might be something you’ve never experienced before. It could be a little bit scary; you’re feeling like something’s wrong. You go and talk to a doctor or the emergency department.
What should you be doing at home, if you are able to manage symptoms there?
Tolliver: If you are living alone, I think it’s making sure you have enough fluids in the household, you stay hydrated, you have enough food. Nice healthy food to help the immune system — fruits and vegetables, whatnot. Just resting. It’d be nice if you had a thermometer at home to monitor your fevers. But it’s a waiting period. It’s a waiting period to see how symptoms progress or resolve. During that waiting period, that’s the time you’re going to be able to make that assessment of okay, I already spoke with my doctor. They said if X, Y or Z happens I can call them back, do another reassessment and they’ll let me know what they want me to do next.
(According to the CDC, it is important to self-isolate in a separate room if you live with someone else. You should limit the amount of time you spend in communal spaces within the home during this time. If you have multiple bathrooms, designate one for the infected person and one for everyone else.)