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Contributed Photo / Dr. Paul M. Hendricks

Q: I was diagnosed with COVID-19, but I don't feel real bad. Is there anything that I should look for or worry about?

A: Most people who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms and recover without any major problems, and some never develop any symptoms at all. However, a significant number of people do get very sick, and too many people have died from this disease.

The vast majority of people will develop symptoms within two to 14 days of contracting the virus, with a median time of four to five days. Typical COVID-19 symptoms are fever, cough, aches and chills, or changes in the ability to smell or taste, but there are some symptoms that should be taken very seriously. These would include shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, new onset of confusion or inability to stay awake or to be awakened.

One of the serious complications of COVID-19 is low blood oxygen levels, which can cause your lips or toes or fingers to appear bluish. Some patients have even developed strokes. Any of these serious symptoms should lead to an immediate call to your health-care provider or local emergency department for advice. If the symptoms are life-threatening, call 911 without delay.

Another aspect of COVID-19 is that some patients will feel they are improving within the first week or so and then start becoming sicker. Some of these patients have gone on to be hospitalized. This is why you will not be considered "recovered" and cleared to return to normal activities until it has been at least 10 days since you got sick AND you have been symptom-free and feeling well for at least three days. Continue to monitor your symptoms throughout the entire illness, and notify your health-care provider if symptoms worsen.

If you live alone, you should arrange to have a friend or family member check in with you at least daily. If they don't call you, you call them. Not only will this help relieve the boredom and loneliness of being isolated, it may save your life.

It is important to remember that this is a serious illness. While it is best to prevent it, those who do catch the virus should take good care of themselves and err on the side of caution if they feel they are getting worse in any way.

If you have any further questions about COVID-19, visit the CDC website (CDC.gov), the Hamilton County Health Department website (health.hamiltontn.org), or call our hotline at 423-209-8383

Dr. Paul M. Hendricks is health officer for the Hamilton County Health Department and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

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