By Staff Reports
(Apple Valley)– While patients suffering severe symptoms of COVID-19 have deluged local hospitals, the chief medical officer at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, urges those with less serious symptoms to care of themselves at home unless things escalate.
Charlie Abraham, M.D., whose Apple Valley hospital has been inundated with patients suffering from the virus, offers guidelines for those with less serious cases.
Dr. Abraham suggests calling your provider if you experience COVID-19 symptoms – headache, sore throat, runny nose, gastrointestinal distress, cough, fever, difficulty breathing, loss of smell and taste and more – to help determine your course of treatment. Also note if you’re light-headed, feeling dizzy or don’t seem to be urinating as normal, which could be a sign of dehydration.
Online coronavirus assessment tools such as Covidassessment.org, developed by physicians in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, can help guide your course of action, including whether to be tested. Because tests can deliver false negatives, however, patients with symptoms often are treated as if they have the virus.
Dr. Abraham notes the symptom list has grown significantly in the year since COVID-19 hit California. Two complaints he often has heard are a sense of fatigue and weakness. A friend, he said, was unable to complete his regular workout that included “deadlift” weight training.
“It hits people in different ways,” he said.
In determining whether to head to the hospital, consider your risk. Blacks and Latinos may be disproportionately affected by the virus, as are the elderly, women who are pregnant and those who are immune-compromised or suffer hypertension, diabetes and other chronic illness. If you are high risk, but symptoms are mild, consider telemedicine – a virtual provider visit such as Providence ExpressCare Virtual. But don’t hesitate because you may need the higher level of care hospitals provide.
Once you identify symptoms and weigh your risks, create a timeline that details the start of symptoms, paying special attention to shortness of breath, which can indicate potentially serious lung complications. Those with chronic lung disease should not assume distress is a flare-up of their conditions and should seek medical help.
“For others, they should pay close attention to the symptoms,” Dr. Abraham said. “Am I short of breath when I climb stairs? Does it wake me up? This is something you cannot ignore.”
Consider purchasing a pulse oximeter, a non-invasive device that typically clips onto the finger to measure the oxygen in your blood. Use it on warm fingers twice a day – morning and night. These are move accurate than computer apps, Dr. Abraham warns.
After assessing your own symptoms and risk and if you determine hospitalization isn’t necessary, use Tylenol for fever and pain, over-the-counter cough medicine as needed, lie on your stomach to ease mild shortness of breath and practice deep-breathing exercises. Be especially vigilant about taking fluids, drink water until your urine is clear. If your symptoms seem to worsen, rest. If they become severe, go to your nearest hospital.
Once your symptoms begin subsiding, increase your activity with simple walks and continued hydration. Recovery can take several weeks, and even months. The most persistent symptoms seem to be headache, fatigue and shortness of breath. Stay in touch with your provider and continue taking precautions, including masking, handwashing, maintaining social distance and avoiding large crowds. Wait three months to be vaccinated.