Picture this: It’s a Sunday evening, and you’re relaxing at home after a nice, long outdoor picnic with a friend at your local park. The phone rings, and you see her name on the caller ID.
“I have to let you know,” she says. “I just found out that my friend tested positive for COVID-19—and she and I went for dinner last night.”
There are officially more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States. As states have begun to reopen, people all over the country who are understandably tired of social distancing are starting to spend more time with friends and eagerly returning to their favorite local hangouts—so much so that many states are even reversing reopening processes as the case count climbs. Even if you’re not among that number, a simple socially distanced lunch with a friend could put you at risk of exposure to the coronavirus as it spreads more widely.
So, what do you do if you think you’ve been exposed? How can you make sure you’re catching potential symptoms early in order to minimize your risk of complications and keep others safe from catching the virus? The answer: self-monitoring. Here’s how.
Monitor Your Symptoms
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incubation period of the coronavirus is between two to 14 days, so you should monitor yourself for symptoms for two weeks. Take your temperature daily to check for fever. Remember that many common over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can lower fever, so make sure to record your temperature before you take any.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever and/or chills
- Shortness of breath
- A new loss of taste or smell
- Body and muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
And if you experience any of the below emergency symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately, making sure to tell the 911 operator that you think you might have COVID-19:
- Trouble breathing
- New confusion
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish face or lips
- An inability to wake or stay awake
As testing becomes more widely available across the nation, it’s important to get tested if you think you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. There are two kinds of tests available: viral tests and antibody tests. Viral tests will tell you whether or not you have an active infection, and antibody tests will tell you whether you might have already been infected.
Even if your test results come back negative for COVID-19, you should still take preventive measures to protect yourself and others. This is because tests results can come back negative in the early stages of infection, but you might test positive a week later.
If you’re not experiencing emergency symptoms, staying home is the best thing you can do to help protect others from contracting the coronavirus. Stay calm, and try not to worry—most COVID-19 cases are mild and can be recovered from at home. If you need medical care, reach out to your medical provider. Let them know what you need, any symptoms you might be experiencing, and whether or not you think you’ve been exposed to the virus. Based on that information, your medical provider will instruct you on how to proceed.
If you do need to leave the house, avoid public transit, if possible. You should also be sure to wear a face mask and maintain a six-foot distance from others.
Self-isolation is for when you think you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus and you live in a household with other people. Here’s how to self-isolate:
- Stay in a specific room, away from others in your household.
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- If you do need to come into contact with others in your household, make sure to wear a mask.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces often.
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds—you can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head to keep count.
- Avoid interactions with pets, allowing other household members to take care of them.
- Make sure any shared spaces have good airflow—open the windows in your home, weather permitting.
DispatchHealth Can Help
If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and require medical care, turn to DispatchHealth. We offer convenient, in-home care for simple to complex illnesses, including COVID-19. And we’re taking stringent precautions to ensure patient and staff safety—we’re wearing surgical masks, gloves, and protective eyewear on every patient visit, along with gowns, shoe covers, and N95 masks for COVID-19 and other respiratory illness visits. We accept most major forms of medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. We’ll also be sure to send a report to your primary care physician after our visit to keep everyone in the loop, and we can send any necessary prescriptions to your pharmacy, too. Request a visit via our app, telephone, or our website to receive the in-home care you need at your doorstep within a couple of hours.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article: