What should you do if you begin to fall ill and are sitting on your living room sofa, worried it may be coronavirus?
It is a question that is on the lips of many, particularly as the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK rises, with the peak only a matter of weeks away, according to a prediction made by Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer.
The government says that most of those who test positive will be asked to recover from home and take the necessary steps – but what are they and how do you do this? We asked the experts to find out…
Check the symptoms
The first thing to do would be to check your symptoms to see if they match those of Covid-19. These include a dry cough, loss of smell and taste and a temperature.
Self-isolation with immediate effect
To protect others, do not go to a GP, pharmacy or hospital. The next steps to take would be to ensure you self-isolate in your home. If you live alone, it is for seven days and for those with a family, it’s 14 days. This includes not having visitors to your home as it is highly infectious. It also means not going out for walks, shopping or going anywhere were you may come into contact with others.
The current NHS advice for those living with others is to stay away from each other within the house as much as possible.
If you need shopping, the best option would be to contact friends and family who can bring things to your door, rather than come in.
The alternative is to do a home delivery; most supermarkets have an option for buyers to write into the delivery box that they are self-isolating and to leave the products outside their door.
Home vs. hospital
Around 80 percent of those who test positive for Covid-19 will present mild symptoms, consisting mostly of a cough and a high temperature, according to data from China. The vast majority of these patients will be asked to recover from the safety of their own home to stop them infecting vulnerable patients in hospital. The below video shows what may happen to your body when you contract the virus.
It differs slightly by region, but in most cases these stay-at-home patients should expect daily contact from doctors. Dr Tom Wingfield, a senior clinical lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says that doctors in Liverpool are keeping the names, phone numbers, and addresses of those affected, and calling or texting the most vulnerable each day to check on their symptoms.
How do I treat myself?
Despite researchers across the globe launching about 300 separate trials in the hunt for a cure, there are not yet any effective medical treatments for Covid-19, although some doctors have expressed hope about an antiviral medicine called remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat the Ebola epidemic.
All you can do is relieve your symptoms, and at present doctors are advising stay-at-home Covid-19 patients to take whatever they would for a cold. Tackle pain and fever with paracetamol, says Dr Wingfield (if you’ve run out, ask a friend or neighbour to leave them on your doorstep). Keep a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and drink lots of fluids.
If in doubt, check with your doctor.
Dr Wingfield says there is no evidence that products like multivitamins or vitabiotics have any effect on Covid-19, “although peddlers will tell you otherwise,” he adds.
When will I get tested so I know it definitely is coronavirus?
Not everyone needs to be tested for Covid-19 as it is expected that many can recover at home. Supplies of these tests are increasing, but it may still be difficult to find a place to get tested and therefore they may make the decision not to test you. A statement by the government says, ‘testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.’
What if your symptoms get worse? When should you present to hospital?
Dr Wingfield says that doctors are doing their best to keep in touch with stay-at-home patients, making constant risk assessments on a “case-by-case basis” to determine whether it is time to bring a patient to hospital.
In a small number of cases – usually for older patients – Covid-19 can lead to difficulty breathing. If this happens, Dr Wingfield says, you will usually be brought to hospital. If your fever becomes severe and you are unable to move or take care of yourself, this could also be grounds to come to hospital.
If you think you need to go to hospital then under no circumstances should you walk, take a taxi, or travel by public transport, Public England England warns. Instead, call the NHS on 111 and take advice from a doctor – they will take you by ambulance if necessary.