People have begun receiving their COVID-19 vaccines, and there’s a small glimmer of hope on the horizon about eventually making coronavirus pandemic a thing of the past.
Despite this forward progress, there is and will continue to be a high infection rate for a while. And while a percentage of the population requires hospitalization, most COVID-19 cases are treated at home. But how?
Thien Nguyen, MD, a critical care pulmonologist and the director of the St. Joseph Medical Center Intensive Care Unit, says there are several steps a patient should take when they are riding out a diagnosis of COVID-19 at home.
- Get a pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a small device that measures your oxygen saturation level. Pulse oximeters are inexpensive, easily purchased online, and a good way to keep tabs on this important vital sign. “If a patient’s pulse oximeter is showing their oxygen level is below 90, it’s time to seek medical assistance,” said Nguyen. “It could signal a potential decline and need for supplemental oxygen.”
- Monitor fever: Fever with the coronavirus is intermittent, meaning it comes and goes. Over-the-counter medications that contain ibuprofen should help relieve symptoms. However, Nguyen says if your fever is persistently over 100.4 degrees, it could be a red flag and a sign you may need to receive medical attention. “In addition to COVID-19, a high fever could be indicative of something else – another infection – that is co-existing with the coronavirus,” said Nguyen.
- Sleep on your stomach: Patients treated in a hospital setting for COVID-19, particularly those on ventilators, are often positioned on their stomachs because the oxygen is redistributed better. For this reason, Nguyen recommends for patients managing their COVID-19 at home do the same thing. “When you sleep on your stomach, you’re not compressing your lungs like you would do when you’re on your back,” said Nguyen. “Your lungs can more readily access oxygen.”
- Be mobile: While it’s essential to rest, Nguyen says it’s also essential to stay mobile. COVID-19 is a virus that impacts circulation, which is why it’s important to move as much as you can. “The coronavirus has a tendency to make the lungs sticky, which is why it’s important to take deep breaths, which exercises the lungs,” said Nguyen.
- Eat meals high in protein: While losing your sense of taste is a symptom of COVID-19, it’s important to keep up your nutrition. “Fighting COVID-19 can deplete you of nutrients and can even lead to being malnourished,” said Nguyen. “For this reason, it’s important to keep up your strength by eating lots of protein.”
- Self-isolate away from others: If you live with others, you should quarantine yourself away from them as much as possible to help prevent them from becoming infected. “It can be challenging but do the best you can,” said Nguyen. “Avoid sharing personal household items such as drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, and linens with others in your home.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, often including phones, remote controls, tabletops, doorknobs, and bathroom fixtures. For more information and further guidance on managing COVID-19 at home, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.