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I contracted the dreaded COVID-19 but lived to tell the tale. Bear in mind, this is a fast-mutating, unpredictable disease that has been affecting different people differently, so my story is not representative of all COVID patients.
Some have it worse than others, and I am just one of the lucky ones who made it out with a fair share of discomfort but no serious damage. Here’s what happened.
How I Got Infected by COVID-19
I attended a party on February 22, 2020, with a group of 30–40 people. No one at the party was sick or displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 at the time. However, eight of us who attended the party fell sick exactly 3 days later, with everyone showing the same symptoms.
Subsequently, we were all confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, and it goes without saying that we got it from someone at the party.
The First Symptoms and Signs That Alerted Me to This Infection
I started feeling tired and feverish and got a headache. The same day I went home and took a nap. I woke up and had a fever of 101°F. By that evening, I had a fever of 103°F and started shaking uncontrollably.
It is common knowledge now that fever is a major symptom of infection. It is the body’s natural immune response to an invading virus or any other pathogen.
Thus, naturally, running a high temperature is also a characteristic symptom of early-stage COVID-19, which may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms such as dry cough and shortness of breath. (1)
I Tested Positive Without Having Any Respiratory Symptoms
I actually did not go to the doctor. I was recovering fine at home and I took over-the-counter medications. I did not believe that I had the coronavirus as – I had no respiratory symptoms: no cough, no shortness of breath, and no tightness in my chest.
I also didn’t receive a call about the positive test result until after I recovered. I took a test only after several of my friends who went to the party grew frustrated that they were not tested for the coronavirus when they went to their doctors.
Their doctors thought that they had the flu and were tested for the flu; they tested negative and were told to go home and recuperate with over-the-counter medications.
At that point, one of my friends brought to our attention a research study happening locally: the Seattle Flu Study. Although their initial mandate was to test for different strains of the flu, they began testing for the coronavirus as the outbreak spread.
So, we volunteered for the study and received at-home nasal swab test kits. I did the nasal swab and mailed it back to the researchers on Sunday, March 1. At that point, I had been sick for 6 days.
Almost a week later, on Saturday, March 7, I received a call from them informing me that I had tested positive for COVID-19.
Disclaimer: In most countries, the health infrastructure is struggling to bear the overwhelming burden of this disease. A lot of people have reported being denied testing or being turned away from the hospitals due to a shortage of kits or personnel.
My Reaction to Being Diagnosed With COVID-19
I was honestly shocked because, at that point, there were hardly about 500 cases across the United States, and I really did not believe that I had COVID-19 due to the lack of respiratory symptoms.
After the initial shock wore off, I was relieved because I then knew what my illness was as well as the illness of all the other people who fell sick at the party.
My final reaction was one of scientific curiosity – I have a doctorate in bioengineering, and all of my research experience has been in molecular biology. I currently work for biotech in Seattle.
I know a lot about the human body, biology, viruses, and the immune system. I had been following the story about the virus, and I naturally was curious about my case and why our symptoms were so mild compared to others.
The Routine Treatment I Followed
I did not go to the doctor, and I stayed at home and treated myself. I took over-the-counter medication, drank lots of water, and got a lot of rest. I stayed home and ordered food and had groceries delivered.
I took Excedrin Extra Strength, ibuprofen, Sudafed (for nasal congestion), Afrin nasal spray and Flonase (again for nasal congestion), and supplements (vitamin C, calcium, fish oil, a women’s multivitamin). I also used a neti pot to wash out my sinuses.
Disclaimer: Like all viral infections, COVID-19 is also a self-resolving illness. There is no drug or other therapeutic intervention that can eliminate the coronavirus from your body. Instead, the body will mount its own immune response to counter this pathogenic invasion. Thus, the infection will typically run its course and subside without any particular treatment.
It is only in cases when the patient starts experiencing respiratory problems that hospitalization may be required to provide breathing assistance.
Otherwise, mild cases of COVID-19 do not qualify as a medical emergency, and the patients are usually sent back home with proper self-care guidelines.
Moreover, since this is an unprecedented virus, there are currently no vaccines to prevent it as well. (2) However, people with mild symptoms and no other risk factors can use various OTC medications to cope with the discomfort.
That said, it is important that you consult with your doctor before taking any medication no matter how mild your symptoms may be. The pathogenesis of this novel disease is still uncertain, and you cannot rule out the risk and adverse side effects entirely.
Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and medical history before greenlighting the use of any medication to make sure that it does not deteriorate your condition any further.
My Quarantine Experience
I felt sad and depressed. I was in my home, sick for about 2 weeks. I had planned to go on a vacation to Las Vegas for a weekend as well as see my parents for my birthday, but I had to cancel both trips in the wake of my illness.
I live by myself, so it can get quite lonely when you are sick. I was so tired I couldn’t really do much except sleep and eat. I wasn’t stressed since I didn’t think I had the coronavirus the whole time I was ill and just thought I had a flu.
Note: While this case is an exception, the COVID-19 outbreak has been a source of considerable stress all over the world. The magnitude of this problem combined with the fact that it is still shrouded in mystery and uncertainty can be quite unnerving.
The exponential rate at which the cases are increasing around the world due to its highly contagious nature has made social distancing the only resort for containing its spread, at least until a vaccine is discovered.
Being quarantined in your home while having access to a flood of alarming information and statistics can breed anxiety.
People either worry about catching the virus or being asymptomatic carriers, in which case they are a threat to other more vulnerable members of their family or community at large. Thus, this collective trauma applies to those diagnosed with the infection as well.
According to one study conducted during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, over half of the respondents rated the psychological impact as moderate to severe, while nearly one-third reported experiencing moderate to severe anxiety. (3)
My Biggest Challenge During the Sickness
The fatigue – I couldn’t cook for myself and had to order food all the time. I couldn’t do anything except sleep and then get up to shower and use the restroom and eat.
Are We Taking This Virus Seriously Enough?
It’s hard to say. I think the majority of people are precautious, in the sense that they are staying at home as much as possible and using masks and gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
There are a minority of people who still think this is a hoax or that it’s just the flu. I can tell you from my experience that this virus is very easy to catch, and it’s very virulent.
I had a mild case, fortunately, and so did all of my other friends, but many people who are young and healthy are ending up being hospitalized while some of the younger patients have even succumbed to it.
This virus is serious – it’s worse than the flu – and we need to take every precaution to prevent more infections and deaths.
My Message to Those With Early Symptoms of COVID-19
Please stay calm. Don’t panic. If your symptoms are mild, stay home and isolate yourself from other members of your family. Get ample rest, drink lots of fluids, and take over-the-counter medication.
There is no need to go to the hospital unless you have life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing.
Self-Regulation and Proper Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce the Impact of COVID-19!
These are unprecedented times that require the entire society to come together, but only metaphorically. Physically, we must keep our distance to prevent catching or transmitting the infection.
The COVID-19 threat can only be tackled through the cooperative efforts of the government, health organizations, science community, and the citizens.
We must do our part in reducing the load on the health workers who are at the frontlines of this fight: the doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff.
To that end, you must adhere to the following guidelines if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or think you might have it:
1. Stay home
The first and foremost step is to practice social distancing and self-isolation to avoid getting the infection yourself or giving it to others in case you have it. (4)
The objective of this measure is not to eliminate the virus but to reduce the number of active cases at a time so that there are enough hospital facilities to treat the patients.
This pandemic has to be phased out rather than thwarted at once. Most COVID-19 cases are reportedly mild and can be overcome through proper home care without the need for medical assistance or hospitalization.
So, unless you have a high-risk precondition, are taking immunosuppressants, are above a certain age, or start experiencing breathing difficulties and chest discomfort, there is no need for you to rush to the emergency room.
Consult your physician via call when you first notice any symptom and trust him/her to lead the way. You must only leave your home in order to get medical care and avoid all kinds of public areas otherwise.
2. Strengthen your body through diet, rest, and stress management
Also, staying well during this time and keeping your immune system healthy is a good idea.
Eat a well-rounded, nutritious diet, drink plenty of fluids (water) throughout the day, get lots of quality sleep, and engage in productive and pleasurable activities, and practice meditation and other relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
3. Stay active
Exercise is important too, but take care to limit your contact with other people. A vigorous walk outside (keeping your distance from other people) will get you out of the house and clear your mind.
4. Stay in touch with your doctor
Rushing to the hospital in a panic at the slightest inkling of infection is ill-advised. The first signs are often false alarms, in which case you are only putting yourself at risk by going out.
Crowded hospitals are hotspots, and going there should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, or else you may end up picking the infection even if you did not have it before. This only adds to the burden of the already overworked health workers.
However, this does not mean that you should take your symptoms lightly. Call your healthcare provider for a first consultation, and then he/she can refer you to an expert if needed.
It is always better to call before venturing out to get medical care. If your breathing becomes labored or you start having chest pain and heaviness, seek medical assistance without delay.
5. Avoid public transportation
Public transportation is to be avoided for the obvious reason that so many people use it on a daily basis, many of whom may be carriers.
You may pick up the virus by sharing the same space with potential carriers or touching surfaces that may be contaminated by an infected person who took the ride with/before you.
To conclude, it is best you limit your contact with other people and avoid venturing out except for medical or other emergencies. If you must go out, wear proper protective gear, but refrain from using public transportation in doing so. (5)