As predicted, the COVID-19 pandemic has now touched most Australians in one way or another. So what do you do when you actually catch it?
In terms of serious symptoms, the big ones to look out for are dizziness, difficulty breathing and chest pain. These are all things that might mean you need to go to hospital, if they get worse.
Many cases can be managed at home, but you’ll need extra assistance while in isolation, and for some people that’s not possible. If you live alone, it’s important to tell a trusted person what’s happening to you. If you do get a positive test, you will need to self-isolate for ten days. Arrange home delivery of food and medications if possible.
Remember to tell family, friends and work colleagues what’s happening, but doctors are currently overwhelmed, so if you have mild symptoms and are otherwise healthy you don’t need to inform your GP.
When to get help
If you catch COVID and are over 65, or pregnant, have major underlying health conditions, or a compromised immune system, then you’re at greater risk.
Let your GP know what’s happening, and/or arrange a telehealth consultation over the phone. Special medications (such as new anti-viral therapies) may be available for you.
Fatigue, muscle pain, loss of smell and taste, fever, nausea, diarrhoea are all commonly reported by those with different variants of COVID, even in the double vaccinated.
These conditions can all worsen suddenly, so monitor your situation and those of affected loved ones carefully. Keep a symptom diary if possible.
Many people have described their experience of the virus as being like a very severe bout of flu. Others have barely any symptoms. Others require ventilators to keep breathing. It’s a lottery how serious each individual case will be.
With the medical and testing system under severe strain, just getting a test (and waiting for many hours in queues) can expose you to the virus if you don’t already have it. For people with young children, everything is more complicated.
If one person if sick at home, try to keep their room isolated and separately ventilated. Even if people are sharing a bedroom or other common space, it’s not inevitable everyone will catch it, but reduce the risk where possible.
Along with fresh healthy food, complimentary substances that may aid recovery include Vitamin D, Magnesium, Vitamin C, antihistamine, zinc and aspirin.
In cases of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, some doctors are recommending smaller regular meals containing pasta, rice, and potato, along with plenty of water.
Old standbys like bed rest and keeping up fluids will help your immune system, and doctors recommend over the counter products like paracetamol and ibuprofen to help manage pain and fever symptoms. It’s also advised to continue taking whatever medications you normally take for other conditions.
When to call 000
Go straight to hospital or call 000 if you become so breathless you can’t complete a sentence, faint, feel unusual pain or pressure in the chest, cough up blood, or become alarmingly cold, confused or unable to pass urine.
Beyond the crisis/isolation stage, a negative PCR or rapid antigen test should mean you are no longer infectious, even though mild symptoms may persist.
In some cases, the ‘long COVID’ stage is worse than the initial infection, and this is not yet well understood.
You can get more suggestions about how to deal with COVID from the Healthdirect website.