Coronavirus: What to do if you have symptoms

Credit: Oli Scarff

Credit: Oli Scarff

If you suspect you have coronavirus symptoms, health care professionals don’t want you to rush to doctors’ offices, urgent cares or emergency rooms, unless you are in a critical situation.

If you are well enough that you don’t need immediate medical care, the first step is to call your doctor or set up a virtual visit with a medical care provider. You can also call the Ohio Department of Health, which has set up a special coronavirus hotline at (833) 427-5634.

If you cannot reach your health care provider, or do not have a regular doctor, the state health hotline is one good place to start. In the Miami Valley and regional area, e-visits can also be set up through many physicians offices and area health care networks. Premier Health's Premier Virtual Care is available 24/7. Kettering patients can set up virtual visits through MyChart. Reid Health has set up free COVID-19 screenings through the Reid HealthNOW urgent care app.

If a health care provider tells you to go to a hospital, or if you are in an emergency situation and must go to a hospital, know that many hospitals are setting up special screening procedures. Dayton Children’s hospital has tents set up outside, and Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine is among those screening all visitors prior to entering the hospital. And expect that you may not be able to have many visitors, or may not be able to visit someone in the hospital, as visitor access has been restricted.

If you are in an emergency situation and have to go to the hospital or call 911, let them know prior to arriving that you have coronavirus symptoms, to help the medical professionals be prepared to help you while keeping themselves and other patients safe.

But if your symptoms are mild enough that you don’t need emergency care, you may be able to save yourself some time and ease the strain on the healthcare system by working to figure out whether your symptoms line up with a possible case of coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had compiled a list of steps to take if you feel unwell, have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, or have been diagnosed with the virus but have mild enough symptoms to avoid hospitalization.

From the CDC, here is what you should do if you feel sick:

Watch for symptoms

If you develop the symptoms below and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19, call your doctor. The CDC recommends you do not go to the doctor’s office before you call.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • The symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion or inability to arouse.
  • Bluish lips or face.

If you feel sick

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.

Stay home except to get medical care

  • People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
  • Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home

  • As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask. See COVID-19 and Animalsfor more information.

Call ahead before visiting your doctor

  • If you have a medical appointment, call the health care provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the health care provider's office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Wear a face mask if you are sick

  • You should wear a face mask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider's office.
  • If the person who is sick is not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with the person who is sick should not stay in the same room with them, or they should wear a face mask if they enter a room with the person who is sick.

Cover your coughs and sneezes

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Soap and water are the best option if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid sharing personal household items

  • You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.
  • After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day.

Practice routine cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

  • High-touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
  • Disinfect areas with bodily fluids: Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
  • Use a household cleaning spray or wipe according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.

Monitor your symptoms

  • Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing).
  • Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19.
  • Put on a face mask before you enter the facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider's office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed.
  • Ask your health care provider to call the local or state health department. Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency

  • If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.

Discontinuing home isolation

  • Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to below.
  • The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

Debbie Lord, CMG National Content Desk, contributed to this report