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What To Do If You Get COVID-19


A question that's no longer theoretical for millions of Americans - what do you do if you test positive for COVID-19 and are told to isolate until you're better? We're joined now by Dr. Hala Sabry. She's an ER doctor in Seattle. Dr. Sabry, thanks so much for being with us.

HALA SABRY: Thank you so much for having me here.

SIMON: What do you tell patients who've tested positive for COVID-19?

SABRY: We don't know a lot about this disease. And so it is normal to be scared. But I try to talk about their symptoms that they have now and what symptoms to look out for in the next few days and give them indications of when to come back. So it's more about education and preparation for really what's to come in the next few days.

SIMON: Yeah. Doctor, what can - what things can people do on their own or with maybe, you know, carefully calibrated help from a family member?

SABRY: This is treated just like every other virus initially when we're sending patients home. So the advice is fever reduction using Tylenol or Motrin at the appropriate doses. And if you do have children, make sure that you're getting the appropriate dose from your health care provider. Making sure that you're hydrated - hydration is the key to many of these viral illnesses.

And oftentimes, what happens is when patients do come back and they're being hospitalized because they are so sick, the initial resuscitation that we are, you know, having to make sure is that their blood pressure and their hydration status is adequate. Making sure that you are walking around. You're not becoming debilitated, just laying in bed, maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, washing your hands, making sure that you do not spread this to anybody else - these are the things that patients can do.

SIMON: And we should note a lot of people who test positive, apparently, are asymptomatic, at least far as they can tell, aren't they?

SABRY: Yes. There is a great number of patients who are asymptomatic. They either get the test because they have been exposed or that they're mandated to get the test because they've traveled or they want to go back to work for whatever indication. And then they find out that they're positive. And then it leaves them confused because they're not sick, but their family member or their friend might be. So I think there's a lot of different mental, you know, kind of games that happen at that point that patients play with. You know, what's going to happen to me?

SIMON: Yeah. Well - and what do you tell them to do? I mean, just go home, avoid your family, pull the covers over your head, see if you can smell ketchup? What do you say?

SABRY: Some of that. But just talking through the symptoms ranging from that, that is not really dangerous per se, to shortness of breath, cough and indications to come back to the emergency department.

SIMON: And when is that?

SABRY: I do ask them to come back if they are short of breath or they're having a cough that they can't catch their breath in between, if they feel so winded that they can't walk a few steps, if there's a big change in their ability to have normal functional tasks.

SIMON: What do you tell parents who find one of their children tests positive?

SABRY: You know, just making sure that you're having a really good connection with your pediatrician or the children's hospital or however your setup is in your area. You're having really good communication as to what to expect, you know? And what's really important is, where I work, we don't really have a lot of cases of pediatric COVID. And the instructions are the same, you know, keeping that child away from other children, from, you know, other people in the family as much as possible. And the statistics have shown that children are doing quite well - I mean, not all children, but most of them.

SIMON: Dr. Hala Sabry, a New York doctor in Seattle, thanks so much for being with us. Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.