What should you do if you test positive for COVID-19?

COVID-19 Survival Guide
When you (or a loved one) have been diagnosed with COVID-19, there are two main issues you
need to focus on:

1. Maximize the chances of recovery
2. Avoid spreading the infection.

Below, I discuss what I think are the best ways to achieve these two goals.

The natural course of the virus
By understanding how the virus grows in your body, you can plan the next few weeks. It takes a minimum of two weeks from the time of exposure for the virus to run its course.

Common symptoms of COVID-19
Fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, cough (dry or wet), shortness of breath, and loss or change in taste and smell are the symptoms most often reported. Unlike the flu, these symptoms can start slowly, wax and wane, and even last beyond the time you are considered contagious.

What to do for your symptoms
For 80% of infected people, the human immune system will do its job and prevent the infection from getting out of hand. To help your immune system, we recommend focusing on getting adequate sleep, drink plenty of water, eating healthy foods, and resting the body. We also like to promote a vitamin regiment to optimize your immune system (See bottom of this guide for details). It is how your immune system responds that will determine if you do well or if you do poorly.

Day Zero
When you look at COVID-19 graphs, you will frequently see a point labeled “Day 0.” This represents the first day of exposure (not the first day of symptoms). In some cases, a person finds out the exact moment they were exposed (eating dinner with a friend that turns out to be positive 2 days later). However, in most cases, this information is unknown, and the first clue you are infected is when you start to have symptoms. In either situation, you should begin to take precautions as soon as you suspect you have been exposed or are infected. Below, I have laid out the few strategies I have consistently found helpful when battling COVID-19.

Setting up a Safe Zone in your house
When you set up your home, the main goal is to establish a safe zone where the infected person can live. This zone can be a single room, or if you are lucky enough to have space, a separate area of the house. In the safe zone, the infected person can remove their mask, relax, and rest. If a person must enter the infected person’s safe zone. In that case, I recommend any person that must enter the safe zone announce before entering, have the infected person dawn a mask, and the person entering should put on a mask as well. The person entering the safe zone should limit their time as much as possible while around the infected person. When the person leaves the safe zone, he/she must wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

My Safe Zone when I had COVID in January 2021

Leaving the Safe Zone
If the infected person must leave the safe zone or use one of the common areas (a bathroom, for example). In that case, the infected person should dawn a mask and sanitize their hands before touching anything. Also, everyone should try and leave the area where the infected person needs to enter. Finally, once the infected person leaves the common area, you should wait at least 5 minutes to let the air circulate before anyone can enter that area.

Assigning a caregiver
I recommend one person in the household should be the caregiver for the infected person. This person can be responsible for bringing food, clothes, or anything else the infected person requires. Follow all the guidelines listed in “Setting up a Safe Zone in your house” above.

Special Note: If anyone in the house is at high risk (over 75 years old, known heart disease, obese, known cardiac or respiratory disease, pregnant, or immunocompromised), extra caution should be taken to avoid the infected person. If possible, the high-risk person should strongly consider finding another place to live for 10-14 days. If this is not possible, make a strong effort to keep the infected person and high-risk person away from each other.

List of strategies for isolating an infected COVID – 19 patients
1. Pick a low traffic area for the safe zone.
2. Use paper plates and cups as much as possible to limit the need to touch contaminated items.
3. Use disposable masks so they can be thrown away daily.
4. Wait 5 minutes before entering an area that may be shared, such as a bathroom or shower area.
5. Open the window in your safe zone to create better airflow and air exchange.
6. The positive person can go outside for walks or relax in the backyard to get fresh air.
7. Track your supplement consumption, so you do not get confused (there are quite a few).
8. Use a pulse oximeter and thermometer to track your vital signs (see below)
9. Take hot showers, soak in a hot tub, or sit in a sauna if you have one. When the body is hot for
a short period (15-30 minutes), it stimulates the immune system.

What is a pulse oximeter?
A pulse oximeter is a portable medical device designed to slip on your finger. The device is used to calculate your heart rate and blood oxygen levels. You should be able to find one at larger pharmacies, medical device stores, or online.

Normal blood oxygen (sPO2) is 96%-99%. However, in the face of COVID, it is common to see levels of 93-94%.  A sustained sPO2 level of 90-92% should prompt a call to your physician, and a level of 89% or lower is a signal that you should go to an emergency room. This is especially true in a person that is at higher risk (see Special Note above for a list of high-risk individuals).

It is essential to place a pulse oximeter on a clean fingernail (no nail polish) and allow it to sit for a few seconds. The first few readings are often the machine getting adjusted.

Does everyone in the house need to be tested?
There is no clear answer to this question. Many factors should be considered. The general advice I give my patients is no. There is no reason to immediately do a test since it can take 3-7 days to develop a high enough viral load to trigger a test. Also, I can test a positive person today and the test can be negative (false negative), giving a false sense of security. Also, suppose a family member develops any of the classic COVID-19 symptoms. In that case, there is an excellent chance you know what he/she has. Take the same precautions listed above for the new positive patient.

Special Note: Two positive COVID patients can quarantine together if desired. Being together will not make a person more infected or extend the infection. Also, someone who has recovered from COVID is considered protected for 90 days and can also interact with the infected person without concern.

Do I need to retest?
If you look at the timeline at the top of this page, I have included a line to represent testing.  In short, the infected person should wait fourteen days from the time he or she was exposed, if that date is known, or ten days after symptoms started.

Once these timeframes have run their course, you can return to normal social distancing as longs as:

  1.  You have not had a fever for the past 24 hours and have not used fever-reducing medicine.
  2.  Your symptoms have improved (not totally gone away but improved).

Special Note: It can take as long as 90-days after symptoms started to completely clear the virus (test negative on a rapid or PCR test).  However, the data shows that in 10 days after symptoms started in mild cases, and 20 days in more severe cases, the immune system has neutralized the virus and it is no longer replicating or infectious to others. 

Read the CDC guidelines here

Who needs to be notified when you find out you are positive?
Notify any person that you had direct contact with for an extended period (15-minutes) without a mask for 3 days before becoming symptomatic or testing positive. Contact your employer if you have been going to work. Most employers have policies in place and contact tracers to guide you.

The vaccine
Today (January 1, 2020), the guidelines allow a person who has had COVID-19 to still get the vaccine

Other
The most common phone call I get sounds something like this; “I work with a person who was around a person that just tested positive. Do I need to get tested?” My answer is no. The risk of carrying the virus without symptoms, passing the virus to a second person who does not have symptoms, and that person giving the virus to you is a very low-risk scenario. I would track your symptoms and follow the general social distance guidelines.

I hope the above information has helped. For specific questions, please feel free to text us at 214-726-0755.

Nelson X. Simmons, MD

pic of supplements

Supplemental protocols designed by Dr. Simmons for his patients
Always consult with your medical provider before starting any supplement or medication

This document is intended for Personal MD patients. If you are not our patient, note that this is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional healthcare services, including the giving of medical advice. No doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of this information and the materials herein is at the user’s own risk. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice from any medical condition they have, and they should seek the assistance of their healthcare professionals for any such conditions.