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

When you (or a loved one) have been diagnosed with COVID-19, there are some necessary actions you should take and symptoms you should track.

You can download a symptom tracker here. Use this symptom tracker to see if your symptoms are getting better or worse.  I have had some patients feel better in a few days, while other patients have taken weeks to feel normal.

It is important to remember that 85% of people will only have mild to moderate symptoms.  That includes headache, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, loss or change in taste and smell, stomach complaints, loose stools, and fever.  My list is not all-inclusive, but these are the symptoms I have seen the most.

What to do for your symptoms

For the 85% of people that have these symptoms, all you need to do is supportive care.  If you have a fever, take Ibuprofen or Tylenol.  If you have a headache, try Ibuprofen.  If you have stomach complaints, keep your diet bland.

Everyone should push fluids, including fluids with electrolytes such as Gatorade, watered-down sprite, or even Smart Water.

What to do in your house

The person that is infected should stay in one part of the house for 14 days from the time the symptoms started.  In most cases, this is a bedroom or a section of the house separate from other family members.

One person in the house should be the caregiver for the infected person.  The caregiver will be the only person that interacts with the infected person.

The caregiver can bring the infected person food and drink and any other items needed.  The caregiver should limit any direct interaction, if possible. For example, leave food outside the door instead of going into the room.  When taking back dishes, the caregiver needs to wear gloves and a mask and be careful not to touch their face with their hands.  Remember, the virus needs help to get into your body.

If the infected person needs to leave the room, a mask and gloves should be worn, and the other people in the house should stay clear or even leave the house when the person is out.  After the person goes back to their designated area, take a few minutes to clean the area carefully.

If you have to interact with the infected person, wear a mask and keep at least six feet distance.

If anyone in the house is high risk (over 75 years old, known heart disease, obese, respiratory disease, pregnant, or immunocompromised), that person should strongly consider trying to find another place to live for 14 days.  If this is not possible, take the necessary precautions to keep people separate.

You should also clean high touch areas such as doorknobs, handles, keyboards, and counters.

Avoid sharing personal household items.  Especially any items that contain blood or bodily fluids (such as saliva).

Does everyone in the house need to be tested?

There is no clear answer to this question.  I consider many factors.

The general advice I give is no.  There is no reason to test since it can take 5-7 days to develop a high enough viral load to trigger a test.   Also, I can check a person today, and the test can be negative.  However, I can repeat the test tomorrow, and it can trigger a positive result.

If you develop symptoms, there is an excellent chance you know what have, so take the needed precautions.

In some cases, you will need to know if you are actively carrying the virus, and it is reasonable to do a test.

How long does a person need to be quarantined?

The infected person should wait fourteen days before being retested.  Most people will clear the virus by two weeks.  However, I encourage everyone to take precautions until there is a negative. I have had patients take six, seven, and eight weeks to turn negative.

Does everyone in the house need to be tested?

Once the original infected person in the household has tested negative, there may be a need for everyone else to check their COVID status.  Perhaps to be cleared to go back to work or to allow a high-risk person back in the house.

There are plenty of cases (as much as 40%) of people who can test positive despite having no symptoms.  I don’t routinely test patients who don’t have active symptoms. However, I have tested people in some instances, like those I noted above.

Keep in mind that 97% of people who are infected will develop at least one symptom within 11 days of being exposed.  If you don’t have symptoms by this time, the odds are you did not get infected.

What if the symptoms get worse?

15% of pe0ple develop symptoms that need some medical support.  These supportive measures include fluids, oxygen, and even ventilators.  Severe symptoms can include shortness of breath and severe tightness in the chest. If you feel your symptoms are getting worse, you should contact your physician for medical advice or go to an emergency room.

What should other people in the house do?

Besides the actions taken above, all the people in the house who live with the infected person should stay home.  Remember, it can take 5 – 7 days after being exposed to start to develop symptoms.  Also, you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms, so avoid other people is very important.  If a person in the house does have to leave the house, wear a mask and social distance to prevent spreading the infection.

I often get asked if the people in the house need to stay at home or is ok to go out for a walk or play outdoors. Yes, you can go outdoors but do your best to avoid other people. Indeed, do not go to events, restaurants, or other places where there are other people unless it is paramount.

Who needs to be notified when you find out you are infected?

Notify any person that you had direct contact for an extended period without a mask.

Notify any person that you were around who is considered high risk.

Notify any person that you had extended exposure,  even if you were wearing a mask—for example, a co-worker, someone who rode in your car, or friend you were around.

Contact your employer if you have been going to work.

Casual contacts are considered to be a low risk of exposure, especially if you were wearing a mask when you were around that person.

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 simply 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.

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.