How to Identify COVID-19 Symptoms and Plan Next Steps

COVID-19 is a highly infectious respiratory illness that has spread as a pandemic. This illness is caused by the coronavirus. In the beginning, you may not exhibit any symptoms at all and may remain asymptomatic even if you catch the infection. In some cases, mild symptoms appear. This can be easily treated at home and does not require hospitalization. But a few high-risk individuals develop severe problems, such as trouble breathing, etc. The chances of getting a severe infection increase if you’re older in age or have pre-existing health conditions like diabetes or heart disease. In these cases, post-viral recovery will also take more time.

What are the most common symptoms and signs of COVID-19?

CDC states that people infected with COVID-19 may have many symptoms. The symptoms can range from mild ones to severe illnesses. The symptoms are usually noticed 2-14 days after getting exposed to the virus. Some of the common COVID-19 symptoms are:

In case you have any of the above-listed symptoms, you need to get yourself tested for COVID-19 and stay at home until you get your result. It is estimated that around 1 in 3 people who are infected by coronavirus will not have any symptoms at all. But, they can still pass on the infection to others. This is why everyone should get tested on a regular basis.

Also Read: Are You at a Higher Risk of Experiencing Complications if You Get Infected with COVID-19?

What is the difference between RT-PCR and antigen tests?

RT-PCR Test: RT-PCR test is one of the most common tests used to diagnose COVID-19. It is a molecular test that tests swab samples from a person’s nose and throat. In this test, a small amount of DNA is taken first. Then, specific sequences of the genetic material are amplified for the diagnosis of the acute infection. The point to be noted here is that the RT-PCR test is used to detect acute infection alone. It cannot be used to check whether the patient has recovered fully from a COVID-19 infection. The test is specifically for the virus. In case the person is tested positive, the chances of him/her being affected by COVID-19 is also high.

Antigen Test: This COVID-19 test is used to detect the presence of certain types of proteins in the virus. The test is conducted by using a nasal swab. A fluid sample is taken and the antigen tests will give results in minutes. Others may be sent to a lab for analysis. If the instructions are carefully followed, the antigen test results will be accurate. But, the chances of false-negative results are also more. There are chances that you might be infected by the virus and yet received a negative result. Depending on the situation, your doctor may ask you to get a PCR test done to confirm the negative antigen test result.

How do symptoms range from mild to severe?

COVID-19 severity is often divided into categories like mild, moderate, and severe. According to the COVID-19 treatment guidelines published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they’re defined as:

Mild illness. A person has any of the symptoms of COVID-19 except for shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

Moderate illness. A person may have a lower respiratory illness, such as pneumonia. However, their blood oxygen levels remain at 94 percent or higher.

Severe illness. A person has blood oxygen levels that are less than 94 percent, a high breathing rate, and signs of severe lung disease.

When to plan for home care or hospital admission?

If you suspect that you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you need to start planning for the right treatment. Your illness symptoms can vary from mild to moderate and severe. This transition can happen almost a week after the initial symptoms are observed. But, it can also be observed at a later or earlier stage. According to the CDC’sTrusted Source analysis of COVID-19 progression, the timeframe from symptom onset to breathing difficulties is typically between 5 to 8 days. In people who become severely ill, the length of time between the onset of their symptoms and admission to a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) is between 9.5 and 12 days.

Patients with mild clinical symptoms (absence of viral pneumonia and hypoxia) may not initially require hospitalization. Also, most people with COVID-19 infection are able to manage their illness at home. The decision to monitor a patient in the inpatient or outpatient setting needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. This decision depends on the progression of symptoms, supportive care requirements, possible risk factors for severe diseases (for example the infected person has a pre-existing condition like diabetes), and the capability of the person to stay home and self-isolate. Patients with risk factors for severe illness need to be monitored closely as they are at possible risk of disease progression to severe illness, especially in the second week after symptom onset.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and at any point feel that you cannot cope with your symptoms at home or if your condition gets worse, please contact your doctor immediately.

Technology plays a vital role in covid management. Chat with our  REAN Health Guru, virtual assistant to get answers to all your questions and doubts regarding COVID 19. It also helps with Corona vaccination assistance.

Are You at a Higher Risk of Experiencing Complications if You Get Infected with COVID-19?

What are the pre-existing conditions that make COVID-19 worse?

Case studies and research conducted on COVID-19 patients have shown that older people and/or those who have any pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart condition, may fall at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they become Covid positive.

Seniors above the age of 80 years

Men and women in the older age category have a greater risk of suffering dangerous and life-threatening symptoms. The risks become multifold for the elderly people if they are suffering from other pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, heart condition, etc. Therefore, it is imperative for older people to take all medications for their pre-existing conditions, as prescribed by their doctor. To make things convenient, a care package could be created with information about their current medical/health conditions, medications, name, and contact of their doctors, and other emergency contacts. This could be useful during any medical emergencies.

Lung Problems

As COVID-19 attacks the lungs, individuals who already have lung problems such as the below are highly likely to suffer severe symptoms.

It is good to connect with your consulting doctor to discuss and continue maintenance medications that can keep your symptoms under control. You may also want to take your doctor’s opinion about keeping an emergency kit of prescription medicines, like asthma inhalers for any unexpected situations. People who suffer from asthma or allergies would be better off if they avoid areas or situations that worsen their condition like pollen, tobacco smoke, dust mites, and chill air, to avoid any triggers.

Heart Condition

Different heart diseases can leave your health condition vulnerable, increasing your chances to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms. These include:

It’s always great to be in touch and discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns. Additionally, continue with your regular medicines exactly as directed. If your pre-existing health conditions are not under control, it might pose a high risk of experiencing serious complications if you contract COVID-19. This means that if you suffer from hypertension or diabetes, you need to have blood pressure as well as blood sugar levels in control with regular medications as advised by the doctor.

Obesity and Diabetes

A higher BMI (body mass index) that ranges anywhere between overweight and severely obese increases the risk of COVID complications. Both Diabetes and obesity can impair your immune system. Generally, Diabetes poses an increased risk of infections and also increases the chances of suffering complications if one contracts COVID-19. This risk can significantly be lowered by having blood sugar in control and taking insulin and other diabetes medications as per your doctor’s instructions.

Also Read: Learn All About Preventive Steps for COVID-19 and Vaccination

Health Conditions & Treatments that Weaken Immune System

Disease like cancer severely impacts your immunity and can increase complications during COVID-19. Treatments for cancer can weaken your body’s ability to fight off disease. A healthy person’s immune system is able to fight the pathogens that cause diseases. But some treatments and certain conditions such as the below may impair the immune system.

If your immunity is already weakened, it is good to take additional care to avoid contracting the COVID-19 virus.

How does body defence work to prevent disease?

Pathogens are disease-causing microorganisms that are made up of several subparts. The subpart that causes the formation of antibodies is called an antigen. When we’re exposed to an antigen, our immune system quickly responds and creates antibodies that fight the antigen and save us from the disease. When these specific antibodies are produced, they work with the rest of the immune system to destroy the pathogen and stop the disease.

How to boost body immunity?

Our immune system is like our body’s soldier and it acts as a barrier against any foreign bodies that enter the human body, including many viruses and bacteria. When an antibody recognizes the antigen of an invading pathogen, it firmly binds itself onto it. Once attached, it behaves like a beacon that signals other elements of the immune system to attack the invading pathogen and free the body from it. Therefore, it is critical to work towards boosting your immune system and increasing its fighting power to be able to fight back disease-causing pathogens. Here are some important tips to strengthen your immune system:

Regular Exercise: Though moderate-intensity physical activity contributes to generating a healthier immune system, in some cases high-intensity and high-volume training may work in a negative manner and further suppress the immune function, especially if the person is unaccustomed to it. So, it is important to maintain a balance in your workout program and increase its intensity gradually.

Getting Quality Sleep: Sleep is one of the most important factors that is required for optimal immune function, mental and physical health, and quality of life. The CDC and American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends 7 or more hours of sleep for adults, 8-10 hours for teens, 9-12 hours for school-age children, 10-13 hours for preschoolers (including naps), and 11-14 hours for toddlers (including naps) in a 24-hour period.

Relaxation/ Mindfulness: Stress has increased in today’s lifestyle but having stress on a chronic level (such as constant worry about the job or financial security, relationships, personal or family health concerns) is toxic, and over time, can bring down our immunologic health. People have become conscious of this and work with experts to train in the art of meditation/mindfulness. The art of mindfulness trains your brain and therefore can help in reducing the effects of stress on the body’s immune system if practised regularly. In today’s tech age, you could also consider taking help to unwind from apps like Headspace, aura, breathe, etc. or practice yoga every day with platforms like Daily Yoga or Yoga studio.

Healthy, Nutrient-Rich Diet: To improve our chances to fight COVID-19 and avoid any complications, it is imperative that we keep our bodies in good shape and take all steps to keep our existing health condition in control. Diet plays a major role in achieving this objective as it provides us with the ammunition to boost our immunity.

To keep fit, we need to focus on eating lesser carbohydrates as this helps in controlling high blood sugar and pressure. Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables high in Beta carotene, Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) & other vital vitamins and minerals is essential to build our power to fight diseases. Certain foods like tomato, bell pepper, mushroom and green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and spinach play a key part in building resilience against infections.

Adding supplements rich in omega 3 & 6 fatty acids to your daily diet keeps your heart and blood pressure in good health. Gooseberries (amla), ginger, and turmeric are natural immunity supplements that are common ingredients in Indian dishes and snacks. There are various herbs and spices that boost immunity such as basil leaves, garlic, cumin, cloves, and peppercorns. You could learn more about healthy foods through apps like Nutrients - Nutrition Facts, SuperFood - Healthy Recipes and include them in your daily diet.

REAN Health Guru is a virtual healthcare assistant that can help answer all your questions regarding COVID-19 symptoms assessment, personal risk assessment, as well as provide vaccination assistance.

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Learn All About Preventive Steps for COVID-19 and Vaccination

While front-line medical workers deal with the ongoing pandemic, it lies on all of us to support their efforts with our COVID-appropriate behavior. A collective effort is necessary to contain the spread of this disease and save as many lives as possible.

How to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Here are the steps you can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Also Read: Know All About the COVID-19 Disease and How it Spreads

How does vaccination help?

Vaccines prompt the recipient’s body to set off an immune response within the body exactly as it would have on its first reaction to the actual pathogen. This immunity helps the individual get better equipped to fight the virus if exposed. The immune system is trained to recognize the virus and protects you by producing antibodies. Even in case of infection after vaccination, you may experience mild corona symptoms and your post-viral recovery will also be faster.

Some vaccines should be given in multiple doses, within a span of a few weeks to some months. This timing is carefully studied and planned by researchers to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and the development of memory cells. In this way, the body is prepared to fight the specific disease-causing pathogens, if and when exposed in the future. Getting vaccinated may also protect people around you because if you are protected from getting infected from the disease, you are less likely to infect someone else.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The human body’s response to a vaccine is similar to when it encounters a natural infection. This provides us with the immunity to fight the pathogen and gain protection from the disease by taking a vaccine. Vaccines do not contain a live virus and cannot cause disease. The vaccines cannot change your DNA.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe for most people 18 years and older, including those with pre-existing conditions of any kind, including auto-immune disorders, as stated by WHO. These conditions could include: hypertension, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary, liver, and kidney disease, as well as chronic infections that are stable and controlled. If you have any questions or concerns before taking the vaccine, please consult your doctor.

How long is the COVID-19 vaccine effective?

Now that vaccines for COVID-19 have been successfully created and made available for general consumption, people all over the world are either getting vaccinated against COVID-19 or awaiting their turn to receive the vaccine jab. One of the next big questions that many people are asking is the duration until which the immunity gained from these vaccines will last. Research is being conducted to confirm how long the protection from the vaccines will last. It is possible that protection might decrease with passing time, and people may need another booster dose after a few months for reinforcing the immunity. We might need to get a vaccine shot every year too.

Is COVID vaccination safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Clinical studies and trials to ascertain the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and how effectively they work to provide security from the disease in pregnant people are being conducted or planned. Vaccine manufacturers are also collecting and reviewing data from people in the completed clinical trials who received vaccines and became pregnant. An interim guidance by the World Health Organization permits vaccination of pregnant women when its benefits outweigh potential risks. This has cleared the way for the Indian Government to expand its immunization drive to this set of population. India has so far exercised caution and been conservative in vaccinating pregnant women due to a lack of proof in terms of clinical trial data.

You can also click here to get answers to all your questions and doubts regarding COVID-19.

Know All About the COVID-19 Disease and How it Spreads

What is COVID-19? Meaning of COVID-19 word?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. In the word ‘COVID-19’ - 'CO' stands for corona, 'VI' denotes virus, and 'D' stands for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as '2019 novel coronavirus' or '2019-nCoV.'

What is a virus & coronavirus?

Viruses are microscopic pathogens that reproduce only inside the living cells of organisms. Coronavirus is a type of virus that was identified in 2019, SARS-CoV-2. It has been the primary cause of a global pandemic of a respiratory illness called COVID-19.

What are the most common modes of transmission of viruses in general?

Viruses spread through various modes of transmission. They are mainly categorized as:

a. Contact transmission can happen through direct or indirect contact. Direct contact transmission happens where disease-causing microorganisms pass from the infected person to the healthy person through direct physical contact of blood or body fluids. Body fluids could pass from one person to the other through actions like touching, kissing, or sexual intercourse. Indirect contact transmissions happen when an infected individual sneezes or coughs, passing infectious droplets into the air. If healthy individuals inhale the virus-containing droplets, or if those droplets land directly in their eyes, nose, or mouth, they risk getting infected with the disease.

b. Vehicle transmission refers to the transmission of disease-causing pathogens by means of a medium that could be water, food, or air. Waterborne diseases can be caused by the contamination of a water source due to poor sanitation methods. Airborne diseases are caused when pathogens are transmitted from an infected to a healthy person through aerosols, dust, and fine particles that float in the air.

c. Vector transmission refers to infectious diseases that spread through a mechanical or biological vector. Biological transmission of infection happens via a second population (vectors). Vectors are arthropods that feed on blood, such as mosquitoes, sandflies, or ticks. While feeding on an infected animal/person, the vector carries the infection causing pathogens that might multiply within its body and then transmits it to another human/animal. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are common biological vectors of disease. Mechanical transmission can happen when a vector such as flies picks up infectious agents on the outside of their bodies and transmit them through physical contact, without being infected.

Also Read: Work From Home Hacks To Stay Fit & Fab

How does coronavirus spread?

Researchers have found that the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads mainly from humans to humans via respiratory droplets that are released when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. Another less common way of transmission is an airborne transmission. This occurs when smaller droplets containing virus particles stay suspended in the air for a longer duration and over longer distances, they can potentially infect healthy people in the same area — even when the infected person is far or has left the space some time ago.

Many times there are people who carry the infection but do not show any signs or symptoms of the disease. These individuals can be carriers and spread the virus to others. The COVID-19 transmission can happen in several ways:

Aerosols or Droplets. This is the most common form of transmission across the globe. The disease gets transmitted when a person infected with COVID-19, sneezes, coughs, or talks. When this happens, many small droplets or tiny particles, also known as aerosols, transmit the virus from his/her nose or mouth into the surrounding air. This is dangerous for anyone within the range of 6 feet around the infected person.

Airborne transmission. Researchers have found that the virus responsible for COVID-19 is able to survive in the air for as long as 3 hours. You could risk getting infected if you breathe in the air around an infected person. Cases of transmission from people more than 2 meters apart have occurred but in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, and typically with extended exposure to an infected person of more than 30 min.

Surface transmission. This is not the primary mode of transmission but poses a large risk. When a healthy person touches surfaces that have the virus left by someone else’s cough or sneeze, they are in danger of getting infected. You are at high risk if you touch a tabletop or door handle that has the virus and then use the same hand to touch your mouse, nose, or eyes. Therefore, doctors and scientists stress the need to wash or sanitize your hands multiple times a day and disinfect the surfaces, doorknobs, etc that are used by multiple people on a daily basis.

Fecal-oral. Scientists have conducted studies that confirm the presence of the virus in the feces of the infected people. But experts are uncertain if the infection may spread via contact with an infected individual’s stool. If a person carrying the COVID-19 virus uses the washroom and did not wash hands hygienically, they could risk infecting surfaces and others who use that area.

How does the virus mutate?

Variants of viruses occur when there is a change or mutation to the virus’s genes. Viruses undergo mutations throughout their lifespan. If a mutation has the advantage of survival, then the mutated version becomes the dominant strain. Just as chameleons change their skin color to avoid predators, the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve to evade its predator – the human immune system that fights the virus.

What are various COVID variations?

Here are the variants of concern updated by WHO as of 31 May 2021:

The most effective way to control the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic and slow down the transmission rate is to be aware of the virus, how it spreads and which behavioral practices should be used to keep it at bay. We all need to protect ourselves and others around us from the infection by washing our hands regularly or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Learn more on how to prevent COVID-19 and improve your safety by getting vaccinated.

The intelligent bot, REAN Health Guru, developed by REAN Foundation, answers all your questions about COVID-19 from authentic medical resources. Click here to go through other FAQs.

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