COVID-19 Symptoms and Caregiving
Learn the essential information
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Sometimes when they infect humans, they only result in mild symptoms, similar to those of the common cold. Other times, symptoms can be more severe. In December 2019, a new type of coronavirus – COVID-19 – struck Wuhan in China and is now a pandemic as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The fact that COVID-19 has also affected Sri Lanka does not mean that you should panic. As the WHO states, COVID-19 “is a pandemic that can be controlled.” While the Sri Lankan government has taken decisive steps to curb the spread of the illness, you too can play your part by understanding more about COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention and caregiving of a loved one who might be showing symptoms.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The virus is spread from human to human. If an infected person coughs and/or sneezes, tiny droplets of fluid escape from the nose and/or mouth that contain the virus. If these droplets fall on a surface and are touched by someone else who consequently touches his or her nose, mouth or eyes, then infection may occur.
The virus can also infect another person if he or she directly inhales droplets that contain the virus, coughed or sneezed out by someone with COVID-19. This is why governments and health experts around the world (including in Sri Lanka) recommend that to “flatten the curve” (or prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases) social distancing, combined with proper handwashing and hygiene techniques, are a must.
Symptoms of COVID-19
While symptoms of the infection range from severe to mild in populations across the world, the most common symptoms are:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Aches and pains
- Loss of taste and smell
According to the WHO, some people get this virus but only show very mild symptoms and don’t feel ill at all. The vast majority of people who get COVD-19 recover from it, with no need for special treatment. However, around one in six people who gets the infection may become severely ill, says the WHO, and experience respiratory systems problems.
Those who are considered vulnerable to the disease are the elderly, and those with existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Children in general are at no greater risk than the general population for COVID-19. In fact, one study from Harvard shows that children seem to experience milder COVID-19 symptoms than adults.
If you have any of the above symptoms and have returned to Sri Lanka from any other country within the last 14 days, or associated with someone confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days before you showed symptoms, then, the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) of Sri Lanka suggests you immediately call your doctor or 1999. Please follow their advice for next steps you should take.
If you are advised to go to a hospital, please ensure you tell the hospital staff about your symptoms.
Until you are able to seek proper medical care, the HPB also recommends you self-quarantine within your home as a precaution.
To re-iterate, if you, or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you should immediately:
- Call your doctor or healthcare provider
- Call 1999
What is self-quarantine, and how do I do it?
You may have been told by your doctor or health care provider to self-quarantine. What does that mean and how do you do it? Follow these steps:
- Do not leave home unless it is to see a doctor.
- Keep a distance of at least one metre between you and your family members.
- Use a separate room for yourself if you can.
- Use a different bathroom if possible. If you don’t have one in your home, make sure you clean the door handles, tap and toilet flush handle and seat with an antiseptic after use.
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Use separate cutlery, crockery, towels and bedspreads/sheets.
- Your family members should do the same.
- No visitors should come home.
- Sneeze and/or cough into the crook of your elbow or a tissue. The tissue should be thrown into the dustbin. You should wash your hands thoroughly, afterwards.