Coronavirus (COVID-19) Care Plan

By Chesney Fowler, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 16, 2022

Go to the emergency room if

  • You develop shortness of breath (you struggle to catch your breath)
  • You develop chest pain or chest tightness
  • You feel confused
  • You feel faint (as if you might pass out),
  • Your oxygen levels fall below 94% as measured on a pulse oximeter (a machine to measure the oxygen levels in your blood).

Check in with K Health if…

  • Your breathing isn’t strained or effortful (you’re not short of breath)
  • You’re able to stay hydrated
  • You’re alert and awake
  • You want to see a medical provider about your symptoms and how to treat them.  

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a highly contagious group of illnesses that cause respiratory infections ranging from mild to severe.

In December 2019, a new mutation of human coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, was identified, and it spread rapidly around the world. 

The most common symptoms include: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue 
  • Dry cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Risk factors 

People at risk for severe illness or significant complications of COVID-19 include:

  • Older adults (65 and older)
  • People who live in a closed population (e.g. nursing home or detention facility)
  • People with chronic lung disease (such as asthma or COPD)
  • People who are immunocompromised due to a medical condition/medication(s) 

Read more about COVID-19

How does testing for COVID-19 work?

There are two basic coronavirus test options for people concerned about exposure to COVID-19.

A diagnostic (viral) test: a nasal swab, saliva test, or oral swab that determines if you have an active COVID-19 infection. Diagnostic tests cannot detect past infections. 

There are two types of viral tests:

  • COVID-19 PCR test with results that may take up to a few days but are considered very accurate.
  • Rapid Antigen (Ag) test with results that are obtained quickly but are considered less accurate. 

(Note that different countries require different testing, so be sure you’re updated on local guidelines and travel requirements.)

An antibody (serology) test:  this is a blood test purposed to detect past COVID-19 infections. The medical community, however, is still learning about what having antibodies against COVID-19 means. We don’t know, for instance, if having antibodies against COVID-19 provides immunity against the virus in the future, so booster vaccines are essential to maintaining immunity.

When should I get tested?

  • If you have any COVID-19 symptoms
  • If you were exposed to a COVID-19 positive person (if you have no symptoms, wait five days before testing to ensure an accurate test result).
  • If clearance to return to work or other activities is required 
  • If clearance for a medical procedure is required 

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe? 

Currently, there are multiple vaccines available in the United States.

They have all been tested and are considered safe. Vaccination for yourself and your family members is recommended – including children old enough to be vaccinated. Read more about different vaccines from the CDC. 

I have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Do I need prescription medicine for treatment? 

The short answer is – not necessarily. Many patients with mild symptoms can be safely and effectively treated at home with supportive care – especially if the sick person has been vaccinated and has a robust immune system. 

Supportive care is everything you do to keep yourself comfortable and hydrated without medical intervention. Supportive care doesn’t cure a disease but makes the symptoms more tolerable.

Some cases, however, do require prescription medicine or interventions like oxygen at the hospital, monoclonal antibodies, or COVID antiviral medicines. 

  • Monoclonal antibodies are medications usually provided in the hospital or clinic through an IV that support a person’s immune system to provide extra disease-fighting particles called antibodies to attack the COVID-19 virus and disable it.
  • COVID-19 antiviral medications are available in limited supply for patients who need additional treatment due to chronic medical conditions such as cancer. Patients with certain chronic medical conditions at risk for severe complications may be candidates for antiviral medications. Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) is prescribed only for patients who qualify for this treatment. 

K Health does not recommend hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, or azithromycin for any patient with COVID-19, and we don’t prescribe these medicines for COVID-19 at K Health. 

How do I treat COVID-19 symptoms? 

Supportive care: over-the-counter medication

Pain/ fever 

Take over-the-counter medications for fever and pain at the recommended dosage, as needed.

Sore throat 

Try throat lozenges (like Cepacol, which includes numbing medicine for throat pain). These can be found at most pharmacies.

Cough 

Take dextromethorphan (Delsym and similar medicines) – provided that your cough is mild and you are not short of breath, 

Stuffy nose/nasal congestion 

Take 60mg of pseudoephedrine every 6 hours, as needed.

  • Don’t take it if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant/breastfeeding 
  • Stop taking it if it makes you feel dizzy
  • Don’t take it in the evening – it can cause insomnia.

General note

Most over-the-counter cough and cold combinations like DayQuil, NyQuil, Theraflu, Robitussin Cough & Cold, and similar capsules contain multiple drugs in one pill. 

Make sure you’re not taking the same drug with multiple pills simultaneously. 

Unsure? Connect with K Health to review your treatment regimen with a medical provider. 

Other supportive measures (non-medicated remedies) 

Hydration 

Stay hydrated with non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids—drink at least 8 cups a day

Rest

Get plenty of rest (at least eight hours of sleep each night)

Sore throat 

  • Drink tea with honey
  • Gargle salt water (add half a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water and gargle the water as long as you can in the back of your throat, then spit it out).

Nasal congestion

  • Hot, steamy shower
  •  Sinus flush using nasal saline (found at any pharmacy)

What do I need to know about preventing the spread of COVID-19?

The CDC frequently puts out new updates regarding COVID-19.

Click here for the most up-to-date information on when to stay at home, when to quarantine, and when to self-isolate, as well as clear guidelines on what to do in each case. 

Mask Guidelines

Mask guidelines are frequently changing and often vary by state and vaccination status.

For the most up-to-date information, please check the latest CDC Mask Guideline recommendation or your state health department.

Remember mask etiquette. Respect others’ decisions about their own bodies, and be aware of local regulations. 

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Chesney Fowler, MD

Dr. Fowler is an emergency medicine physician and received her MD from George Washington University. She completed her residency in emergency medicine at Christiana Care Health System. In addition to her work at K Health, Dr. Fowler is a practicing emergency medicine physician in Washington, DC.

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