Not feeling well? Q&A with a Howard Brown Health Provider to answer your questions

Do you have questions about the novel coronavirus or COVID-19? Are you concerned you might have symptoms? Howard Brown Health is here to answer some of your questions and concerns. We’ve asked Abbey Baus, PA-C, AAHIVS, Assistant Site Medical Director and primary care provider at Howard Brown Health Halsted, to answer some common questions around COVID-19 and what to do if you think you have symptoms.

Q: What do I do if I start to feel like I have COVID-19 or similar symptoms?

A: Feeling unwell is no fun, but by following these simple steps, we can decrease the spread of COVID-19 to our friends, family, and neighbors.

First, if you are in respiratory distress, and having trouble breathing, you or someone close to you should call 911. Please inform the dispatcher that you are symptomatic for possible COVID-19.  

Common Symptoms and Indicators of COVID-19

  • Fever (a temperature greater than 100.4 °F)
  • Respiratory symptoms such as a new cough or shortness of breath
  • Recent travel outside the U.S.
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Close contact with anyone confirmed to have COVID-19

If you are not in respiratory distress and have had any of the above in the last 14 days, please call us at 773.388.1600.

You will be provided with instructions to be connected to our COVID-19 triage line, where you will leave a message. You will then be called back by a nurse or medical provider who will help to  evaluate your symptoms further and provide next steps.

Q: What if I came into contact with someone who was sick, but I’m not sure if they had COVID-19?

A: We can define close contact as:

  • Living in the same household
  • Caring for a sick person
  • Being within six feet of a sick person for a prolonged period of time  (about 10 minutes)
  • Being in direct contact with a sick person (e.g., being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.)

If you’re not sure if this person had COVID-19, you should monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, diarrhea and abdominal pain, loss of sense of taste or smell, or difficulty breathing) during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person.

Q: Am I able to get a COVID-19 test?

A: Howard Brown is recommending that people who are not severely ill stay safe at home, rather than getting tested for COVID-19.  We are following the recommendations of the CDC.  When I am thinking about these criteria and considering if a person should receive a test, I always think “will the results of the test make a difference in the management of this person’s healthcare?”

For example, if you have had close contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms, you should stay home for 14 days from your last close contact with the COVID-19 positive person. Getting a test won’t change these recommendations.

For most people that are having mild symptoms after close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, we recommend that you do not need to get tested, and that you stay at home for at least 14 days after the contact occurred and at least 72 hours after your symptoms resolve (whichever is longer).  If you are having severe symptoms that cannot be managed at home, please call 911 to be connected to emergency care.  If a test is needed, it will be done in the ER or hospital.

For specific clinical scenarios including healthcare workers, patients over 60 years of age, patients with underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or chronic lung diseases like COPD, or severely weakened immune systems,  we recommend patients call our COVID-19 hotline at 773-388-1600 as described above.

Q: When should I stay home?

A: In Illinois, we recommend that you continue to follow the state’s Stay At Home order until at least April 30. This means you can go to grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, hospitals and gas stations, though please limit any time outside of your home, and make sure you are keeping at least 6 feet from other people when in public. It’s important we follow this guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, if you are feeling sick, please stay home for at least 72 hours after fever is gone without fever-reducing medicine, and your symptoms are improving. Thank you for staying home for your healthcare workers that are coming to work! I recognize this is really challenging for a lot of us, but the more we do now, the healthier we can be for the months to come.

Q: Do I have to make an appointment or call first, or can I walk-in to get a COVID-19 test?

A: We are not recommending that anyone come in for COVID-19 testing.  Please call our hotline to have your symptoms evaluated by medical professionals instead of walking in. This helps to protect you, the staff, and the public, by supporting you to stay home!

Q: Should I take ibuprofen or acetaminophen?

A: This has been a debatable question and unfortunately, more data is needed to see if ibuprofen could actually be harmful to people with COVID-19. In the meantime, if you are someone that can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever, aches, and pain, we recommend you stick with the Tylenol for now.

Q:  I have been asked to stay home (self-quarantine) because of flu-like symptoms that could be a sign of possible COVID-19.  What should I do at home to get better?

A: Get plenty of rest and fluids and nurse your symptoms as you would any cold or flu. Chicken soup and warm drinks can help you feel better. For aches, pains, and fever, use over-the-counter Tylenol. It’s advisable to check your temperature a few times a day and keep a record of it for your healthcare provider.

Monitor your breathing and note any changes that make it harder to breath or make you feel out of breath, particularly if you are not walking or moving. Nasal congestion can inhibit breathing, so an over-the-counter nasal decongestant may be helpful. Pay attention to chest congestion or chest/lung tightness. This is especial important for anyone with asthma or underlying lung issues. Some patients with chest congestion will be advised to take an expectorant and/or antibiotics. Consult your primary care provider. Use of an over-the-counter oximeter is another way you can monitor the capacity of your lungs to bring sufficient levels of oxygen to your blood. Most importantly, contact your primary care provider or call the emergency room if breathing capacity diminishes. 

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, people with symptoms at home should try to isolate themselves as much as possible from others in the household to protect them for possible infection. Wipe down your counters and door knobs, wash your hands, and clean and launder linens and clothes regularly.

Q: Should I wear a mask and/or gloves?

A: Wearing gloves can’t replace good old handwashing for 20 seconds with soap and water, as well as sanitizing the commonly touched surfaces in your home. Unfortunately, medical masks and N95s continue to be in short supply for healthcare workers on the front lines. The CDC has recommended use of face coverings in public, including homemade cloth masks. It’s important to continue to refrain from touching your face and stay at least 6 feet apart from others. Masks and physical distancing can protect you and others from respiratory aerosols created when speaking, coughing and sneezing. Although masks have been recommended to wear in public, we want everyone to know that this does not make it safe to be outside more often. Staying sheltered at home is the safest thing to do right now!

Howard Brown remains committed to meeting our patients’ needs during this time. In response to growing need for information around COVID-19, we have launched a COVID-19 information line.

If you are experiencing mild flu-like symptoms or have a non-immediate health concern, please call our COVID-19 line at 773.388.1600.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms or respiratory distress, please call 911.

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