What to do if you have COVID-19

Washington — President Donald Trump has pressed the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate barriers to the availability of drugs that may treat COVID-19, an illness with no known cure.

But there's no guarantee these drugs will kill the virus and it may take weeks or even months before they are on the market.

Trump said an antimalarial drug called hydroxychloroquine that's also used to fight arthritis would be made available almost immediately to treat coronavirus.

"It's been around for a long time, so we know if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody," Trump told reporters at the White House.

The president said other drugs would be soon available, too.

But Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it would take some time to run the clinical trial on these drugs.

In the meantime, people who've tested positive for the coronavirus, or think they may have COVID-19, can only try to treat the symptoms, which include fever, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath. Some COVID-19 patients also experience diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, sometimes before respiratory symptoms begin.

There are different opinions on the best way to make a COVID-19 patient more comfortable while the disease runs its course, which, depending on the severity of the illness, could take weeks. But there's consensus that people who have tested positive for COVID-19, or even think they may have the disease, should isolate themselves at home — as far as possible from other family members — and contact a doctor by phone instead of visiting the physician's office.

That doctor may order a coronavirus test, although many with those prescriptions have found it difficult to get a test in Connecticut and elsewhere.

For those with health care coverage through Medicare, HUSKY or most private health insurance companies, coronavirus tests are free. Trump signed a new bill this week that will make coronavirus testing free to the uninsured, too.

Medicare, HUSKY and many private insurers who did not do so before are also covering the costs of a telemedicine visit with your doctor.

When to seek help

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to get medical attention immediately if you have difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or the inability to arouse from sleep, a temperature that's over 104 degrees Fahrenheit or bluish lips or face.

People who think they have COVID-19 are treating it like a cold or flu.

Over-the-counter medications, like cough suppressants, can help minimize coughing episodes, and expectorants can help people bring up mucus. A humidifier also can help. Pain relievers and fever reducers can help treat aches and reduce fevers. And doctors say COVID-19 patients should remain hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids.

There's a debate, however, over which pain and fever reducing medicine should be used.

The World Health Organization this week warned against the use of ibuprofen, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs to fight the fever and aches of COVID-19 after a leading French health official warned against it.

France's health minister, Olivier Véran, said aspirin and ibuprofen worsened the symptoms of the disease. Véran said certain drugs, including ibuprofen, increase the number of so-called ACE2 receptors on the surfaces of cells. The coronavirus uses these receptors to infect cells, so, in theory at least, taking these drugs might make one more vulnerable to the virus.

The WHO recommends take acetaminophen, Tylenol, instead.

However, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there is no proof that ibuprofen should be avoided.

"I think it was a conflating of some medical issues ... may be true, may not, but there's no good scientific evidence that says ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse," Fauci said.

There are also differing opinions about how to deal with a fever.

Some doctors say there may not be a good reason to lower a temperature, unless it's very high, because dozens of medical studies show fever helps fight infection.

Others warn that even a slight fever increases the metabolic rate, burning up calories. Coupled with a decrease in food intake, an increase in the metabolic rate can weaken a patient. It is estimated that for every degree Fahrenheit of rise in body temperature, the metabolic rate increases by 7%.

The CDC also has these recommendations for those who are sick:

  • As much as possible stay in a specific room in your house and, if possible, use a separate bathroom.
  • Do not handle pets or other animals because it's not fully known how coronavirus affects them.
  • Wear a face mask around other people.
  • Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the used ones in a lined trash can. Immediately wash hands for 20 seconds or use a sanitizer.
  • Avoid sharing household items or bedding with other people or pets.
    Wash hands often or use sanitizer.
  • Clean all 'high-touch' surfaces often, as well dishes, glasses and other eating utensils that are used.
  • The CDC also says the decision to end home isolation should be made on a case-by-case basis by a physician.

Ana Radelat is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2020 © The Connecticut Mirror.



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