Yesterday, a friend sent me a text suggesting that Scripps was offering COVID 19 testing at no cost. Since then, this notice has been making the rounds on Facebook. There was a phone number to call and hours of operation, but no details on what criteria would be used to qualify for the test or if I needed to be in the Scripps health plan.
I’d just about reached my limit of living on false hope, starting with the stream of lies effervescing from the idiot who is supposed to be leading us through this catastrophe. But I was also getting desperate – it was ten days of feeling deathly sick, and nights of not being able to breathe. I dialed the number, and was put on hold for over 30 minutes. But what else did I have to do? I put the phone down to go to the bathroom and no sooner was I away from it when I heard a person’s voice asking how she could help me. Good thing it wasn’t a video call! I told her, between coughing fits, that I was sick and wanted to be tested for COVID 19. She started to ask the same question I’ve encountered for the past week – Had I been to one of the countries on the list? Or, had I been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID 19?
At that very moment, the president was on the TV saying that there were enough testing kits for everyone. She said, “He’s lying,” as if this was news. It was all I could take. I broke down in tears. “I’m 68 years old. I’ve had all of the symptoms of this virus for days and I just need to know what I have,” I sobbed. “I’m going to help you,” she reassured me, and for the first time this week (outside of nightly calls with my sister who is a physician) I heard someone in healthcare talk to me with complete honesty and compassion, and I believed her. “We have a lot of questions to go through, and then no matter what, I’m going to tell you how to treat your symptoms. So stay with me here, Okay?” she said in the kindest voice you can imagine.
It turned out that there are now a few COVID 19 tests that doctors are allocated each day that they can give to patients who fall outside the CDC’s very limited criteria for testing. After finishing the questions, she said I was clearly very sick and, given my age and risks, I could come in the next morning to get tested and instructed me where to go. Then, slowly, and with heroic patience with my hearing problems, she listed the things I need to do to survive. Some of these suggestions had previously been made by my sister, but when you feel sick, just trying to take all of that in is overwhelming.
The previous night, my sister had recommended I get a prescription for an antibiotic, and I was able to do that during a TeleMed call earlier. But having someone give you suggestions to treat yourself, allowing you to ask questions and giving you time to write things down, makes all the difference in the world.
There seems to be no end of information available about how to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus, but almost nothing is out there about treating the symptoms. While in the emergency room, I was sent home with a prescription for an Abuterol inhaler, but I wasn’t actually TREATED for the symptoms that caused me to go to the ER. I went home both times as miserable as when I went in. I was tested to rule out the flu and strep, had a chest x-ray to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia and sent on my not-so-merry way.
Over the coming weeks, many of our friends and family will be experiencing the symptoms of COVID 19 or the flu. They may or may not be able to get tested. As doctors and nurses become overwhelmed with the sick, even getting sick themselves, it’s going to be important that we know how to treat the symptoms, for both ourselves and our family, friends and neighbors. I am feeling so much better today after following the recommendations of my sister and this compassionate RN that I can vouch that what I’m sharing here is more than amateur internet advice, although I’m going to explain it in layman’s language.
So, if you are feeling sick, first seek your doctor’s advice. But if that’s not available or they are too pressed to get into the self-care details, this might save you a trip to urgent care where, if you don’t have COVID 19, you might just pick it up like the goody bag from hell to take home to your family. If you are having trouble breathing, ask your doctor over the phone if you can get a prescription for an albuterol inhaler. If you’ve been sick for a week, ask about antibiotics. COVID 19 will weaken your defenses and leave you open to opportunistic bacterial infections that go in for the kill.
Here goes (I warn you it’s a long list):
Abuterol (4 x’s/day) ̶ Albuterol is a bronchodilator that relaxes muscles in the airways and increases airflow to the lungs. You’ll need a prescription for this. It comes as an inhaler or as a liquid you use with a nebulizer. Use no more than 4 xs a day. Ex. When you wake up, late morning, afternoon and evening. There is something called an Anti-Static Valved Holding Chamber that you can attach to the inhaler that greatly improved the performance for me. It’s tricky to get the hang of using it, so read the directions carefully BEFORE you are having an “I can’t get a breath” attack. Alternately, you can get the liquid form of the albuterol to use in a nebulizer (about $30)
Netti Pot or NeilMed Sinus Rinse ($13.00) (2 x’s/day) ̶ I hate doing this, but ya do what you gotta do. This will clear your nasal passages of mucus. I prefer the rinse bottle over the pot. According to the directions, which are in 6 pt. type, you should use sterile water. We use a Britta Filter for our drinking water so then when I boil water for tea or coffee, I boil extra that I can pour into a jar to cool for the Sinus Rinse. There are Sinus Rinse packets that you add to the water.
Saltwater Gargle and Honey Coat (3 x’s/day) ̶ Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water. Gargle. Then take a tsp of honey and just let it coat your throat. The tea forms a barrier to the virus, soothes a sore throat and suppresses cough. After breakfast and lunch and just before bedtime.
For your cough (2 x’s/day) ̶ Cough suppressant such as Delsym or Cordicin HBP (every 12 hours) Get the plain version so you can also take an expectorant. The HBP version of Cordicin is for High Blood Pressure, which, even if your blood pressure is normally OK, could go up with the virus.
For mucus (2 x’s/day) ̶ Expectorant such as Mucinex or Sudafed
For allergy symptoms ̶ Zyrtec or Allegra. I normally take an Allegra everyday for my allergies. The RN suggested I switched to Zyrtec because my body may have built up a tolerance to the Allegra.
For your immune system (1 x/ day) ̶ Vitamin C, Vitamin D (helps to absorb the Vit. C) & Zinc (the zinc might upset your stomach) and Elderberry syrup.
Antibiotic (as directed) ̶ If you’ve been sick for a week, ask your doctor or TeleMed practitioner about prescribing antibiotics for you. COVID 19 will weaken your defenses and leave you open to opportunistic bacterial infections that go in for the kill. There are many reasons to avoid using antibiotics, but in the middle of a pandemic you need to do whatever you can to avoid going to the hospital.
Probiotics (daily) ̶ Yeah, I know, it seems to be self-defeating to take an anti-biotic and a pro-biotic at the same time – and you shouldn’t. But to avoid turning your gut into a mess just when you are fighting like hell to get healthy again, eat a food that is a natural probiotic, such as yogurt or sauerkraut, a few hours AFTER you’ve had the antibiotic.
And finally – Water, Sleep, Repeat, Repeat. To help you sleep, you can buy a humidifier ($43.00) (be sure to get distilled water for this, although plain tap water will do in a pinch) or you can do what I did – shut yourself in the bathroom and turn the hot water on the shower. Yeah, we will worry about California’s water shortage after we get this sucker behind us.
Let’s see, what else? You’ll need a thermometer and those little condom things you put over the tip of the thermometer so the next person to use it doesn’t get your crud. Take your temperature every time you feel bad, and write it down. If you call the doctor, they are going to want to know the pattern. This virus makes it go up and down.
So this seems like a lot. Go over it to make a shopping list and pray you have some karma left in your account when you go to the store. Check if you already have some of this stuff, and make sure it’s not dated to exp. 1988. There’s not much here that you can borrow. And if you can possibly afford it, don’t buy the generic – this just isn’t the time to save money. Death doesn’t give re-dos.
Being somewhat OCD – Okay, okay – a lot OCD, I needed to make all of this into a To DO List so I can check it off each day. I LOVE checking stuff off. For example, since I need to take the antibiotic twice a day, I put it on the list for as soon as I wake up, and again for 2 hours before dinner. Just a suggestion because when you feel like you are about to cough your kidneys up, you might forget what time you last took the expectorant. Which reminds me, it’s time for me to get to bed.
Oh, and really, really, one more thing, I promise. About that COVID 19 test. Please don’t make it into another toilet paper thing. Until they have sufficient tests – which might be never, remember that the test you use might be the one that someone really sick needs to take because they have had contact with a LOT more people, or they can’t go back to work until they can show they are negative. I am writing this as my test karma. Please be kind. People can be pretty darn cranky when they are hurting. Cut them some slack. We can all get back to fighting over bullshit after this is over – or maybe we’ll just decide we have better things to do.