COVID-19 FAQs: Symptoms and Exposure
Get the facts about symptoms and exposure to the novel coronavirus and how it affects people with arthritis.
Question: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 symptoms tend to show up from two to 14 days after infection. Most people – about 80% or more – have mild symptoms. The definition of a “mild” infection can vary widely from person to person, but typically, it involves a fever, aches and pains and respiratory symptoms, such as a dry cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover without needing any medical attention, though some mild cases can progress into moderate ones that require IV fluids for dehydration.
About 20% of people will develop severe infections, including secondary infection like pneumonia, that require hospitalization. An even smaller percentage, about 5% require end up in the ICU and/or on a ventilator.
It’s also important to remember that some people who get infected have asymptomatic infections (no symptoms) but they can still spread the virus to others.
Regardless of your type of infection, doctors warn patients to tell their health care provider if they are experiencing shortness of breath. This symptom can be a precursor to more serious complications.
Knowing that the disease can show up in many ways helps you know when to contact your doctor. If you are feeling sick, be sure to tell your doctor about all symptoms. If your symptoms are mild and manageable, you will probably be told to isolate yourself at home, stay hydrated and take care of yourself. If your symptoms become severe, your doctor may advise urgent care.
Click here for the latest list of symptoms provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Question: What should I do if I think have the new coronavirus?
A: Call your primary care doctor or rheumatologist right away. If you feel very ill or are having trouble breathing, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Your doctor may recommend a COVID-19 test, but right now access depends in part on where you live, test supply and local policies. If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or test positive, your rheumatologist will advise you or the treating physician whether any of your medication(s) should be stopped or dose(s) changed. Do not stop your arthritis medications or change dose without your doctor’s guidance. Some drugs, like corticosteroids, must be tapered, not stopped suddenly.
Your doctor can also help you decide how to manage your illness. If you have a mild illness your doctor will likely recommend that you rest, drink liquids and isolate from others in your household. If you have a more severe illness, you might be sent to the hospital to be monitored for complications such as pneumonia.
Question: If I’m infected, how do I protect my family?
A: Isolate yourself as best as possible from others for at least 14 days. Stick to one room in the house and have others use a separate bathroom, if possible. Do not handle or touch shared objects without disinfecting them afterwards. If you have to be in the same room as others, make sure everyone is wearing a mask. Everyone in the household should wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. For more guidance on what to do if you or a family member is sick, check out these CDC guidelines.
Question: If I’ve already been infected with the COVID-19 virus and recovered, can I get re-infected?
A: It’s unclear. Someone who has been infected with a virus will have antibodies to that virus. Sometimes those antibodies provide an ongoing immunity so that re-infection does not occur. Sometimes that immunity lasts only for a period of time before re-infection can occur.
According to the CDC, there’s not enough information to determine if having antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 protects someone from reinfection. Early studies analyzing recovered patients found that protection from antibodies almost completely diminished after five months. However, new data has emerged to suggest that immunity from infection may last much longer than initially thought.
However, it’s important to remember that, as science evolves, and researchers learn more about the virus, anything is possible. In the meantime, whether you have been infected or not, the best way to protect yourself from infection is to maintain 6 ft physical distance from others outside your household, wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene.
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