As of March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people around the world. With more than half a million people infected by the new virus, the number of tests for new cases is limited.
How do you know if you have COVID-19 if a test isn’t available in your area? Take a look at these recommendations from the CDC to learn whether a chest pain and cough are enough to justify a COVID-19 self-diagnosis.
What Is COVID-19?
A new strain of coronavirus was first made public after several cases appeared in the Wuhan Province of China in December 2019. From these early cases, the world watched as the spread grew rapidly across continents within just a few months.
Though cases of infection were isolated to certain regions at first, the coronavirus soon spread to the United States. The previously identified coronavirus caused mild symptoms that resembled the common cold.
These coronavirus strains included coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1. The new virus causing coronavirus disease is being called COVID-19 and is treated differently than any of the other diseases.
COVID-19 became a global pandemic in late Winter 2020 once the disease spread across several continents without signs of slowing. Once this announcement was made, countries strengthened travel bans to keep the infection from growing.
Unfortunately, travel bans didn’t do enough to prevent spread and cases are now seen all around the world.
Chest Pain and Cough: COVID-19 Symptoms
COVID-19 is an infectious disease that causes respiratory illness much like the flu. Common symptoms include a cough, difficulty breathing, and fever.
Chest pain and cough together are not necessarily signs you have COVID-19. To test for COVID-19, doctors are using respiratory specimens that reveal whether you are infected with the new coronavirus.
Tests produced by the CDC go to state and local public health departments while private medical providers get tests from commercial manufacturers. Some tests can produce positive or negative results in just 4 to 6 hours, but many people have to wait days for their results.
Not everyone can get tested for COVID-19. The CDC offers guidance to public health departments on how to choose who gets tested to help preserve tests for those who need them most.
These guidelines are based on the following information:
- Most people with COVID-19 can recover at home as long as they have minor symptoms.
- No treatment is available that specifically treats the new coronavirus.
- Testing results will reveal who you should or shouldn’t come in contact with.
Don’t be surprised if you are refused a test by your local health department or doctor. It’s up to the doctor to decide whether you are a priority patient based on the CDC’s guidelines.
Clara, the COVID-19 Self Checker
The CDC launched a bot to help people check their symptoms for coronavirus. The technology is called Clara, the coronavirus self checker.
Clara was created in partnership with the CDC Foundation and Microsoft Azure’s Healthcare Bot service. The goal of Clara isn’t to give you a confirmed diagnosis, but to help you decide whether or not to pursue emergency medical help.
The CDC’s concern is making sure vulnerable populations and healthcare workers can preserve all the test kits they need to continue preventing the spread of the virus. The bot uses artificial intelligence to answer critical questions about COVID-19 symptoms.
By providing Clara, the CDC frees up medical professionals to treat patients instead of answer phone calls or respond to emails of patients who aren’t high risk.
Expect Clara to offer suggestions on whether or not you should pursue further medical care based on the symptoms you share.
What Happens If You Get Sick?
If you believe you have COVID-19, but symptoms are minor, you need to self-quarantine. Often, people with COVID-19 recover without any medical care.
Do not leave your home unless you experience any of the emergency symptoms. Avoid public areas unless you have a scheduled doctor’s visit.
Avoid public transportation including ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. When possible, use no-contact delivery options from local grocery stores and restaurants to stock up on supplies.
If you’re caring for someone else in your home who is sick, isolate the sick person so the virus doesn’t spread. Wipe down shared surfaces like light switches, remote controls and doorknobs with disinfectant wipes.
When to Get Emergency Help
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, it might be necessary to get medical help right away. Here is a list of emergency warning signs to watch out for:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain or pressure inside the chest cavity
- Inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
There may be other emergency warning signs to look for. Call 911 if you experience any of these plus any other severe symptoms.
Let the emergency operator know you are experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms so healthcare providers can wear the right protection and provide instructions on what you should do next.
Wear a facemask to the emergency room if you have one available. Aim to put it on before you enter the building to cover coughs and sneezes.
Stay a minimum of 6 feet away from anyone else in the waiting area and office.
A vaccine for COVID-19 isn’t available to help prevent the disease from spreading. The CDC recommends frequent hand washing, especially if you have chest pain and cough.
Social distancing and self-isolation are the two main ways to avoid getting COVID-19 and spreading it. Chest pain and cough might be the result of seasonal allergies or the common cold, but it’s best to err on the side of caution rather than potentially infect vulnerable people in your community.
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