What should I do if I can’t get a COVID-19 test and I am symptomatic?

Clinical Symptoms

Stay calm and isolate. Let someone know you are not feeling well if you are alone. Continue to monitor for worsening symptoms. Call for help if symptoms worsen. Seek emergency care if you are unable to care for yourself at home.

COVID-19 testing is difficult to find at the moment in many places. If you develop symptoms, inform your primary care provider who is likely to provide local information on testing and treatment options. If you have mild symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 and lack access to testing, assume it is COVID-19 until testing can be obtained. This means avoiding contact with other people, remaining in your home, and masking if you must be in contact with others. A full list of COVID-19 symptoms can be found below and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, and fatigue.

If you are in public when you start feeling ill, go home. If you live with others, isolate yourself away from housemates when possible. Mask indoors if isolation is not possible. If you are alone, give someone a call on the phone to let them know you are not feeling great. Now is a good time to activate your network to ensure you have the medicine, food, and caregiving support you may need while sick.

Monitor your symptoms closely. Keeping notes is REALLY HELPFUL! The details will blur together. Important details include the date and time your symptoms started, what symptoms you are experiencing, the time you take medications, responses to medications, and the onset of new symptoms. If you are also caring for someone else who is sick, notes are extra helpful. The journal of symptoms (on a scrap paper, a note book, or your finest paper) can be helpful in identifying worsening or improvement in symptoms and for communication with health providers.

If your symptoms are worsening, you should bump up your care plan. Worsening symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, a fever that is not improving with medications like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), inability to hold down fluids for multiple hours, changes in behavior or alertness, and other symptoms that you are uncomfortable managing independently. Several medical practices have increased their capacity for telehealth services which are helpful to assess the situation and modify the care plan. Urgent care centers and hospitals are also an option for severe symptoms.

COVID is flooding our neighborhoods and health systems. If you can get by without a test or hospital level care, it could open space for the sickest. You should still seek emergency care if you need it!! If you are recovered or feeling well, reach out to neighbors and friends who may need a (distanced and masked) helping hand.

With Love,
Those Nerdy Girls

Additional Resources:

CDC List of COVID-19 Symptoms

Previous DP post on management of COVID-19 symptoms at home

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