If you develop coronavirus and live by yourself – no matter your age – it’s important to let someone know that you’re ill, says Prof Clare Gerada, a GP who has had Covid herself. If you’re experiencing breathlessness, your blood pressure might drop and you could risk a nasty fall if you get up.
Recent research on Covid patients admitted to NHS hospitals showed that even small drops in oxygen levels correlated to an increased mortality risk. Experts are recommending that all households keep an oximeter – a small device that clips over the finger to measure oxygen saturation levels – in the medicine cabinet at home, in case anyone catches Covid.
If you see your oxygen levels dropping, or find yourself experiencing more shortness of breath than before, call 111.
Loss of taste and smell is common, so you probably won’t feel like eating or drinking much, says Prof Gerada, author of Beneath the White Coat: Doctors, Their Minds and Mental Health. “When I had it, I lost half a stone in weight in four days. Chicken soup is good though, if your energy levels start coming back.”
Drinking water is essential. Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University Medical School, says monitoring the colour of your urine is a good indicator of your hydration levels – it should be clear to pale yellow.
If you’re struggling to breathe, Dr Pankhania says it can help to lie on your stomach, rather than on your back. This increases the amount of oxygen going into your lungs: “Taking periodic deep breaths isn’t a bad idea either: four times a day, you could sit quietly and take deep breaths to increase your intake of oxygen.”
For the pesky cough that accompanies most cases of coronavirus, Prof Gerada says a traditional “hot toddy” of whiskey, honey and lemon juice can help to take the edge off.
One of the biggest mistakes she sees people make is underestimating the severity of their illness and rushing back to work too soon, which can end up prolonging the recovery time. “Gradually pace yourself: increase your exercise by half an hour a day, and don’t go back to work unless you feel completely ready,” she says.
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