Tips for anyone who catches Covid this winter

After fighting COVID from mid-to-late November, I wanted to give some COVID survival tips to my blog readers who might face a similar battle at some point.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know a lot about COVID until I got it. I knew the politics of it, but not the actual physical effect of it on the body. Most people I knew who had it said it was physically draining and like a really bad flu, but I had no idea it could affect your breathing or oxygen levels without you even knowing it was until it was too late. I thought people could feel the tightness in their chest every time. I had never heard of silent hypoxia until I had it.

Silent hypoxia is when the oxygen level in the blood is very low, but you feel fine and the pulse ox machine isn’t even showing your oxygen as low as it actually is. You feel fine until it’s too late and you’re turning blue. I happened to notice a lower number on my pulse ox and that’s how I ended up at the emergency room at Memorial Hospital, diagnosed with silent hypoxia and Acute Respiratory Failure. Even the nurses said my color looked good and they felt I didn’t have silent hypoxia. I must have caught it just in time. Thank you, Jesus, literally.

Honestly, it wasn’t until I was out of the hospital that I realized how bad I had been and how if I hadn’t gotten to the hospital when I did, I wouldn’t be here right now writing this, hugging my kids, and husband and being with my family.

So here are a few tips for those facing Covid this winter (though this will hopefully change as the virus mutates and maybe doesn’t attack the lungs as easily):

The most important tip from my point of view is to buy a pulse oximeter and watch your oxygen levels – especially 5 to 10 days after you’ve tested positive. I took a turn for the worse on day ten. A pulse oximeter is a small device that can be purchased for anywhere from $20 to $50 and clips on your finger to measure your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Take slow deep breathes while measuring. Don’t be like me and hold your breath which messes up the reading for up to thirty seconds and might send you into a panic. Your levels should be between 95 and 100, though some nurses say 94 is okay.

A second tip: if you have a cough, but even if you don’t, lay on your stomach for at least an hour every four hours. Several articles I read, plus the nurses and doctors at the hospital, said they have found this opens up the lungs even more. You can prop yourself up with a pillow so you’re not mashed flat into the mattress or floor while you do it and you can sleep or watch tv, read a book, or whatever.

I tested this out my first night in the hospital when I was hooked up to a 24/7 pulse ox machine. My oxygen wasn’t dropping super low since I was on supplemental oxygen but when I laid on my stomach, even with the hospital bed propped up, the O2 number would rise.

Third, and about as important as monitoring the pulse ox, drink as much water and fluids with electrolytes that you can stand. If your stomach isn’t affected, try to eat as well, even if you have lost your sense of taste and smell. Your body needs energy to fight the virus off. I had a fever for eight days that Tylenol did nothing for and it ended up leaving me dehydrated more than I should have been.

Fourth, don’t base your experience with Covid on someone else’s, good or bad. If someone says Covid was a breeze for them, don’t expect it will be for you. If someone says they almost died with it, don’t expect the same will happen to you. Most people feel awful but don’t end up in the hospital with Covid as I did. Know that Covid can be serious but try not to panic (like I did). Also know that going in the hospital does not mean you’re going to be vented. Doctors do all they can now not to vent patients and many patients do not need that kind of intervention.

One other piece of advice is to not Google when you have Covid. In my case it was both good and bad. It was bad because I focused more on what Covid could do to me or the rest of my family than taking care of myself. It was good because I had never heard of silent hypoxia before reading about it on Google and therefore knew I might have it when my pulse oxygen began to drop into the low 90s. Also, stay away from the mainstream media, which almost exclusively focuses on the bad outcomes versus the good. Fear sells. Never forget that.

My hope is that Covid is mutating to the point now that most who catch it in this new year won’t have to worry about these tips or at least the ones related to the oxygen. I also hope doctors begin to focus less on eliminating the virus (because that isn’t going to happen) and more on how to treat it at home and in the hospital. How this world went two years without more efforts to treat this virus with therapeutics at home is beyond me.

Another thing, if you are unvaccinated for whatever reason, and do have to go to get an emergency room or hospital, don’t assume you will be treated worse because of your status. I think I was asked once about my status and never again. As far as I know, I was not treated any differently because of my vaccination status. I am unvaccinated for a personal, legit medical reason and If I am judged for that so be it, but I felt no judgment in the hospital beyond one doctor who was annoyed at a medication I had taken briefly. That’s another story for another day.

If the hospital staff wanted me to die as some on social media suggest are the attitudes of hospital staff when it comes to the unvaccinated, then they did a poor job of killing me off. They were kind, attentive in checking vitals, and did their best to alleviate any fears I had.

The final tip: don’t expect to just bounce right back from Covid. Some will but some might be exhausted, weak, and suffer from a cough for weeks or months after Covid leaves their system. I am very impatient. I want to feel better now but it’s not going to happen on my timetable. Give yourself some grace while your body heals. I’m trying to do the same.