Right now, there is no cure for the coronavirus. And although doctors and researchers are making progress on different ways to treat the illness, much remains uncertain.
Many common symptoms continue to be identified, and families staying at home can take steps now to prepare in case someone falls ill, to best monitor one’s health and to alleviate symptoms. Many people who get coronavirus feel lousy, but they get better in a few weeks. Make sure, to start, that you have at least a 30-day supply of prescription medications if you take them, and check that you have a well-stocked first-aid kit, too. To get a sense of what else you should — and should not — have in your medicine cabinet at this time, we talked to doctors and pharmacists across the country. Here is the medicine and equipment they recommend.
Medicine Cabinet or Hall Closet?
Even before you head to the pharmacy, make sure your medications and equipment can be stored safely. “A medicine cabinet in a bathroom that gets steamy from a bath or shower isn’t an ideal place,” said Dr. Ilisa Bernstein, the senior vice president of pharmacy practice and government affairs at the American Pharmacists Association. “The humidity could impact the ingredients over time.” A hallway linen closet is better, she said. That doesn’t mean you need to throw out old medications, but it’s good to know for the future. Wherever you keep them, make sure the bottles are away from children.
Fever is one of the most prominent symptoms of the coronavirus. If you have a thermometer in your house already, make sure you have extra batteries. If you have two, check your temperature on both: they are not infallible. Between uses, disinfect the thermometer with alcohol or peroxide.
If you are buying a thermometer, oral readers are the best, said Dr. Stacey Curtis, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. An ear thermometer needs to be placed properly for accuracy, and a forehead thermometer might not get a good reading if the patient is sweating, she said. But some pharmacies are out of stock, and some online options are not verified or will take a long time to be delivered. If you cannot get a thermometer quickly, do not panic.
Although it can be comforting to know the precise number, it will be obvious if you have a fever, said Dr. Stephen Eckel, a clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. You will be cold and shivery, and will often sweat or be flushed. If you are exceptionally weak, dizzy or hallucinating, call your doctor. Consult with them before you go to the hospital.
Some patients develop a pneumonia that can cause oxygen levels to drop before they experience severe symptoms. A pulse oximeter is a hand-held, clip-like device that measures the oxygen level of your blood stream. Some clip onto fingertips or earlobes. Normal readings usually range from 95 to 100 percent. A blood-oxygen level under 90 is considered low.
There have been shortages of pulse oximeters, too. If you can’t find one right away, you can probably find one that can be delivered in a few weeks or a month.
If you get sick and don’t have a home pulse oximeter, don’t panic. Although it can be comforting to put a number to a symptom, it is not always necessary, said Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. “I hate to have my patients fixate on numbers like this,” he said. “I think it’s more important that you listen to what your body is telling you.”
If you are struggling to draw a full breath, call your doctor and communicate concrete symptoms: I’m more short of breath now than I was yesterday. I can’t climb the stairs. I’m coughing more.
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