You Have Coronavirus — Now What Happens?
Naturally, people are curious when something is unfamiliar. You might be asking yourself what actually happens if you’re diagnosed with coronavirus? An expert explains.
This article was originally published on March 25, 2020. It was updated on December 22, 2020 to reflect new information about this rapidly evolving situation.
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With the number of cases increasing each day, you might be asking yourself what actually happens if you’re diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Or maybe you’re wondering what happens to you if you think you might have it.
Naturally, people are curious when something is unfamiliar. Will you need to be hospitalized? Will you need a ventilator? Or will it feel like your typical flu?
“First and foremost, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, meaning it invades and attacks your respiratory system,” says family medicine specialist Neha Vyas, MD. “So protecting that system — most importantly your lungs — is not only your body’s main priority, but also your doctor’s main priority.”
According to one report, approximately 80% of those with COVID-19 end up having a mild response — and most of these cases only last about two weeks. But the same report also says that over 13% of those with the virus will have a severe response, which can last several weeks or even months.
When you’re infected with coronavirus, your body has two options:
“Most people with COVID-19 – about 80% – can and should recover at home,” says Dr. Vyas. “Mild-to-moderate cases of the virus can be managed through over-the-counter medications, drinking plenty of fluids and rest.”
What drugs might you need? Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) can relieve minor aches and pains. Cough suppressants or expectorants may also be recommended, but it’s best to get specific advice from your healthcare provider.
If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 or believe you have it, seek urgent medical attention if your illness is worsening or if you have difficulty breathing. It’s also recommended to call your healthcare provider and put on a face mask before you go to any medical facility. If you need to call 911, notify dispatch that you have COVID-19 or believe you might. If possible, put on a face mask before the emergency team arrives.
Once at the hospital, here’s what you can expect:
Most times if you’re hospitalized for COVID-19, you’ll stay for several weeks until you have recovered and are discharged home.
“COVID-19 can range from very mild to very serious, but it’s important for people to understand that not all cases require urgent medical attention,” says Dr. Vyas. “Most people will be able to monitor their symptoms and manage it through OTC medications at-home. While anyone can get COVID-19, those who are most at-risk and may need hospitalization for medical support are the elderly and those with other underlying chronic conditions.”