By Kelly Sargent
Together, we're all trying to stay safe and well as we collectively weather this global pandemic. In addition to taking as many precautions as you can, such as physical distancing to avoid infection and frequent and thorough hand washing — monitoring your health as well as those of loved ones is vital.
Recently new coronavirus warning signs have been released. Here's a list of those you've already heard about and the new, less prevalent symptoms.
The World Health Organization reported that 88% of individuals infected with coronavirus experienced a fever. But what temperature qualifies as having a fever? The 98.6 degree Fahrenheit benchmark we've grown up hearing as 'normal' was arrived at in the mid-1800's, and it's been gradually dropping across the population ever since. It's now exception rather than the rule. In fact 75% of us have a normal body temperature lower than that, so it's important to know what 'normal' is for you. My husband's, for example, runs steadily at about 97.7. Most adults are considered feverish when their temperature hits 100 F. Fever often elevates in the late afternoon or early evening which makes that the best time to check it.
A cough is another warning sign: 68% of those infected. But it's not just any cough. Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says it's not a tickle in your throat or the urge to clear your throat. It's a dry cough that you feel in your chest.
With coronavirus, shortness of breath can occur with or without a cough and can be a significant and dangerous warning sign. Doctors warn that you should seek medical attention if your chest gets tight or you start feeling as if you can't breathe deeply enough to get a good breath. The CDC also lists persistent pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face indicating a lack of oxygen, and any sudden mental confusion, lethargy or inability to rouse as serious conditions that warrant calling 911 immediately.
Three new potential warning signs
The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery issued a report saying that losing the ability to smell, called anosmia, or the ability to taste, known as disgeusia, and conjunctivitis, a highly contagious condition also known as pink eye, are also potential warning signs. Anosmia in particular has been seen in patients without any other symptoms who test positive for COVID-19.
Conjunctivitis isn't a case of everyday bloodshot eyes. Chelsey Earnest, a nurse on the frontlines of hard-hit Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, said her coronavirus-infected patients looked almost like they had red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes. Data from elsewhere indicates that it's a much rarer indicator, but it could be one more sign to seek medical attention if you also have other tell-tale symptoms.
In the meantime, self-isolate as much as you possibly can. Make no unnecessary trips and keep washing your hands thoroughly — at least 20 seconds, making lots and lots of lather.
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