As an R.N. who contracted Covid-19, I'm sharing my experience with home quarantine and symptom management.
The "COVID-19 Silence" and What It Likely Means
Everyone's been talking about the pandemic in the general sense, nonstop. But, have you noticed how few speak of their personal experience of contracting and navigating COVID-19's ugly course? Unless a person's hospitalized or a loved one's passed away due to COVID complications, we know very little about what it's like to manage this disease course at home from both a mental and physical view.
For as many cases reported, I personally know very few who've [admittedly] dealt with this virus. One had no symptoms and the other, a spry woman in her 90's, unfortunately, passed away from COVID-19. I'm profoundly aware of HIPPA, especially in the workplace, but we have no qualms about saying we're home ill with a stomach virus, strep throat, or even the flu. We only seem to hear crickets when it comes to COVID-19.
I hadn't given this much thought until I contracted COVID-19 myself, right after my husband. We endured nearly a month of quarantined isolation and spoke with very few people on the outside, including our family and friends. When I finally shared what was happening on my social media, I was met with many people openly and privately, thankful for my willingness to share about our illness. It made me think about why people might choose to be silent about COVID-19. I asked myself, "Why does it seem people aren't talking about their experiences?
Are they afraid of being judged if they openly talk about it?
Are they scared they might be accused of not being careful enough because they contracted it?
Do they fear their friends, family, and coworkers will treat them differently or be leary to be in their presence once they're all clear?
Are they told in the workplace to not discuss their illness with coworkers and risk disciplinary action?
I hope these aren't the reasons because no matter how careful we are, I feel it's inevitable, the majority of the population will contract COVID-19; unless we get a viable vaccine. But like the flu vaccine, who knows if it'll be effective for everyone?
Be Prepared for Quarantine Isolation
My solution to help others navigate and prepare for this virus is to be fully prepared for the long isolation, especially if more than one person in the home is positive and at varying times. COVID-19 isn't like having a bad cold or flu, where you jump in your car and run to the pharmacy or grocery for things needed to care for yourself. Not only is it irresponsible going out when sick with a global pandemic disease, but you also most likely won't feel like it. These restrictions alone can easily contribute to feelings of anxiousness and sadness with the loss of independence.
I strongly recommend being well-stocked with what you'll need at home; because once you show symptoms, it's 14-days of quarantine--and you have no idea what that 14 days will look like for your individual case. COVID-19 comes out of nowhere, and its severity with symptoms can be all over the board, depending on your viral load, individual immune system, underlying or pre-existing conditions, and even your mental preparedness.
Viral load refers to the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood. This is expressed as the number of viral particles in each milliliter of blood. Higher viral load can have different implications for different viruses but typically means the infection is progressing. (Ryding, 2020)
If you live with someone COVID-19 positive before you, be ready for yet another ten days of the same quarantine when you get symptoms (the recovered person will be free to come and go at will and no longer need to quarantine). However, for close to a month, when you become sick after your partner or child, you'll be confined within your four walls, away from everyone and everything for even longer.
Once the first person in your home develops symptoms and tests positive, you'll need to keep the distance in separate rooms and disinfect like crazy. If you live with someone with active COVID-19, particularly in a small home, you're likely going to get it unless you have super-powered immunity or wear an N95 and eye protection 24/7 within your home. There are no guarantees you'll remain uncompromised.
The worst part is, you'll spend two weeks trying to take care of your sick loved one from a distance, only to still get COVID-19. There were many times as a mother of four, I nursed their infectious illnesses, yet rarely got sick. That's not the case with COVID-19; it's relentlessly virulent. I truly thought I wouldn't get it because I eat well, take vitamins, exercise, wear my mask, and social distance in public and while at work (I'm a nurse in a virtual health setting). My husband works from home and is equally as cautious. None of that mattered.
What You Should Know and Have on Hand for COVID-19 Quarantine Isolation
There are many symptoms associated with COVID-19. The biggest symptom you should be prepared for is the loss of your taste and smell. This isn't the type of sensory loss like when you have a cold, and it's somewhat diminished...it's GONE...I can't stress this part enough...GONE. You probably won't even be able to distinguish between sour, salty, spicy, or sweet for several days to weeks. You'll likely feel hungry, but you won't want to eat after the first few bites because food is a turn-off.
You may get an odd metallic/chemical/cool smell/sensation high up in your sinus cavity as you start getting sick--it's the most annoying feeling, but it's what cued us both in that we could be getting Covid-19. It came just before we lost our sense of taste and smell altogether. My husband and I both experienced this.
To have the best chance of lessening the severity and shortening this illness's duration, I recommend having these items on hand. In fact, it's a good idea to take these supplements during cold and flu season or before, during, and after travel. I've linked the ones I personally take and recommend.
- Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin D3 supplements. I also use Elderberry and have for the last five years. I make my own Elderberry syrup or use lozenges or drops added to my water. At the same time, there are no claims that Elderberry effectively prevents or reduces Covid-19 symptoms. Before this Covid-19 infection, I'd not been ill in any manner for the last five years since I started using Elderberry during cold and flu season and before, during, and after travel. Please do your own research on this.
Only social distancing can help prevent Covid-19 and these recommendations are suggested solely based on research suggestive that Vitamin C can help shorten the duration, decrease inflammation, and strengthen the immune system). (Shoemaker, 2020)
Some research indicates zinc may help fortify the immune system against Covid-19. Zinc also plays a key role in regulating metabolism and the immune system. Several studies show people with low levels of zinc are more likely to develop infections and certain health conditions. (various, 2020)
In a retrospective study of patients tested for Covid-19, researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine found an association between vitamin D deficiency and the likelihood of becoming infected with the coronavirus. (Rubin, 2020)
- Tylenol (Advil's controversial: Some sources say it's safe, others say it's not; please do your research): I recommend having both on hand because the body pain and headaches can get quite unbearable.
- Eye drops and throat lozenges for severe dry eyes and mouth and sore throat.
- Healthy food options (pre-prepared and frozen meals for easy heat up) and grab and go healthy snacks. Oddly, the appetite sticks around; you can't taste anything, but you have to eat for strength.
- A heating pad and this recommended handheld massaging tool for the body aches will be your two best friends.
- A cool-mist humidifier and distilled water for the congestion and/or dry sinuses. Run this close to your bed while you sleep.
- A reliable thermometer and what was recommended to me, a pulse oximeter in the event of severe respiratory symptoms.
- Plenty of fluids for the unquenchable thirst and dry mouth.
- A natural sleep aid helps you rest through the back, neck, shoulder, head, jaw, and other muscle pain won't let you find a comfortable position. Avoid over-the-counter medications that are drying to the nose and mouth, such as Benadryl.
- Disinfectant spray or wipes, paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper to last at least one month.
As soon as we learned my husband was COVID-19 positive, I purchased a pair of Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier, UV Light Sanitizers and placed one unit between the room he stayed in and where I spent the bulk of my time. I also placed one next to where I slept for added protection.
If you're not a fan of online grocery ordering and delivery, now's the time to become one—it's a life-saver. I used Amazon's "Prime Now" and ordered from "Whole Foods" for the best healthy options. Ask a trusted neighbor and grab your mail or drop off random things you might need.
Wipe down everything from the toilet and sink handles, door and cabinet knobs, and common surfaces. In my case, it didn't keep me from getting COVID-19, but it could've—and that was worth the extra work.
To beat the mental part of the COVID-19 game, make a list of things you might like to accomplish while you rest and to keep your mind occupied.
- I cleaned out and organized important files and tossed old papers by scanning them with my iPhone to my cloud and then shredding them.
- I watched a series on Netflix ("Call the Midwife") I'd been wanting to see but hadn't had the time to delve into.
- I sorted older printed photographs into albums and sifted through my grown kid's old school papers and artwork, placing them into file boxes to give to them.
- I copied old home movies to my cloud and made a backup onto an external hard drive, labeling them easier access.
- I cleaned up and organized my computer's bookmarks and my iPhone apps and contacts.
- Work on your Bucket List. For real. Make a list of 100 things, big or small, even if they seem out of reach at this moment.
The mental part of the COVID-19 game is just as tough as the physical symptoms, so let this be a good time to declutter what you can while you rest and recover.
My Symptoms and Sequence of Events With Covid-19
|Date||Key Events or Symptoms|
Husband Positive for Covid, I was negative by PCR test (ordered by my workplace after husband tested positive). Placed on 14-day quarantine and given "pandemic pay" from work for two weeks.
Asymptomatic aside from mild headache and overall body aches for 2-3 days following a mandatory (for work) flu-vaccine on 10/28, which is typical for me.
Felt severe low back pain in the evening.
Severe low back, mid-thoracic, and neck pain. Headache, odd sense of smell. PCR nasal flu and Covid swab done.
Positive PCR test. Taste and smell 100% gone, body aches continue, severe dry eyes and mouth, eyes sensitive to light, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping due to body pain, dull headache, weakness.
Symptoms continued the same, no improvement and rough sleepless nights. I felt hungry, but inability to taste and smell made eating unappealing and induced anxiety.
Achy, weak, tired, and dull headache, but finally slept through the night.
I could finally detect sour and slightly sweet taste and about 10% smell. Received call from county health department to discuss my exposure to my husband having positive Covid PCR.
Dull headache, mild back pain, stiff, overall exhaustion, but able to do light activity. I felt I'd turned the corner and the worst is behind me.
Cleared to return to work. Still feeling tired and achy with roughly 30% ability to smell and about 50% for taste.
Taste and smell continue to improve slowly; coffee and red wine are the true test to my state of "normalcy" there. I feel mildly achy and tire easily, but have resumed yoga, walking, and and light jogging activities.
Additional Facts About the Course of Our Illness
My husband and I were both presumably exposed to COVID-19 while dining (we dined at two restaurants/pubs that weekend—one followed the masks and distancing rules, and the other didn't). Aside from him working from home and me working in a controlled, socially-distanced, masked office setting, we didn't go anywhere else other than outside to walk or ride our bikes.
Since this started, we've been cautious not traveling, going to places with a crowd, and only around a small group (we call our social bubble) of friends. We let down our guard for the first time and paid the price.
I didn't get my first symptom until after he started to recover despite doing my best to distance from him in our home during our quarantined time together. His first symptom was on 10/28, starting with lower back pain, exhaustion, and what he described as a "strange chemical smell up in his sinuses." I experienced a similar sense when I started to become ill.
My husband complained of occasional hot and cold flashes; however, we could never record a fever for him. I am someone who never fevers when sick. The last time I experienced a fever was at age nine when I had scarlet fever. Since then, despite even the worst case of strep throat, I never experience a fever.
Call to Action
Stock up and get ready! Preparation is power. I know that sounds a bit enthusiastic, but I really wish I'd have done so instead of thinking, "It won't happen to us." Don't be caught off-guard or think COVID won't happen to you.
If you've enjoyed this article, also check out my article on being a healthcare worker during a pandemic.
- Rubin, G. (2020, September 3). Vitamin D deficiency may raise the risk of getting COVID-19. Www.Uchicagomedicine.org. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/vitamin-d-deficiency-may-raise-risk-of-getting-covid19
- Ryding, S. (2020, June 24). What is Viral Load? News-Medical.net. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Viral-Load.aspx
- Shoemaker, S. (2020, April 2). Can Vitamin C Protect You from COVID-19? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-c-coronavirus
- Various. (2020, October 7). Does zinc protect against Covid-19? Here’s what the evidence says. Www.Advisory.com. https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/10/07/zinc
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Debra Roberts
Your comments are what keep me motivated to continue writing about topics just like this one.
Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on November 22, 2020:
This new Discover HubPages platform doesn't allow comments once things have been moved here. The following people have reached out wanting to leave a comment. This is what they shared with me:
Erica A. Webster-Russell
Let me know when I can leave a comment. This article is sooooo important. I think that the fact many people were silent about having it is what caused many others not to take it seriously in the first place. Nobody seemed to know of anyone who had it, so is it real? I'm so glad you broke that kind of silence and talked about it!
"I don't understand why our society is so quiet about this - it's not a negative reflection of who you are in any way. You can take all possible precautions and still that one small change opens the door for it to come in. Thank you for being open and honest, starting a MUCH needed conversation with this!"
Since this whole pandemic has started I've seen a lot of fear, and frustration. I just tell myself that all we can do is continue living, and just take one day at a time. I honestly think this topic needs to be discussed more.
If there's one thing Covid has taught me is how important your health is. Whether it is physical, mental, just health. I was worried about when it came out, this was due to my own health issues. I have decided to focus on my health a lot more.
It was really interesting to read a first-hand report from someone that has had covid 19. Thankfully here in Australia, we have very few cases and I hope it stays that way. Glad to hear you’re doing better now.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 18, 2020:
Thank you for sharing such an informative article. The facts that you've included in the article are very useful. I'm sorry that you and your husband had to experience the disease.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 18, 2020:
So far, my husband and I have avoided catching COVID-19. We do not go to restaurants, gyms, etc., and try and do everything possible to stay socially distant, wear masks, etc. Your advice about having things on hand ahead of time is sound advice.
My niece's son-in-law has lost 60 pounds and has all kinds of lingering problems after catching this virus. He is only 37 years old and has a long way to go to get back to normal if that is even possible in his case.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 18, 2020:
I really appreciated reading your article. It reminds me of our household in the Spring when we think our daughter had the virus (back then there were very few tests available in the UK), so we will never know for sure. We quarantined her and I have never got through so much disinfectant in the house. Your account is a warning to us all to be prepared.
Joe on November 17, 2020:
Thanks for sharing. It is a nice change to hear the perspective of someone going through the illness rather than the media just saying there are spikes in various areas. Hopefully some of the reported vaccines will be available by the spring to help slow this thing. Glad you are starting to feel better!
Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on November 17, 2020:
Brenda, I too am in Ohio! Not far from you...Columbus :) Thank you for such a thoughtful comment!
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 17, 2020:
Thank you so much for writing this article.
I thought I had stocked up when this all started but I didn't get vitamin c or zinc.
I do have pills for flu that are for people who have high blood pressure or heart problems. I figured they would run out abd they have no decongestants.
Your article points out a lot of information.
The taste & smell gone with a metallic taste are things I have not heard.
We are on a 21 day stay at home order starting Thursday in Ohio from 10 pm to 5 am.
Everything will be closed in hopes of containing virus.
It has gotten worse. Numbers are high in my little piece of the world.
Please take care and stay safe.
Sorry you were alone for a month when others could have at least reached out with help by delivering things you needed to your door.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on November 17, 2020:
Thank you for sharing the experience of yourself and husband, Deb. It is very helpful to know what to expect should we ever find ourselves testing positive to COVID. Fortunately, Australia hasn’t been affected too badly to date...touch wood.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 17, 2020:
I appreciate all of this information, Debra. My husband and I are both high risk, so we try to follow all those rules too. Learning everything you and your husband endured is helpful, not to mention the various items you suggested we have on hand. Thank you, Debra.
Scott DeNicola on November 17, 2020:
Great post Deb and thank you for sharing your journey. I hear so many different stories and no people like you do that were sick and had no symptoms and those who passed away. It is a strange illness for sure. Glad you are turning the corner.
Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on November 17, 2020:
They do mandatory contact tracing. They ask where you were prior to getting sick/tested and who you were in contact with. They then try and notify those individuals or places of business.
Chris on November 17, 2020:
Thank you for documenting this and speaking out. Curious as to what the county health department asked.