What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

What are the symptoms of Covid-19? And how will people be affected if they have it? Dr Kathryn Mannix describes what to expect.

Dr Kathryn Mannix on the symptoms of Covid-19

Bestselling author and palliative care physician Dr Kathryn Mannix has returned to work at her former hospital during the coronavirus pandemic. She talks us through what to expect in terms of the symptoms of Covid-19.

Dr Kathryn’s words are taken from our podcast: Episode 18: Dying, Recovering and Caring during the Covid-19 Pandemic, which was recorded in April 2020.

We understand the virus attacks the respiratory system, what can you expect to see if you are accompanying someone with Covid-19?

“The virus does a variety of things, and we know that in the early days people feel hot; very hot, extremely hot. And, we also know that those peaks of temperature carry on blipping up and down for quite a long time; sometimes for more than a week, sometimes for more than two weeks, even while the person is actually getting better.”

And then?

“If the virus is going to cause them a lot of bother in their respiratory system, it starts mainly with a cough, and it’s an irritating dry cough… and it carries on making them cough.  

“People can deal with being hot and having a cough at home – neither of those is an anxiety-inducing symptom from a medical point of view – so we just advise people who are very hot to keep themselves well hydrated.”  

What if their temperature keeps increasing?

“If they are getting so hot that it makes them feel cold and shivery – you know that odd thing that when your temperature is very high you then get very, very shivery – then they should use paracetamol to keep their temperature down a bit, take tepid drinks, stay hydrated. And for the coughing, we’re advising just linctus or honey or just something that soothes the throat.”

And if someone is experiencing breathlessness?

“Some people will go on to get an infection lower down in their respiratory tract and it will start to cause problems in their lungs, and that can start to make people have not only a cough, but also feel breathlessness.  

“People can start to notice that they are breathless when they’re trying to get up the stairs for example.”  

What should we do then?

“At that point, if they’re starting to feel breathless and the breathlessness is starting to trouble them, that’s the point at which we are being advised to use NHS 111 online if you can do that, and if not, by telephone.

“Eventually you will talk to a GP through that system, who will talk to you in more detail and will give advice about carrying on managing at home, or who will say actually I think that you’re struggling enough with your breathing that it might be a good idea if you come into hospital.”

Can you refuse to go into hospital?

“The invitation to hospital, of course, can be declined, and there are people who know that even if they’re so sick they’re risking their life by not going to hospital,  they don’t want to be separated from their wife of 60 years – particularly if they might die when they’re away –  so they decide to stay home and take their chances, and their primary health care team will help to look after them, but there are more options for comfort care in hospital.”

What will happen in hospital?

“In hospital it’s easier to have access to oxygen.  It’s easier to have access to a machine called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which works by blowing oxygen at high pressure through a mask across your nose or across your nose and mouth, so it’s a kind of ventilator, but not an intensive care unit sort of ventilator.”

What if there is the need for a ventilator?

“There are some people who are so sick that they need their breathing to be taken over by a ventilator until their lungs have recovered, or until sadly their lungs are not able to recover, and it becomes apparent that the person isn’t going to survive.”  

If you’d like to hear more from Dr Kathryn Mannix please listen to our podcast: Episode 18: Dying, Recovering and Caring during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

In the unfortunate event that a loved one becomes very ill with Covid-19 you may wish to read our revised guide to Deathbed Etiquette in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Art of Dying Well