Worried about coronavirus? What to do if you’re feeling unwell

Mar 13, 2020
The virus's average incubation period is about five days. Source: Getty.

As the outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, people are increasingly taking extra precautions in maintaining health and hygiene. But if you’re wondering whether that tickle in your throat or stuffy nose could end up being a worst-case scenario, we’ve compiled some information on the steps to take if you’re feeling unwell.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus include fever, sore throat, a dry cough and tiredness. Other symptoms can also include headaches, nasal congestion or a runny nose. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in five people with COVID-19 become seriously ill. However, not everyone with the infection will feel unwell. It’s possible to have the virus and not develop any symptoms. The virus’s average incubation period — the length of time between when a person gets infected and when they test positive for the illness — is about five days. However, it can range anywhere between two to 14 days.

How does this compare with the flu?

Some symptoms of COVID-19 overlap with those of the common cold, allergies and the flu, which can make things quite tricky. However, common symptoms of influenza include fever, chills, sore throat, cough, headache and muscle pain.

What should I do if I feel sick?

In Australia, the medical advice is that if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and have travelled overseas in the past 14 days, or have been in contact with someone who has the virus, you need to see a doctor immediately. If you are returning to Australia from Iran, China, South Korea or Italy you will need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival, even if you don’t feel unwell.

According to the federal government’s advice, before your appointment, call ahead and tell the staff what your symptoms are and tell them your travel history or that you may have been in contact with a potential case of coronavirus.

Your doctor will then arrange for you to be tested for the infection. It may take a few days for the test results to be returned. If your doctor says you’re well enough to return home while you await your test results, it’s important to stay home to stop coronavirus spreading.

What if I feel unwell but I haven’t travelled overseas? 

If you haven’t travelled overseas or come into contact with a person who has coronavirus, there’s no reason to get tested for COVID-19. It’s more likely you’ll have a different illness, like a cold or influenza. The Australian government has set up a coronavirus hotline for people who want more information on 1800 020 080.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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