I am sharing my experience with covid in the early days of the pandemic. That’s right. I was recently diagnosed with Covid, what we’ve all been hiding from. Thankfully, I am not in a high risk category, and my symptoms have been relatively mild. In fact, I really didn’t think I had it over a week. I thought I had a cold. I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, what? With the constant chatter about this, how could you think you had a cold??”
Let’s go back about a month, shall we? Before all the closures and quarantines, my two year old had a cold. What I thought was an obvious cold with a faucet of a runny nose and a cough. About four days into quarantine, my seven year old became slightly more tired. Not super surprising given that life had been turned upside-down, but she was still happy and playing.
We were all tired, actually. It was in the back of my head that she was probably catching the toddler’s cold. A few days later, she started coughing. Sometimes her cough was better than others, and sometimes she was more tired than others, but nothing too extreme. My two year old has a history of developing ear infections after getting a cold, and this time was no different. He ended up needing antibiotics.
My turn was next…
My experience with covid began about a week and a half ago, I started having some shortness of breath. I felt fine, but I found myself feeling the need to take a deep breath throughout the day. But, guys, this was such a slight symptom. I don’t think I would have noticed this if there wasn’t a contact cultural conversation about breathing happening all around me.
Furthermore, this was the same day a friend told me her father-in-law was being tested for Covid. We had been around him about 3 weeks before (his test was negative). I assumed my shortness of breath was psychosomatic/anxiety. You know, like the time my kids had lice, and my head kept itching even though I never had it. This lasted about 3 days with no other symptoms. I really felt fine. But then, I woke up on a Sunday and felt SO achy. I also had a low grade temperature. I checked the CDC’s symptom checker, and it told me to call my health officials.
Anxiety sinks in
At this point, I am mildly freaking out. I call the hotline our hospital system set up to funnel all Coronavirus questions. It was, honesty, pointless and frustrating. The person I spoke with was not helpful during my experience with covid. I realize that she was probably overworked and stretched thin. However, I was legitimately needing information and clarity, and I did not receive that. She started talking to me about cardiac disease (I guess because I mentioned chest discomfort?).
When I told her I was concerned about the virus, she told me that only critical patients are being tested in our state, and that my only option is to go to the emergency room if I start having respiratory distress. She tells me to take ibuprofen for my chest tightness, which is in direct opposition to the WHO stating ibuprofen should be avoided for possible Covid (UPDATE: This is no longer a recommendation, and ibuprofen is fine to take for symptom relief). No other help or information was offered. Looking back, I really wish she would have educated me on the progression of the virus. I hang up the phone, vent to my husband my frustrations, and I spend the rest of the day in bed binge watching Netflix.
Monday, I wake up feeling completely fine. I was shocked! I think, “Hmm…maybe I just have the kids’ cold.” Tuesday, I also feel fine. Tuesday night, I start coughing a little bit of mucus. I’m not worried because google tells me that coronavirus has a dry cough (UPDATE: Mucus can be present with Covid). Yep, this is definitely that cold. My cough stays minimal over the next few days, and I continue to cough up a little mucus here and there. Of course, the virus is in the back of my mind. However, I do not have a dry cough, and I am not having breathing difficulty at this point. This has to be that cold.
Thursday night, about a week after my initial symptoms, I am up most of the night coughing. Throughout Friday, I’m really thinking hard about my seven year old’s symptoms and mine. That’s when I realize that she never actually had a runny nose. What if she didn’t catch my toddler’s cold? What if she’s had Covid this whole time? With the long incubation period, she could have caught it from school or anywhere. Later in the day, I come across a video on social media with a doctor actually talking about the timeline of a mild coronavirus infection. He mentions that the cough can have some mucus, and my stomach drops!
It’s now Friday night and my husband and I are talking about mine and my daughter’s symptoms. As if by divine appointment, his doctor calls him on his cell phone. You see, he had called his doctor almost a week before, when I had the day of aches and fever. The doctor was just now able to return his call. Oh how thankful we were for him!! Finally, I was able to talk about all the things – my symptoms and the time line – with someone who has been treating the virus.
He confirmed it over the phone. He told me what I could possibly expect over the next couple of days. That I might have a return of breathing difficulty. Also, he told me I could use my albuterol inhaler as needed (I have this because of a seasonal/environmental allergy that causes me to have throat and chest tightness…it’s Christmas trees, I’m allergic to Christmas). He told me once I was symptom free for 72 hours, I could start getting out of the house again.
Where I am Right Now
I’m writing this on Sunday, 11 days after my symptoms began. Breathing has become mildly more difficult over the last 2 days. It is little more shallow than my normal breathing, and it takes me a couple of tries to get a good deep breath. I am using my inhaler every 4 hours, and it really does help. Today is a little worse than yesterday, but I’m still ok.
I’m resting as much as I can, while my sweet husband handles the rest of life. My seven year old has been cough free for a good two days now, which is so encouraging. I am about a week behind her progression of the virus. Health officials said this virus effects children less, and that has been the case for her. She’s barely skipped a beat. As for me, I fully believe that I will start to breathe more easily in the coming days. I do not foresee a need for supplemental oxygen or a need to go to the emergency room.
My feelings about my experience with covid are still raw. I’m not past this beast yet. But, guys, I’m frustrated by the whole situation. I’m frustrated by the lack of available tests. I’m frustrated that we have less access to our doctors. I mean, I get it. I really do. They’re busy on the front lines taking care of the ones who need it most.
But, man! I really wish I could have had an in office visit with my primary care physician, instead of being funneled to a hotline. I wish I had known that you don’t need to have all three red flag symptoms all at once to have the virus. Also, I wish I had known that the cough doesn’t have to be a completely unproductive/dry cough. I wish I had known that you can feel bad initially, get better, then get worse. I wish the conversation for how to manage the virus at home was louder than it currently is.
Final final thoughts: My hope in writing this is that it can help someone else who is just having these slight symptoms. I haven’t really seen many accounts from people who have a mild case of the virus really talking about what it’s like. I think there is fear in telling others that you think you have it (I SO get that. We don’t want to panic others). Statistically speaking, no one can deny that most of the population will get the virus at some point. But most of the population will be able to self treat at home. We need more of a conversation around what that looks like. I hope this is helpful.
Update on My Experience with Covid
It’s been five days since I originally posted this, and I wanted to give an update. Like with most things Covid related, things change all the time. Since writing this, I have had harder days. I increasingly have more breathing difficulty, enough to where I couldn’t walk around my house. I was FINALLY able to speak with my primary care physician, and he called me in a spacer for my Albuterol inhaler to help it be more effective. He gave me strict orders to stay in bed as to not put my body under any additional stress.
Additionally, he suggested I get a pulse oximeter (you can buy these over the counter) to monitor my oxygen levels. That was so reassuring, because even when I was breathing hard, my oxygen levels are really good. My body’s hard work is effective! He also told me that my two year old (you know, the one with the “cold” that caused all the confusion in the first place) likely *did* have covid despite the runny nose and ear infection, given the time line of the rest of us getting infected.
Information is still continually changing, and doctors are learning more and more about this odd virus. It’s been 16 days since I had my first symptom, and I am finally starting to feel better. I still need my inhaler, but I can move about my house without getting winded. I will need to be symptom free for 72 hours to be able to say I’ve completely recovered. Hopefully, that will happen by next week!
To continue reading about my journey, click here for my six month update.
You also might find this post about preparing for the virus helpful.
This post was first published March 30, 2020. It has been updated with current CDC guidelines where noted. Please call your doctor if you suspect you have Covid