Many people’s lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. You may feel uncertain or even frightened by schools closing, travel restrictions or changes at work.
As a nation, our goal has become slowing the spread of COVID-19 so the health care system can to keep up with the number of people who become seriously ill and need medical care to recover. We all need to work together to make sure that critical medical services are available to the people who need it most.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that you know when to go to the emergency room and when to seek other medical care.
Your first line of defense
- As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense. Start by building these healthy habits into your everyday life:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often.
What to do if you become sick
Most people who become sick with COVID-19 will have mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, including fever, coughing and/or a headache. If you notice any of these symptoms, stay home and isolate yourself from others in your home.
Eight in 10 people will be recover fully at home, without specialized medical care. However, if your symptoms become concerning, call your doctor or a virtual care service for an evaluation.
When to go to the emergency room
You should go directly to the nearest emergency room if someone may be significantly harmed or die unless medical care is given immediately.
With COVID-19, life-threatening symptoms might include:
- Having difficulty breathing
- A persistent pain or pressure in your chest
- Becoming confused or being especially hard to wake
- Developing bluish lips or face
All emergency rooms use a process called triage to provide medical care first to people who are most ill or injured. Going to the emergency room, when you are not at immediate risk of death or serious harm may cost more time and money than using other medical services. If your symptoms are mild or moderate, it’s best to first call your primary care provider or a virtual urgent care.
It will take all of us working together to make sure that everyone can get the care they need.