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The Active Person’s Guide to Managing Coronavirus Concerns

Don't rush to the ER the second you feel flu-like symptoms. Here's what experts recommend to do, instead.

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With the ever-increasing concerns about the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, we’ve seen a sharp rise in the country’s response to help prevent the spread of the virus. And while there have been plenty of conversations around those preventative measures (everyone’s washing their hands, right?), the question we want to know is how you’re supposed to treat the coronavirus if you do end up contracting it. 

First things First: Take a Deep Breath

If you’re seeing thinning supplies of toilet paper and hand sanitizer at your local grocery store, you’re not alone. In times like these, when there are more questions than answers, consumer behavior experts express that hoarding supplies is a natural, albeit unnecessary, reaction. They note that it’s important to remember that in stocking up, we can create a shortage that likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

While experts don’t know the full impact of the virus just yet, the most important first step you can take is staying calm. The second most important step: Stay home and practice social distancing if you feel sick. 

And keep exercising! Scientists have found that regular aerobic exercise can decrease tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep quality; and just five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects, according to researchers.

You may, however, want to stick to outdoor, open-air runs (and solo or small group settings) to limit your exposure to germs, and keep in mind that our immunity is briefly lowered after hard exercise. “There is no one thing that will keep you from getting this but it is worth being aware situations that put ourselves at risk,” says emergency medicine physician and marathoner, Dr. Autumn Ray.

How to Treat Coronavirus Symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19, which can range from mild to severe according to the CDC, are dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

The same preventative measures you’d take to avoid or prevent spreading the flu or common cold are the same tactics you should employ now: Frequently washing your hands (for at least 20 seconds); avoiding touching your eyes, nose, mouth; coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow—not your hands or into the air.

If you or someone you know is experiencing those symptoms, experts recommend that you don’t go straight to the emergency room. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, told “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell on Thursday: “They should stay home, call their healthcare provider, call their physician, or even call the emergency room and say ‘These are the symptoms that I’ve had, I’m staying home, what can I do to get a test?’ and then you will get instructed about the proper safe way to do that.”

Since there is no antiviral medication or vaccine for coronavirus, treating the symptoms is all that can really be done at the moment. Recovery time is about two weeks for people with mild symptoms, and up to six weeks in severe cases, the WHO announced Feb. 24. 

There is no magic cure but your body knows what to do,” said Ray. “Sleep is the best medicine. Otherwise it is back to the basics like Tylenol and Motrin for fevers and Mucinex for your cough.” Although, after insight from French officials who claim that ibuprofen (like Motrin) could exacerbate symptoms, the WHO is recommending to discontinue use until they can study the effects more in depth. Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, should be used instead. 

Don’t forget to drink lots of fluids. Juice, herbal teas, ginger ale, sports drinks, and water are all great options. Ray adds that if you are unable to keep fluids down or are having trouble breathing, then it is time to visit the hospital. 

And if you’re experiencing any flu-like symptoms, it’s time to adjust your training. “In general, I advise that you should be at least 24-48 hours out from fever before you workout,” Ray said. “If the symptoms are in the throat or above (congestion, sore throat) you are generally okay to do gentle training. But you have to really consider if you are going to make more progress through sleep or through running. Mostly you need to give your body a break.”

The coronavirus outbreak is rapidly evolving. We will continue to update this story as we receive new or expanded advice from experts, but to stay informed, please visit the CDC or World Health Organization websites for more information.