MANILA, Philippines – With the growing number of hospitals reaching capacity during the coronavirus pandemic, people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 but show mild symptoms may be advised by doctors to self-quarantine.
If you or a family member with mild or suspected COVID-19 have to stay at home, how should this be treated?
Observe strict home quarantine. As soon as you develop symptoms, you should strictly stay at home. If you are the designated grocery or errands person for the family, someone else should continue the task.
“Symptomatic patients should always stay at home, unless they need medical help when their symptoms worsen. When this happens, they should call the emergency department of the nearest hospital prior to consultation,” said Dr Leonell Quitos, an infectious disease specialist in Iligan City.
Do not self-medicate. You may consider buying the usual medicines like paracetamol or mucolytics to treat symptoms like cough and colds. But if you suspect you have COVID-19, always seek a doctor’s advice.
“No specific advice nor prescription. Over the counter medicines taken on ‘as needed’ basis may or may not work. But if symptoms persist or worsen, consult local health authorities again. Medications which may be given in the hospital for moderate to severe to critically ill patients have insufficient evidence, so far, and are not without risks but are utilized for compassionate use when possible benefits outweigh known risks,” said Dr Norberto Francisco from the Lung Center of the Philippines.
Refer to telemedicine lines. If you go straight to a hospital, you or your sick family member risk unnecessary exposure. Telemedicine is a way to still practice physical distancing while consulting with a doctor.
On Tuesday, April 7, the Department of Health launched its 24/7 telemedicine hotline for those seeking medical advice, even if not related to COVID-19. You can reach it at (02) 8424-1724 for free.
Another service is KonsultaMD, although subject to certain fees. It can be reached 79-880 toll-free from their Globe or TM mobile phones or 02-7798-8000 from any landline. (READ: LIST: Websites and apps that offer medicine delivery, online ordering)
KonsultaMD allows anyone to talk to a doctor to “ask for medical information for primary conditions, maternity, pediatrics, mental health, COVID-19, health coaching, nutrition counseling, reading of laboratory and diagnostic results, and permissible medication, among others,” the company said.
“Most of the prescribed medicines for symptomatic relief will be available over the counter, so technically no written prescriptions are required. You can just go to the pharmacy and ask for the said medicine. For some, electronic prescriptions are given and these are honored in pharmacies,” said Quitos.
The Lung Center of the Philippines supplied Rappler with the home quarantine advice form they give to patients when they are sent home to take care of themselves:
Dr Gelza Zabat, also an infectious disease specialist, referred Rappler to the following guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) for self-care for sick people with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
See the WHO’s complete advice to the public on COVID-19 here.
Quitos said that if the sick person has a caretaker, the caretaker must wear a face mask and practice hand hygiene.
When do I need professional care? Quitos said that patients should be brought to the hospital when they experience the following:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Increased sleepiness or decreased wakefulness
- Signs of dehydration
- Worsening fever and cough without signs of resolution
Local governments may also have Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) that monitor persons under monitoring (PUMs) and patients under investigation (PUIs) in the community.
“They have nurses, guided by community doctors, who can also prescribe the said medications. They can also address this issue. Here in the province, BHERTs are proactive in detecting and monitoring cases. They’re our true frontliners,” said Quitos.
Care after recovery
Senator Sonny Angara, who recently recovered from COVID-19, gave his advice for home care after being discharged from the hospital: “Take vitamins and rest. A lot of fluids. But just to note that I think what really helped were the strong medicines I was prescribed.” Angara said hydroxychloroquine was one.
Angara was discharged on Monday, April 6, after he tested negative for COVID-19.
The government is also working to open national quarantine centers. Two are expected to be fully functional by April 10. (LIST: National coronavirus quarantine centers)
Luzon and other parts of the country have been put under lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19.
As of April 7, there were 3,764 COVID-19 cases in the country. Of this number, 177 died, while 84 recovered. – with reports from Vernise Tantuco and Aika Rey/Rappler.com