My Coronavirus Experience: What Helped Me Recover Quickly
DISCLAIMER: Covid-19 is a serious virus and affects people differently. My symptoms are fortunately mild, and are not necessarily reflective of a typical experience. Suggestions and recommended products are not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your physician prior to taking any supplements or nutritional advice to ensure it is appropriate for you. Continue to wear masks, wash your hands and practice physical distancing.
"Man, am I so old that I have a hangover after one drink?" I woke up one morning last week with a splitting headache and texted my best friend. We had shared a virtual zoom cocktail the night prior. Head pounding, I poured myself a coffee, popped some Tylenol and went about my day, thinking nothing of it. Hours later, the throbbing headache returned.
Later that day I was contacted and told that I was exposed to Covid-19. Suddenly I knew that headache may not have been due to that cocktail, after all.
Many months ago I had ordered at home PCR saliva covid testing kits for my family from VaultHealth. They had gone unused but sat awaiting a situation such as this. They're rather simple- you login and have a Zoom session with a medical supervisor who verifies your identity and then watches you spit into a collection tube. The kit comes with a pre-paid return envelope which sends it off to a lab for testing. As it had been four days since I was exposed to the virus, I took the test and had my husband drop it off.
The results took about 36 hours to come in. In the meantime I disinfected the house, had my husband take over care of my son, and I set up camp in my basement guest room. To err on the side of caution, I informed my son's school that he would be remote. While he hadn't been exposed to the person I had seen, he had been exposed to me, and until I knew my status I didn't want him around other children. I had only seen one person outside my immediate family in the days since being exposed, and fortunately that was masked. I still contacted her and told her I had been exposed and was awaiting results. I've never personally been fearful of contracting the virus, but have had a great deal of anxiety about passing it to others, so I was so grateful to have only one call to make.
By that night the headache was unbearable, even with alarming amounts of Tylenol. Not to mention I just felt *off*. I'm usually pretty high energy but my body felt sluggish and my mind foggy. My husband handled dinner and bedtime for our son and dutifully deposited soup and water outside my basement bunker. I immediately started chugging green tea and lemon water. I also began taking extra zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D. Though the NIH has not yet be able to endorse their efficacy in improving the fight against coronavirus, it certainly couldn't hurt.
I woke up at 3am with chills and sweats, and the raging headache had returned. I had sweat through my pajamas so I showered, changed, took more Tylenol, and took my temperature- 100.4. My results weren't in, but I knew what they were. Needless to say, later that day my suspicions were confirmed and I was emailed a positive result.
Day two was the worst. The severe headache persisted. I described it to my husband as "having your head in a vice, while holding a crying baby, standing in a rave". I still had a low fever- 99-100 degrees- which was manageable with Tylenol. Mostly I slept, still isolated from my husband and child, and watched alarming amounts of television.
I had none of the typical symptoms that most people look for. No cough, no shortness of breath. No loss of taste or smell. Other than the headache and fever, my other very strange symptom was absolutely ravenous hunger. If I was awake, I was famished. Food didn't seem to satiate me for more than a few minutes. I struggled to balance listening to my body and feeling like I was eating far more than was reasonable. Oddly fruit tasted (and still tastes) amazing, and a dear friend dropped off a massive fruit bowl and soup, so I tried to fill up on that. The ravenous hunger only lasted two days, so fortunately the damage was reversible.
I describe all this because it wasn't something I would have normally suspected as coronavirus. Had I not known I was exposed I would not have not thought to get tested because the symptoms were so atypical. I know many physicians refuse to test if you don't have the classic symptoms- I urge you to insist. The person I contracted it from had a similar presentation- severe headache but otherwise mild symptoms with no respiratory issues.
The health department and my physician contacted me to follow up and discuss protocol. Per both of them, my basement isolation is 10 days from onset of symptoms, and my husband and son have to quarantine for 14 days since their exposure to me. My son's incredible teacher dropped off his work plus books, snacks and flowers. While his school is full time and in person, they always permit students to go remote for any reason, and obviously require it in cases such as this. They also test all students twice weekly and he will re-entry test him after his 14 day quarantine. He and my husband are still healthy but will be taking follow up tests as the timeline for the virus to develop can vary.
I am now on day nine of the virus and feel 100% myself again. After the first two days passed I felt anywhere from 65-90% normal, depending on the day. It comes in waves- some good days and some bad. The headache and fatigue still comes and goes but is manageable. Odd symptoms came and went in rapid waves- burning dryness in my nostrils, dizziness, brain fog and muscle pain. Again, nothing I would have suspected as coronavirus and also far less severe than I feared. My annual sinus infection is ten times worse.
My husband and son are still testing negative 9 days after exposure, although we will do one more round prior to them rejoining society (after 14 days of quarantine). I know many families who were able to contain the virus to one or two members when they caught it early and truly isolated from other family members. And even close exposure does NOT mean you have it- when my mother had it, she had had close contact with my 81 year old father (who has pre-existing conditions) for days, and he never got it. Some family members who had prolonged unmasked contact with a positive friend of mine did NOT test positive. That said, it is important to observe the 14 day quarantine and PCR test (not rapid!) negative if you've been exposed.
I in no way want to minimize the severity of this virus. I had the good fortune of going into this as a healthy 41 year old woman. Many, many people are not as fortunate as I have been and have symptoms that are far more acute. But for me, the anxiety and fear I experienced in the ten months prior to getting the virus were far more damaging than the actual virus. I am incredibly grateful that I have a manageable case and that I did not spread it to others.
So what is helping me manage my symptoms and get back to myself?
Here has been my protocol to keep my body strong and fighting against this virus-
- 3 liters of lemon water daily plus at least 2 cups of decaf green tea. Hydration has been key to flushing toxins and feeling stronger.
- Epsom salt bath soaks to draw out toxins and ease sore muscles. Light stretching and yoga for stiffness.
- Aloe Nasal Gel to ease dry nasal passages.
- Multivitamins plus extra zinc, echinacea and Vitamin C.
- 2,000 IU Vitamin D
- A clean, mostly plant-based diet with lots of fruit and leafy greens. Soups from Bonafide provisions and smoothies with Vital Proteins collagen powder for protein.
- Lots of N95 masks, Clorox wipes and time alone!
I have one more week remaining in my isolation. In that time I'm fortunate enough to work from home, while my husband and son FaceTime me from upstairs and slide notes under my door. My symptoms are mostly under control and I am lucky, indeed. I've caught up on trashy TV (Bridgerton and Married at First Sight!) and plenty of rest. I'm grateful to amazing friends who have dropped off flowers and care packages for me and for my family.
A few key takeaways from all this?
- Prevention is better than cure. Continue to wear masks, social distance, wash your hands and stay at home as much as possible.
- Exposure does NOT always mean illness- so many people are shocked or don't believe me that I was able to keep my husband and son safe. Some of it is luck, but a lot of it was isolating myself immediately and very strictly, particularly for the first five days when viral load is the strongest.
- Test no Matter What. Coronavirus can look very different for different people. I did not have classic symptoms and doubt my physician would have tested me based off what I experienced. If you feel ill in ANY way, insist on a test. If you were sick in the past and didn't get tested, get an antibody test.
- Stock up in advance. Luckily I had a freezer full of soup, Tylenol, a hearty supply of masks, Clorox wipes and N95 masks. Check expiration dates on all your medication so you're not stuck without.
- Delivery is key. I was able to stock up on fresh cut fruits and veggies, tea, and other staples by leveraging Amazon Prime Now grocery delivery. Shipt is a great resource for delivering essentials from Target or other stores. My husband and son leveraged a lot of takeout during the week, since I wasn't cooking for the family. Tip generously.
- Rapid tests are inaccurate. Of the 3 other people exposed to a positive friend of mine, two had negative rapid tests, only to be PCR positive and develop symptoms.
- Murphy's law can prevail. I do not, as a rule, see people outside of my immediate family often (my "bubble" is two friends I see maybe every 5-6 weeks). I do not see groups of people. I wear a mask. I get groceries delivered. I wash my hands. I see people outside when possible. My son is tested twice a week. I still got coronavirus.
But to all of our dear clients and friends- please stay safe, wear your masks, wash your hands, and nourish your body with a clean, healthy diet.