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COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

The year 2020 will be ingrained in all of our minds as the year coronavirus (COVID-19) emerged. With the world’s scientists and medics racing to learn more about this new virus and offer guidance to the public, it can be tough to cut through the fear-factor and find the facts. The Healthwords team is here to help, and suggest ways to keep you and your loved ones well.

Sars-CoV-2 = COVID-19

Officially the virus strain is called Sars-CoV-2 but is known more commonly as the disease it causes: coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Why "19"? That relates to the year it was discovered, 2019, in China. Since then, it has spread rapidly across the world. As with any virus, it thrives in certain conditions – crowded places, indoors, and in cooler weather. So, after a tough winter and springtime, the world breathed a sigh of relief over the summer as regions got control and rates fell, only to see rates resurge as we moved into cooler months, kids went back to school, and life moved indoors.

Similar to flu viruses, COVID-19 enters the body through the mouth, nose, and eyes, and is passed on through coughs and close contact. COVID-19 can fall under the radar: its symptoms take around five days to appear but can take up to 14 days. Unlike the mild illness of common colds, COVID-19 can lead to more serious illness, like pneumonia, low oxygen levels, and -in the worst of cases -death. Alongside a cough, you may get a fever, have trouble breathing, and have difficulty smelling or tasting anything. You may also suffer from other flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and headaches, chest pain, and it can leave you feeling weak and tired. If you are in good health, you may only have mild symptoms or none at all.

Staying well

Just as with coughs and colds, the best way to stay well is to start small: good sleep and good hydration will help your body fend off harmful germs. The more restful, stress-free time you can build into your day, the stronger your immune system will be.

It pays to be careful around other people. As coronavirus symptoms do not show up right away, they can be passed on by someone with no signs. We know that you can catch it from others by the air –coughs, standing close by –and it can also stay alive on surfaces for several hours.

The government has issued guidance about limiting unnecessary contact with others. Good hygiene is paramount: you should wash your hands thoroughly and often –good old soap and warm water are best, or alcohol gel sanitizer for on the go. And easier said than done –avoid touching your face. If you can cough into your sleeve, or reach for a tissue when you need to sneeze, you can keep those around you safe.

Face masks such as Covaflu can reduce your chance of both catching an infection, and passing it on. In some places, such as shops and on public transport, masks may still be suggested, so, it’s worth always having one handy.

Pharmacist recommended products

When to suspect COVID-19?

Government health officials say that you are assumed to have COVID-19 if you have one of any of these three symptoms:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature, over 100F
  • a loss of your sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

What if I am still unwell many months later?

A new condition known as post-COVID syndrome is emerging, where people continue to suffer certain symptoms weeks and months after contracting it. These include an ongoing cough or feeling breathless, fatigue impacting your everyday life, or brain fog where you may find tasks requiring concentration or memory are challenging. Anxiety and depression may also feature significantly.

Clinics have been set up across the US to help; contact your doctor if you think this applies to you. These long-term effects can appear even if you only had a mild disease to begin with, and are more likely to affect younger women, those with asthma or obesity, and those who had more than five symptoms within the first week.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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