Tending to ill health at home – while self-isolating – for Covid can be scary. When do you escalate from self care to hospitalisation? Dr Yun gives his advice on how to look after yourself during a pandemic. The latest data from the Covid Symptom Study predict that 835,095 people currently have symptoms of the disease within the UK. Dr Yun advises becoming familiar with taking your pulse measurement, as Covid can cause an irregular or high heart rate – over 100 beats per minute (bpm).
“Get in the habit of measuring your pulse regularly so you can recognise the normal rate and rhythm of your heart and know if yours is changing,” said Dr Yun.
Measuring your heart rate
- Rest and relax for five minutes before checking your heart rate.
- Feel your pulse using your index and middle fingers (not your thumb) – press lightly against the inner side of your wrist near the base of your thumb or on the outer side of your windpipe under your jaw.
- Count the number of pulse beats you feel for 60 seconds, or count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply it by two – this is your heart rate in beats per minute.
- Feel the rhythm of your pulse for 30 seconds – a regular rhythm is normal. If you’re uncertain, tap out the rhythm on a table as you feel it.
A normal, resting heart rate is between 60 and 100bpm, certified Dr Yun; it could be lower if you exercise often or take medication, such as beta blockers.
Taking your temperature
Dr Yun does encourage having a digital thermometer in your home to measure your temperature.
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Half an hour before taking your temperature, Dr Yun advises to avoid hot or cold drinks, eating or strenuous exercise.
A normal body temperature ranges between 36.1 and 38C; anything above 38C is considered a fever.
I don’t have a thermometer
“If you don’t have a thermometer, touch your chest and back to feel if they are hotter than usual,” said Dr Yun.
“Sometimes you may feel shivery (chills) from fever too,” he added.
Dr Yun’s advice is to take paracetamol and/or ibuprofen if you “feel uncomfortable” (and you’re not allergic) and to “drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration”.
Blood oxygen levels
“A pulse oximeter is a simple, painless sensor, which shines a light on your nail or earlobe to work out how much oxygen is in your blood,” explained Dr Yun.
However, unless it’s given by a GP, Dr Yun advises against buying one online or relying on the oxygen functioning of a smartwatch as they may not be accurate.
Should your GP have give you an oximeter to monitor your condition at home, here’s how to use it:
- Remove any nail varnish, dirt or artificial nails if you are going to use the device on your finger.
- Turn the oximeter on and ensure that there is light shining between the clips.
- Clip the device on one of your fingers or earlobes. Make sure that the light shines directly through the nail bed or earlobe.
- Wait for a few seconds for the reading to appear on the display
- Take the reading after it stabilises.
“If you’re normally healthy and your oxygen saturation falls less than 95 percent, take a few deep breaths and retake the reading,” said Dr Yun.
“If it is between 92 and 94 percent, seek advice from your GP or call NHS 111.”
If the reading falls below 92 percent, visit the nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) or call 999 for an ambulance – telling medical staff you have Covid.
Other health conditions can affect oxygen saturation levels, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or anaemia.
These could result in an oxygen reading between 88 to 92 percent; your oxygen saturation target would be shown on your latest respiratory clinic letter.
Even if your Covid illness doesn’t require emergency care, it can still be unpleasant.
If you’ve caught coronavirus, Dr Yun urges you to “stay at home” and to “monitor your symptoms”.
He recommends getting enough sleep, drinking sufficient fluids and covering your coughs and sneezes with tissue (or the inside of your elbow).
This is to minimise the spread of the disease to other members in your household.
In addition, refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth until you wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
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