The winter months often bring snowy conditions, holiday gatherings- and illnesses. Flu season, the common cold, and COVID-19 can have overlapping symptoms that can be difficult to discern between. So when do you need to seek medical attention if you’re feeling under the weather? What should you do when you start to notice symptoms associated with COVID-19? Do you need to go to the hospital? Dr. Pete Mikkelsen, Medical Director of Pullman Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department and Dr. Drue Webb, Family Medicine Physician at Pullman Family Medicine weigh in on what steps to take when you’re feeling sick and when to know if you need to seek normal or emergency medical care.
Dr. Webb says Pullman Family Medicine has been busier than normal this year- much of which is due to the ongoing pandemic coinciding with cold and flu season. While it’s never a bad idea to seek medical care, it’s important to monitor your body at the first sign of sickness, so you can evaluate and notice new or worsening symptoms before calling or visiting your doctor.
What to do if you’re sick
“If a patient is having symptoms, the first step is to get tested,” says Dr. Webb. This can be done with an at-home test, at the COVID-19 Testing Center or doctor’s office. The optimal timing of a COVID-19 test is after symptoms have been present for 2-3 days. “If a patient takes a home test or rapid antigen test and the results are negative, they should probably seek out a PCR test from a testing site to confirm the negative results, as false negative results are possible,” advises Dr. Webb. Whitman County Public Health has a variety of testing locations and contact information on their website. Testing that requires a physician’s order can be initiated by calling your primary care provider’s office and requesting an order.
“I recommend patients seek medical care if they are experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, or symptoms that seem different from typical COVID-19 symptoms. If they are symptomatic and older than 65 and/or have significant medical conditions (like diabetes, hypertension, etc.) they should also seek medical attention,” offers Dr. Webb. “If a patient is experiencing more mild symptoms, I would recommend they monitor their symptoms, quarantine, and use at-home remedies.”
These low-risk symptomatic patients are encouraged to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated with plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter medications to gain comfort and ease symptoms- such as nasal steroid sprays for congestion and Tylenol and/or ibuprofen for pain or fever.
How do you know if you need to go to the hospital?
“If a person is worried that if they don’t act now on a symptom or problem their disease will get worse without medical intervention, they should come to the Emergency Department,” advises Dr. Mikkelsen. “If they are wondering if their symptoms are bad enough to go to the Emergency Department, they may have options to call their primary care provider or other medical advice line first,” Dr. Mikkelsen says.
If medical intervention is needed, a person can expect to be seen at the Pullman Regional Hospital Emergency Department by a nurse who specializes in care of emergencies. A physician specialist in Emergency Medicine will then listen to, examine, order tests or consultations if indicated, and develop a treatment plan.
Should you require emergency care, Pullman Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department is staffed with emergency healthcare experts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. “We don’t close. Our goal is to look after anyone and everyone who seeks out our services,” says Dr. Mikkelsen.
We hope you and your family stay healthy throughout the winter months, but know that our team of medical professionals is here for you- whether you have a cold, the flu, COVID-19, or any other illness or ailment.
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