Advance with MUSC Health

What to do if you think you have COVID-19

Advance With MUSC Health
August 30, 2021
An illustration of multiple people sick with symptoms of COVID: high fever, cough, confusion

As COVID-19 cases and concerns continue to surge, it can be difficult to discern what symptoms are serious and what you should do about them. MUSC Health wants you to be safe. That's why we spoke with Lacey MenkinSmith, M.D., Associate Medical Director of the MUSC Health Department of Emergency Medicine about what to do if you think you have COVID-19.

What to expect when you have COVID-19:

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Tiredness
  • Aches and pains
  • Headache

Less common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash

Mild COVID-19 symptoms often do not require emergency medical attention. The virus affects different people in different ways. Some people may be asymptomatic. Others may have a fever and cough, while others develop severe illness.

If symptoms are mild, it is normal for them to last more than a week. Eight out of ten cases of COVID-19 are mild.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19:

  1. Make sure you're quarantining. If possible, avoid all contact until you are sure that you are not infected.
  2. Get a free COVID test at MUSC Health. We advise all people with symptoms — no matter how mild and regardless of vaccination status — to get tested as soon as possible after symptom onset. Those who have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 infection or COVID-19 symptoms should be tested 5 days after exposure.
  3. If you're experiencing mild symptoms but feel like you can manage them with over-the-counter medications, get tested, then stay home and avoid going into a medical center for treatment. This keeps medical services available to the sickest patients and keeps any viruses from spreading.
  4. If you are in doubt, speak to an MUSC virtual provider.

Getting a COVID-19 test:

  • While no pre-registration is necessary, appointments are encouraged due to heavy patient volume. Find an MUSC Health testing site near you.
  • Make an appointment at MUSC Health's main testing site at R. Keith Summey Medical Pavilion (2250 Mall Drive, North Charleston, SC 29406. Hours: 7:30 a.m. to Noon, Monday through Saturday) or one of these other testing locations.
  • You’ll receive your results within 72 hours.
  • If you have an MUSC MyChart account, you may schedule a COVID-19 drive-thru test. You’ll receive your results via MyChart within 72 hours.
  • Currently, all diagnostic tests are done by a medical professional by taking a small amount of nasal aspirate with a nose swab.
  • Patients may email for questions regarding results. If you do not have an email address, please call 843-985-8888.

Treating possible or confirmed COVID-19 at home:

  • Stay home and monitor your symptoms.
  • Stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. If possible, use a separate bathroom. If you must be around others, wear a mask.
  • Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water.
  • You can take over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen to help you feel better.
  • You can monitor your oxygen levels at home using an over-the-counter pulse oximeter.

If you are growing concerned about these symptoms, or if your symptoms worsen:

  • Make a virtual appointment with an MUSC Health primary care provider, who can discuss your symptoms with you and determine next steps.

When to seek emergency medical attention:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
  • *This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
  • *If you need medical attention, call 911 or call ahead to a medical center and let them know you are seeking care for COVID-19

The best way to prevent infection and severe illness from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. The vaccine is free. Schedule your vaccination here.

If you have symptoms and want to be screened for COVID-19, please visit MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care. The screening is free when you use code COVID19.