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COVID-19 isolation’s personal experience: From altered taste to discomfort, what a patient should expect during quarantine

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When you go ahead and read this piece, remember that the virus can be defeated.

There are two sides of a door when a COVID-19 patient is isolated, and I can only tell what happens on one side. During this very strong second wave of coronavirus in India, everyone is being impacted by the infection to some extent. I also caught the bug, and about 20 days ago, I started showing symptoms of the infection. It started with a sore throat one evening, and I went into isolation, and the next day, I had high fever. By that evening, my sense of smell also started going away.

What I am about to recall here is merely what I experienced and went through during the time that I was infected, because my diet was being taken care of by my family, so I wouldn’t be able to give tips about what to give to a patient. It is important that at the onset of the first symptom, medical advice is sought, because any suggestions mentioned in this article are based on personal experience and what was professionally advised in my case.

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I have seen a lot of posts that guide people on how to take care of those infected in terms of diet, etc, but I have yet to find much information that would prepare a patient for the things they could potentially face when in quarantine.

People have been focusing on the physical aspect of recovering from COVID-19, which is very important, but not many know about the mental impact that is set to come with it for the patient. The only hope I have from this post is to prepare someone for the time they could face. This is not meant to scare anyone, but it is important to know that being isolated with coronavirus is not a piece of cake, and there is much more to it than eating right, because even with the perfect diet, any negativity can cause a domino effect.

When you go ahead and read this piece, remember that the virus can be defeated. I only wish to warn people about what they could experience, because I wish someone had prepared me for this. However, I understand that not everyone is that way, so if you feel like reading about this experience could make you more scared than prepared, I would suggest that you skip this. This post is only meant to help people by making things easier for them in this pandemic.

Here is the bottom line: The moment you see the first sign – a headache, a sore throat, body ache, fever – however minuscule it may be, isolate yourself. There is not enough emphasis that can be placed on this. In this wave at least, the symptoms are showing 3 to 4 days after a person contracts the virus, which means that by the time the first symptom surfaces, the virus could have already replicated within you. Do not wait to see how things pan out.

You can schedule a test after you have isolated yourself, but on the first sign – seek medical advice, start salt water gargles and begin taking steam. Also begin with deep breathing exercises. These are things that will help you regulate oxygen levels, and they would in no way harm your body even if you are not infected. But in case you are infected, then starting these practices as early as possible can make a difference. Along with these, begin monitoring your oxygen level and your temperature.

When monitoring your oxygen using a finger pulse oximeter, ensure that you are not wearing any nail paint or something similar. Place the oximeter on the forefinger of your primary hand, and take deep breaths. Due to congestion, it is possible that taking deep breaths will lead to a pain in the chest, but try to take 3 to 4 deep breaths and that pain will subside. This will also lead to increased oxygen levels. Keep in mind that panicking would only lead to your breathing getting shallower which can potentially lower your oxygen levels. Remaining calm while noting oxygen levels is important.

It is also important to be prepared for the fact that the loss of smell, and consequently, the lost or altered taste can majorly impact the way you eat. Be prepared for a lot of discomfort. Knowing that there will be loss of taste is in no way going to prepare you for how it would actually feel. The taste of even water will change. Due to the infection, there will be immense dehydration, but the change in taste would lead to water not being able to quench that thirst either, and water would not bring the same amount of relief. Something similar could happen for hunger. That varies from patient to patient. While some may not feel hungry at all, I personally felt hungry, but I could not eat properly because the altered sense of taste made me nauseous. The things that I could have were mostly liquids – kadha, milk, soup, coconut water and ORS – or water-based fruits like watermelon.

Due to high fever and ensuing weakness, you are mostly confined to bed from the second day, which means that by the fourth day, your body starts to ache due to lack of movement. It is, therefore, important to exercise for at least 45 minutes a day, because even so, your body would continue to ache. This means that sitting or lying down is going to hurt, and though you would want to sleep, the dehydration and the body ache would keep waking you up every hour or so. But, there is a positive side to this, because it is important to remain hydrated throughout the day while recovering from COVID-19. So, every time I woke up, even if it was to switch positions, I mustered enough energy to get up and drink water. This tip will come in handy, because doctors advise patients to ensure that they are hydrated at all times.

About 3 to 4 days into the symptoms, your days might begin to blur together. because the fever is on the rise, and discomfort begins to set in.

Here is my most important takeaway: When everything starts to blur together, this is when the illness could begin to take a mental toll. The lack of proper sleep only makes things harder. It is very important at this point to maintain positivity, because the next 4 days can be hard. Try to look for something that gives you peace, and calms you down. Some people can find peace in spirituality, some in religion, and some in entertainment, that is entirely up to you. But I can share what I did.

I love to write, but I was unable to look at words, whether on paper or on laptop, because that was leading to extreme vertigo, so that went out of the window. But a friend had suggested that I write about my experience in quarantine, and, while I could not write, I began to make notes of everything that was happening – this gave me a sense of purpose.

It is important to remember that every person has different ways of dealing with a situation. For me, it was important that I felt like I was doing something productive, but it is perfectly fine if you feel like you just need to focus on getting better and nothing else. The only thing that matters is to ensure that you maintain positivity in whatever way suits you best.

Another thing that I tried was re-watching Suits, but even though I had seen it before, I had forgotten most of it, which is why any twist made me feel anxious. So I steered clear of it. Then I tried my hand at rom-coms that I had not seen before, but even though they were rom-coms, any drama made me anxious – this led to me breathing faster. Maintaining deep breaths is important to tackle COVID-19, because it provides more oxygen to your brain and keeps you from panicking.

So I just stuck to my two comfort comedy shows. Remember: While maintaining positivity or distracting yourself, you need something that will not startle your brain, and by extension, your body.

While you are in isolation, phasing out can be common, because it is a normal side effect of high fever and lack of sleep. But surrounding yourself with things that provide you comfort and happiness and keep you positive is of utmost importance. These will keep you motivated, and that, along with a strong support system of your family, friends and medical advice, would help you deal with the illness in the best possible way.

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