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Health & Wellness Nonfiction

Billie Gets COVID

by Billie Koffman //

After ten months of avoiding gatherings, dodging strangers in the grocery store and on the street, and holding my breath in elevators, I thought I had finally figured out how to deal with the pandemic. Then, two days before New Year’s, I tested positive for COVID-19: a truly fitting end to 2020. 

As a nineteen-year-old girl with no underlying health conditions, I felt a surprising amount of fear, compounded by not knowing what would happen to me or how I could prepare. While COVID-19 is different for everyone, my hope is to provide those with mild-to-moderate symptoms a little extra support and guidance. I write this, however, with the acknowledgement that this is my own experience and that everyone’s experiences will vary, as well as with the recognition that I am not a medical professional. 

I first tested positive on December 29th, 2020. Although I had previously tested negative on two rapid tests, I tested positive on my third rapid test, and later in the week on a PCR test. My symptoms on the first day were very mild. I had a slight cough that only surfaced when I talked, and my temperature was elevated at around only 99.5° for about an hour or two. In fact, low-grade fevers are more common than fevers above 100.4° for those diagnosed with COVID-19. The next day, my throat was about the same, but my temperature had dropped. On Friday, my cough disappeared, but I developed a mild headache right behind my eyes, which intensified on Saturday but dropped off on Sunday. I also lost my sense of smell on Friday, two days after my diagnosis, which was incredibly confusing and, at least in the beginning, pretty funny! By Tuesday of the following week, I was feeling much better, although I continued to spend my days in bed. My smell took about two weeks to return to almost-normal, although it is still not 100% back. 

It is important to remember that it is very normal for people to lose their sense of smell, and it can take anywhere from a week to a few months for it to return fully. If it does not come back within that time frame, you may want to experiment with smell training, which involves smelling a few essential oils three times a day in order to stimulate your cells. Only in very rare cases, it so happens that your sense of smell may not return, but it’s a remote possibility that you should not worry about. Loss of taste is also normal and similarly takes some time to come back. 

According to my doctor, symptoms usually peak at around day five and then improve. My own timeline seemed to follow this pretty well, although my symptoms changed about every two days, which was a new experience for me. 

During my quarantine, in an effort to let my body rest (and also because I’m lazy), I stayed in bed every day for most of the day. I drank a lot of fluids—mainly tea and water—and I made sure to keep taking my vitamins, especially vitamin C and D. Although I used honey in my tea, I tried to avoid sugar and dairy, and I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, as well as protein. I also kept Tylenol, cough drops, and a pulse oximeter next to my bed. Serious respiratory issues are not very common in young people without underlying conditions, but it can be very reassuring to know that your lungs are alright, and I would recommend purchasing a pulse oximeter if you do have a positive diagnosis. 

Testing positive for COVID-19 can be a really scary experience, even more so because of the physical isolation it necessitates–but it is important to remember that you are not alone, and you will get through this.