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How to Self-Check if You Have Coronavirus

Think you may have coronavirus?
Lady Holding Thermometer Having Fever Measuring Body Temperature Sitting On Sofa At Home

If you're worried about whether you could have COVID-19, you're not alone—I'm a doctor and so am I! We're all in this together. Fortunately, there is a way you check your symptoms from the safety of your home: The CDC COVID-19 self checker. Although it cannot diagnose you with coronavirus, it is meant "to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care." Here's how it works.

First, Make Sure You Need a Self-Check

Before you initiate a self-check, when you visit the CDC website, you will be asked about the following symptoms:

1. Do you have a cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing?

And/or

2. Do you have two or more of the following symptoms?

The seven symptoms on this list are symptoms which are not uncommon at the best of times and have a wide differential diagnosis. Hence, the CDC suggests they are more likely to signify COVID-19 if two or more are present.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

If you answer yes to questions one or two, you should by all means complete the CDC coronavirus symptom checker. (The CDC also states that this list is not exhaustive and if you have any symptoms which are concerning you, you must seek medical help.)

Next, Identify Your Personal Situation

Throughout the process, the self-check will ask you questions about your situation, such as your country and state. It will ask if you're ill or caring for someone who is ill. It will ask your age and gender. It will ask if you have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or live in or visit a place where COVID-19 is spreading. It will also ask if you live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, or have worked or volunteered in a hospital, emergency room, clinic, medical office, long-term care facility, etc.

Then, Make Sure You Don't Need Urgent Care

The self-check will ask if you have any of the following life-threatening symptoms:

  • Blue-colored lips or face
  • Severe and constant pain or pressure in the chest
  • Severe and constant dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Acting confused (new or worsening)
  • Unconscious or very difficult to wake up
  • New seizure or seizures that won't stop

If you answer yes, you'll be directed to see urgent care. If you answer no, you'll be asked if you have any of the following:

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  • Coughing up blood (more than about 1 teaspoon)
  • Signs of low blood pressure (too weak to stand, light-headed, feeling cold, pale, clammy skin)

Answer About Your Breathing

It will ask: How is your breathing? Which of these are you experiencing?

  • Severe: gasping for air or cannot talk without catching your breath
  • Mild: you can get enough air in your lungs but your chest feels tight when you take a deep breath
  • No trouble breathing

Select the Symptoms You Have

If you don't need urgent care, you'll be asked to select from the following symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish (chills, sweating)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches or body aches
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Other symptoms

Answer About Your Pre-Existing Conditions

You'll be asked if you have:

  • Chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, or smoking
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Weakened immune system (cancer treatment, prolonged use of steroids, transplant or HIV/AIDS)
  • Severe obesity (Body Mass Index [BMI] greater than or equal to 40)
  • Underlying conditions (diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease)

The Final Verdict

If you select any of the severe symptoms you'll be told to seek emergency help. If you have a pre-existing condition, you'll be told to "call your healthcare provider, clinician advice line, or telemedicine provider within 24 hours" and to "Start home isolation. This means stay home except to get medical care, and do not go to work, school, or public areas. Do not use public transportation or ride sharing. Be sure to get care if you feel worse."

In any case, if you have any symptoms, the self-checker recommends "your answers suggest you may need to get tested for COVID-19. Talk to your medical provider or visit your health department's website for more information. Testing access may vary by location and provider."

To take the self-check test yourself, go to the CDC website or try the Mayo Clinic COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer for Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.

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Deborah Lee, MD
Dr. Deborah Lee is a health and medical writer with an emphasis on women's health. Read more