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Signs Your COVID is "Out of Control"

Five signs that indicate your COVID symptoms can't be treated at home, doctors warn. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

COVID cases are up (again) and while we're all exhausted from dealing with the last two years, the virus isn't going anywhere just yet. It seems like everyone has COVID right now and with people still getting infected daily, being aware of symptoms and signs that indicate when to seek medical treatment is vital in staying safe. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who has been treating COVID patients since the beginning and shares what to know about the virus right now and when your symptoms are out of control. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What People Should Know About COVID Right Now

man washing in bathroom

Dr. Mitchell says, "While the ongoing pandemic has presented challenges for everyone, it is essential to remember that COVID is still a real and dangerous threat. Although the vaccine is now available, it is still vital to take precautions against the virus. This means wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly, and avoiding large crowds. It is also essential to keep updated with the latest information about the virus. This means staying informed about new strains and variants and any changes in advice from health authorities. By taking these precautions, we can all help to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID."


Many Experts Warned to Expect a Surge in the Fall, but Cases are Rising Now. Why?

Dr. Mitchell explains, "The number of COVID cases is currently on the rise in many parts of the world; it is important to remember that this does not mean that we will necessarily see a surge in cases this fall. There are several factors that contribute to the spread of illness, and crowding is just one of them. In addition, the flu season typically begins in October, which means that there will be more people indoors and potentially more opportunities for the virus to spread. However, several other factors can help prevent the spread of illness, including good hygiene practices and vaccinated individuals. It is important to remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions, but it is also important not to panic. We will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions based on the best available information. That being said, we can still see even higher levels of COVID in the fall, as the current levels of COVID might signal that the worst is left to come."


When it's Recommended to Seek Medical Treatment

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Dr. Mitchell says, "If your symptoms are out of control and you can't manage them at home, you should seek medical help. This could mean going to the hospital or calling your doctor. If you have severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, you should contact 911. It's essential to get medical help as soon as possible if your symptoms are severe. The earlier you get treatment, the better your chances of recovery. There are a few different ways to get help if your symptoms are out of control. For example, you can go to the emergency room, call your doctor, or call 911. If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, or dizziness, you should contact 911. These are all signs that you need immediate medical attention. If you're not sure what to do, don't hesitate to call 911 for help. The sooner you get service, the better." ***Please consult your physician for medical advice. 


You Feel Like Death

Young sick woman laying in her bed.

"No one likes feeling sick, but when dealing with something as serious as Covid-19, it's essential to pay attention to your symptoms," Dr. Mitchell reminds us. "If you feel like death is a sign that your Covid is out of control, you may be right. This is especially true if you're barely functioning and getting out of bed is impossible. These are signs that you need medical attention. Don't wait until it's too late – if you're experiencing these symptoms, seek help immediately. Early intervention can make all the difference in your recovery."


You Are Short of Breath

Woman wearing surgical mask on face protective for spreading of disease Covid-19 pandemic.. Girl symptom cough while sitting on Sofa.

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is a symptom that can occur with a variety of medical conditions. It can also be a sign that your COVID is out of control. If you are struggling to catch your breath or you feel short of breath, it is essential to seek medical attention right away. This is especially true if you are also experiencing other symptoms such as chest pain, nausea, or dizziness. While shortness of breath can be scary, it is essential to remember that it is a symptom and not a diagnosis. 

A severe cause of shortness of breath is a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism (PE) can cause symptoms of breathlessness that are out of proportion to the level of activity you are undertaking. If you have unexplained or worse breathlessness, it is essential to seek medical help urgently, as PE can be life-threatening. COVID-19 can cause blood clots, which can lead to PE. In some people, the blood clotting associated with COVID-19 may occur without any symptoms until the clot becomes large enough to block the blood flow to the lungs, at which point shortness of breath and chest pain will develop. If you experience these symptoms, it is essential to seek medical help immediately so that you can be assessed for PE. Treatment for PE usually involves taking medication to thin your blood and prevent new clots from forming. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to remove the clot. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of PE are essential to improve your chances of a full recovery.

There are many potential causes of dyspnea, and only a medical professional can determine the cause of your symptoms. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, don't wait to get help. Seek medical attention right away to get the treatment you need."


You Are Having a Hard Time Waking Up or Staying Awake

Woman being sick having flu sitting on bed alone at home, having high fever or temperature, touching forehead

According to Dr. Mitchell, "The inability to stay awake or wake up is a serious sign of COVID. This is because it can indicate hypoxia, which is when the body isn't getting enough oxygen. Hypoxia can damage the brain and other organs and even be fatal. If you experience this symptom, it's essential to seek medical help immediately. You may need to be placed on a ventilator to help you breathe in the hospital. Most people recover from hypoxia and return to their normal lives with treatment. However, it's important to remember that this is a potentially life-threatening condition, so if you experience any symptoms of COVID, it's essential to seek medical help right away."


Chest Pain

Woman touching her heart while sitting at the table in her big office.

"Chest pain is a common symptom of COVID-19, and it can be caused by several different factors," says Dr. Mitchell. "In some cases, the virus may cause inflammation of the lungs, leading to chest pain. Additionally, the body's response to the virus can sometimes trigger a build-up of fluid in the chest, known as pulmonary edema. This can also cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. Additionally, COVID-19 can sometimes lead to blood clots, blocking blood flow to the heart and causing a heart attack. Because chest pain is a potentially serious symptom of COVID-19, it is essential to seek medical attention if you experience any chest pain or pressure."


Your Family and Friends Are Concerned

older man with dementia speaking to caregiver
Shutterstock / LightField Studios

Dr. Mitchell says, "If you feel unwell and your family is expressing concern, it is essential to listen to their advice and seek medical attention. It can be easy to downplay symptoms or convince yourself that you are not sick, but if your loved ones are convinced that something is wrong, it is best to err on caution. Similarly, suppose you are researching your symptoms online, and Dr. Google is telling you that they are serious. In that case, it is essential to take this advice seriously and seek help from a medical professional. COVID-19 is a severe illness, and it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are experiencing any symptoms, even if they seem mild, please reach out for help."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather