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8 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor About COVID-19

Use this checklist to keep yourself healthy during the pandemic.
Back view of woman making video call with her doctor while staying at home. Close up of patient in video conferencing with general practitioner on digital tablet. Sick girl in online consultation.

You may be reticent to call your doctor during the coronavirus pandemic because they're busy tending to the neediest cases—or, alternately, you're calling them every day, worried about your health. Either way, it's important to know what to ask them, so you can cut right to the chase. Every second counts. Here are the top 8 questions to ask your doctor about COVID-19.

1

Am I experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?

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Knowing whether you have the coronavirus—or just a common cold or allergies—is key to staying healthy. The CDC lists the following as common symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever
  • Cough (notably, it's usually a dry cough)
  • Shortness of breath

And they add: If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. They include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

If you feel any of the above, discuss them with your medical professional. "This is crucial and must be discussed with your doctor. It's most important for the sake of not spreading the disease to other people," says Dr. John Packer of AICA Orthopedics. And to be extra sure, don't miss this list of 13 Early Signs You've Caught Coronavirus.

2

How likely am I to get COVID-19?

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"Patients need to understand and ask their doctor about how susceptible they are to the coronavirus as well as their risk level," says Packer. "The doctor can pull a detailed patient history and can be alarmed of compromising conditions in relation to COVID-19." Those conditions could include your environment (who you interact with, where you live) or pre-existing medical issues (like cancer or heart disease), which can make the virus more damaging.

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3

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

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Ask your doctor about the best course of action. "If a person (on a scale of 1-10) thinks they have it but showing level 1-3 symptoms, perhaps they should stay home, stay isolated, etc," says Packer. "For a patient who's experiencing difficulty breathing (scale 5-10), they need to know how to act" and may need more urgent help. 

4

Should I get tested?

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Although there is no cure for COVID-19, knowing whether or not you're infected is important because you don't want to spread the disease to others. Testing in certain cities is very difficult to find—cases in New York City, for example, are prioritized by the state of your condition and doctors' orders. So contact your doctor to ask if you need one. In many cases, they might tell you to just stay home, where it's potentially safer than going outside.

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5

How can getting tested for COVID-19 affect my medical care?

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"In addition to the exposure that can occur while waiting to be tested, having a test done makes someone a 'person under investigation' until the results return. While on PUI status, and among those ultimately testing positive, access to other care can be severely limited," says Dr. Lili Barsky. "For those who have known heart, lung or other chronic diseases, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits of having testing done and how it could potentially influence the management of their other conditions."

6

Should I be worried?

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"If you have chest pain, difficulty breathing with fever and cough, seek medical care," says Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, family and emergency doctor. "The symptoms of coronavirus may be mild but for some they can be critically life-threatening." Getting your doctor's opinion can help plot your next steps—and/or offer comfort.

7

 Can you please make sure I have enough medication refills at the pharmacy?

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"For patients with chronic illness on critical medications, it is essential both to ensure an adequate supply of these medications and also minimize the number of pharmacy visits they have to make to reduce the risk of exposure," says Barsky. "This can be accomplished if they ask their doctor to prescribe a large number of medications whenever possible, and ideally with refills. Note that this option may not be available for all medications." Additionally, find a pharmacy that delivers, so you don't need to leave the house.

8

What treatments are you seeing that are effective?

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Every day, doctors are learning something new about how to combat COVID-19. Although you don't want to waste their time peppering them with questions better asked over a beer, it is appropriate to inquire what forms of treatment they've seen alleviate pain and discomfort. Without a cure, they cannot guarantee your coronavirus will "go away," but they can share their findings and work with you to find relief.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 40 Things You Should Never Touch Due to Coronavirus.

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Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more