The perfect storm of a pandemic is a hypochondriac’s nightmare. Every stray cough, sniffle, or sneeze is a reason to be terrified of having coronavirus, or COVID-19. Add in concerns that many have about an elderly loved one who might be more susceptible to the illness’s greater symptoms, and it’s understandable to be more concerned than normal these days.
With that in mind, there are a few particular symptoms to look out for in members of the elder population.
First, practice social distancing
The best way to prevent parents from catching COVID-19 is to not expose them to it. That means no visits, no time spent together, no outings, whenever possible. But that isn’t always possible, especially if an adult child is the primary lifeline for the elderly parent.
Earliest symptoms to watch for
The CDC warns that symptoms can take anywhere from 2-14 days to develop. There is some evidence that the senses of smell and taste are the first to be affected, resulting in decreased ability to do either one. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN cited anosmia, loss of smell, as one of the earliest symptoms.
Other symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Fever can be tough to diagnose in others, especially if the person who might have the fever is stubborn. For those who can take temperatures, both their own and their older parents, that should be a regular practice. A cough, though, is an easier telltale sign to watch for. COVID-19 often presents with a dry cough. If an older parent is coughing more than normal, especially if the cough is a dry, unproductive one, it can be a warning.
The more serious symptom is shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. COVID-19 can make simply getting a good breath difficult. American Medical Association president, Dr. Patrice Harris, has said that shortness of breath is enough of a warning sign that any difficulty in taking a good breath is cause to immediately contact a health care provider, urgent care facility, or emergency department.
Less common symptoms
Initially, the common belief was that digestive issues, like diarrhea and nausea, were not connected with COVID-19. More recent research has shown that such issues might be more common, presenting in about 1 in 20 sufferers.
A National Center for Biotechnology Information study has shown that another set of atypical symptoms include malaise, disorientation or fatigue.
There are many ways COVID-19 can present. If a senior parent starts to display any of them, the first step should be to contact (by phone) his or her primary care doctor or available coronavirus hotlines for further steps to take. They will advise whether to take steps to get the senior parent tested.
From there, the next steps could include testing, doctor visits, or especially if COVID-19 is confirmed, hospitalization.