Coronavirus: Recognize the Symptoms

Table of Contents:

  1. Symptoms to Look Out For
  2. Ways to Stay Safe
  3. Seeking Treatment

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has governments and health organizations scrambling to stem the flow of disinformation and keep citizens safe. So far, they’ve only been partially successful.

Organizations including the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) warn that seniors are especially vulnerable to infection, serious symptoms, and even death during the COVID-19 outbreak. While they encourage all citizens to stay calm, they also recommend taking action to limit the virus’ spread.

Symptoms to Look Out For

COVID-19 symptoms can appear anywhere between 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure. The disease comes from the same family as common respiratory illnesses like the common cold, as well as more severe, headline-making illnesses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). As such, the symptoms should feel largely familiar to anyone who has contracted a respiratory illness in the past.

These symptoms include:


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  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Left unchecked, these symptoms can evolve into more serious concerns like pneumonia and organ failure. Seniors with pre-existing health conditions are advised to monitor symptoms especially closely.

Ways to Stay Safe

Even mild symptoms are more than you probably want to contend with. Thankfully, reducing your risk of exposure does not mean taking drastic measures or even putting on a surgical mask. The CDC and WHO encourage seniors (everyone, for that matter) to follow the same health best practices they would during annual cold and flu season.

These include:

  • Good respiratory hygiene. Seniors should cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of their arm and dispose of all tissues promptly.
  • Social distancing. While social distancing isn’t always practical for city-dwelling seniors, health experts encourage keeping a social distance of around three feet wherever possible. This is especially crucial around anyone who appears symptomatic.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. Seniors are far more likely to contract COVID-19 from a surface than from an airborne particle. Use simple household cleaners to limit your risk of exposure.
  • Handwashing. This is far and away the easiest and most effective way to reduce your chances of catching COVID-19. CDC estimates suggest that handwashing alone could prevent 1 in 5 respiratory infections. Don’t forget, there’s a right way to wash your hands and a wrong way. Check out our detailed guide for more information on the former.

Seeking Treatment

If you believe that you or a loved one has contracted COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Make sure that you call ahead and describe your symptoms before visiting the hospital or doctor’s office. That’ll ensure providers have ample time to prepare for your arrival and mitigate the risk of additional infections.

Symptomatic seniors should only leave the house to receive medical attention. Staying home from work and avoiding public transportation will keep your symptoms from spreading to unsuspecting bystanders. Wearing a facemask, even in the home, will serve a similar purpose. Keep in mind that only those who are infected or symptomatic should worry about wearing a mask.

Continue to check in with credible sources like CDC, WHO, and Senior Life Advisor as the outbreak evolves.