What it's like to have asymptomatic or mild covid.
My son's daycare teacher tested positive for COVID-19, so I had to get him tested before he could return. We went to urgent care on Sunday, July 12th. There was a long wait, so I decided I'd go ahead and get tested since I was already there. I had some strange symptoms over the previous two days, but I shrugged them off. As pretty much anyone with a toddler knows, it's not uncommon to feel extremely tired and short of breath at times.
Did the Nasal Swab Hurt?
Sort of. The nasopharyngeal swab is extremely uncomfortable. Your eyes will water and it stings a bit. Fortunately, it only takes a few seconds to collect a sample for each nostril.
Wait Time for Covid Swab Results
I waited 4 days for my results. As I waited, I went about life as normal. Well... about as normal as you can call our post-pandemic lives. The urgent care only calls you if a swab comes back positive result. If you don't get a call, you'll receive an email with the results to confirm a negative result.
I'd pretty much forgotten about the test when I got the call. Mills seemed totally fine aside from being irritable. I'd been feeling sort of off all week. It crossed my mind once or twice that it could be coronavirus, but I chalked it up having little sleep and chasing a toddler. During the days I was balancing daddy daycare with Mills home and staying up late at night to finish a big new feature for Wavve.
I never answer my phone. 99% of calls are spam, but when I saw a missed call from the urgent care, I figured it was my son's result that had come back positive. I was shocked when the voice on the other end said, "Mr. Fogle, we have your results. You are positive for COVID-19. You should quarantine for another 10 days. Be sure to rest and stay hydrated. If you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, bluish lips, or sudden confusion, go to your nearest emergency room. Do you have any questions?"
The news surprised me. I'd been impressed with all of the procedures his daycare implemented for reducing transmission events. They had a policy that if a family member tests positive, you have to quarantine for 14 days before returning. An individual in his class was pulled out as soon as a family member's tested came back. A few days later, we learned that this person had tested positive for the virus. At the time I thought his daycare caught it before they were contagious, but looking back, they were probably asymptomatic and already shedding the virus in the days before leaving to quarantine.
Is this symptom Coronavirus or is it in my head?
I've been a Cyberchondriac for a long as I can remember. As soon as I received the news, I dove into research. Before long, the symptoms I'd previously been able to shrug off consumed my every thought. I let my mind run wild for a period and eventually reigned them in after recognizing these thoughts and sensations for what they were - mostly in my head. After months of COVID-19 negativity and stories of young people dying, it's difficult to not feel some level of anxiety over the news that you caught it.
The internet is not your friend when it comes to independent coronavirus research. You're either finding atypical horror stories, unhelpful anecdotes, or generic advice that's pretty much the same on every medical help website.
Stay home and rest. Hydrate. Monitor your symptoms. Go the ER or call 911 if you experience one of these symptoms.
☝️ This annoyed me. I wanted to monitor my symptoms with greater precision. I also wanted comfort to know what was in my head and what was real.
Take control and monitor your COVID-19 symptoms
Using Fingertip Oximeter
The scariest thing about the novel coronavirus is how it impacts the lungs. I've read horror stories about people who had no symptoms, their lips suddenly turned blue and they ended up on a ventilator with lung damage. A few weeks ago, I made a well-timed impulse buy on Amazon, this $30 blood O2 sensor. This inexpensive diagnostic tool can be a great comfort and could save your life.
I checked my blood oxygen level every few hours. The idea is to establish a baseline and watch for changes. Mine was mostly in the 94% - 97% range. Make sure you follow the instructions to take a correct measurement. Also, you'll want to avoid talking or strenuous activity while the device is taking a reading.
There were some negative Amazon reviews about these devices not being accurate, so I did a little experiment. I exhaled all the air from my lungs with the oximeter on my finger. Then I waited for it to drop. There was a slight delay, but after 10-20 seconds, it dropped down to the low 80% range. This gave me a better sense of what it would feel like to be that depleted of blood oxygen.
A Covid-19 Symptom and Progression Tracker
As soon as my swab came back positive, I wanted to know exactly where I was with the virus progression. Most of the research was unhelpful and pretty discouraging, so I started logging any potential symptoms I'd experience in the previous 10 days in Roam Research. Then I created a spreadsheet to track Covid progression from possible transmission to the swab date. You can check out this dedicated post for your own tracking template and a description of how it works.
Covid-19: Asymptomatic versus Mild Symptoms
Today I'm glad to be symptom free, and I'm extremely fortunate to have had a such a mild case of COVID-19. There's a lot of subjectivity around what constitutes an asymptomatic case of COVID-19 and what counts as mild symptoms. If I hadn't been tested, I don't think I would've ever concluded that the fatigue and shortness of breath were coronavirus symptoms. It just felt like I was having an "off" week.
Currently only 1 out of 100 people in the US have tested positive for Covid-19. After my experience, I suspect the number is at least 2-3x higher. Part of this is simply due to the fact that people aren't going to get tested if they don't feel really sick. Another issue here is the frequency of false negative tests.
Mills' swab came back negative for Covid-19 which was just as surprising as the news that I was positive for it. Particularly given the frequency of false negative reports. I did some research and found an article from Harvard discussing the likelihood of false negatives.