COVID-19: Infection and care

Most people with COVID-19 develop cold and flu-like symptoms that can last up to two weeks. Find out how to manage your symptoms, what to do if you take medication or need to use equipment and caring for children with COVID-19.

Last updated: 14 July 2022

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Managing your symptoms

Most symptoms can be managed with:

  • bed rest (if lying down, change position every 30 minutes to two hours)
  • taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve headaches, aches and fevers
  • keeping hydrated with regular sips of water
  • honey or lozenges for a sore throat
  • decongestants for a blocked nose.

It is important to track your symptoms every day in case you become more unwell and need urgent medical care. 

You are likely to recover within 7 days. Some people may have symptoms that last longer. If you are still unwell, stay home.

COVID-19 symptoms and when to seek medical advice

If you have COVID and you’ve been asked to isolate at home, here’s some information about your symptoms – and when and who to phone.

You’ll be given the number for a healthcare team in case you need them. While you’re isolating you’ll need to keep an eye on your symptoms. You might be asked to take some recordings like your heart rate and oxygen levels.

What does that mean?

IT MEANS YOU MEASURE THEM AND WRITE THEM DOWN. Even if you’re feeling ok.

These are the things you’ll need to check and write down.

Taking your temperature IF YOU HAVE A THERMOMETER - not everyone gets a fever

but it’s worth knowing how to do it.

You may need to measure your blood oxygen levels and heart rate using a pulseoximeter.

YOU SHOULD RECORD HOW YOU’RE FEELING AT DIFFERENT TIMES OF THE DAY……better? … or worse?

How your breathing is GOING

And any new symptoms you have.

Knowing WHEN and WHO to call for help is really important.

CALL 111 IF:

  • you have a sudden change in breathing or bad chest pain (clutching chest)
  • you’re confused or not thinking clearly. (person looking confused or a bitbewildered)
  • you’re feeling faint or pass out (someone faints)

CALL THE HEALTHCARE TEAM IF:

  • you have new or worse trouble breathing (new visuals for each symptom)
  • your symptoms are getting worse (clutching head or tummy)
  • you start feeling better, but then get worse (sitting on side of bed, feeling unwell)
  • you have a VERY dry mouth, aren’t peeing much or are feeling light-headed (CU face) Remember, if in doubt – give them a shout!

Managing your COVID-19 symptoms

It’s important to rest at home and drink plenty of liquids when you have COVID.

Here are some ways to ease some of the symptoms you might be experiencing.

I’ve had a few aches and pains and my healthcare team said I could take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with fever, body aches and headaches.

My nose has gone from blocked to runny and I’ve been coughing a bit. So, I’m allowed to use a nasal spray, decongestants, lozenges and cough mixture.

I’ve tried a couple of things for my sore throat, like salt-water gargle. (pulls a face)

A Teaspoon of honey went down a bit better!!

I got the pharmacy to deliver lozenges and some throat spray.

I’ve been throwing up and pooing all day. It’s not fun, but I’m keeping my fluids up, best I can. Sucking an ice-cube or ice-block is good.

Even if you experience mild or no symptoms, it’s important to stay hydrated – this means drink plenty of liquids or rehydration drinks like Gastrolyte.

Keep monitoring your symptoms so you can stay on top of any changes. Avoid running, or strenuous exercise.

Just chill.

You can do this and if at anytime you have any concerns that healthcare team is just a phone call away.

COVID-19 and medicines

Continue to take any regular medication. Some people will be prescribed medication to reduce their chance of needing hospital level care.

If you take medication for long-term health conditions, there’s some information you might find useful while COVID-19 is in our communities.

Pharmacist: While there is COVID circulating in your community, if you have a long-term health condition that you are taking medicines for, you might have some questions. 

Should you keep taking them? How much supply should you have on hand? 

Here are some COVID-19 and your medicines ‘dos and don’ts’.

Make sure you have enough medicine to last a few weeks.

Contact your GP to get any new prescriptions you might need.  

Set reminders to take your medicine on time if staying home is a change to your usual routine. 

Be sure you get your flu vaccine – it’s free if you’re 65 or older, pregnant or have a chronic condition. Check with your doctor or nurse for more information. 

Being protected against the flu helps keep you healthy and hospital beds free. 

Contact your pharmacist  – that’s me – if you have any questions at all about any medicine you’re taking. 

It’s really important not to stop, or reduce your dose of your regular medicine, unless your GP has told you to.  

Also – don’t take herbal, homeopathic or natural remedies without checking with a pharmacist or your GP. There are none that have been shown to be effective against COVID-19. 

Woman: Kia ora. With my high blood pressure and asthma, is it ok to keep taking my meds if I get COVID? 

Pharmacist: Yes, it’s important you keep taking them. Don’t stop any of your regular ones without checking with your doctor. 

This advice applies to people living with a wide range of conditions like arthritis, COPD, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, asthma etc.  

On screen:

  1. Don’t stop taking your regular medicine without advice 
  2. Have enough medicine to last a few weeks 
  3. Take your medicines on time 
  4. Get your flu shot 
  5. Talk to your pharmacist or GP about any other medicines or natural remedies you’re taking. 

Narrator: You can do this! Remember if you’re concerned about your health, ring your GP or the free 24/7 Healthline number 0800 611 116. 

On screen:

  • Health Navigator New Zealand
  • Te Poari Hauora Ā Rohe O Te Tai Tokerau/Northland District Health Board
  • Ministry of Health/Manatū Hauora

hn.org.nz/covid-and-medicines 

In partnership with Northland DHB and the Ministry of Health

Animation by Benchmedia Infotainment & Content Solutions

How to use a pulse oximeter

You may be provided with a pulse oximeter if your local healthcare provider thinks you might need one.

Man: Kia ora tatou. So you're at home feeling under the weather with COVID.

Your healthcare team will provide you with heaps of information about how to stay safe at home, including how to keep an eye on your symptoms and when to call for help.

One of the things they might give you is a pulse oximeter. You may not have heard of these things before, so listen up, because using one might become part of your daily checks.

What is a pulse oximeter?

Man: A pulse oximeter uses a tiny light beam to measure oxygen levels in your blood cells, and your pulse.

On your pulse oximeter, your pulse, also known as your heart rate, is measured in heartbeats per minute or PRbpm.

Your oxygen levels are measured as a percentage and could show as SpO2% on the oximeter.

On screen: SpO2% = Saturation percentage of oxygen

Man: COVID can cause your blood levels of oxygen to fall or your heart rate to get faster. These are signs that you might need help, or you might need to call an ambulance.

On screen: Call 111

Man: If you’ve been asked to use one, you need to use it three times a day until you’ve recovered from COVID.

Understanding the readings

Man: Understanding the readings is easy.

A normal pulse for adults is between 50 and 99.

A pulse of 100 to 119 means you need to tell your healthcare team or GP straightaway.

A pulse of 120 or more, you should call 111 for urgent care.

Normal oxygen levels are 95 to 100%.

For an oxygen reading of 92 to 94%, contact your healthcare team.

An oxygen reading below 92% means you should call 111 for urgent care.

On screen: People with pre-existing respiratory conditions may have a different ‘normal’. Please talk to your healthcare team or GO about what your reading should be.

Man: Now it's important to know the difference between the pulse and the oxygen readings. Don't mix these two up.

Signs to watch for

Man: Don't just rely on a pulse oximeter to work out your oxygen levels. You must also watch for these signs that must be reported immediately:

  • blueish colouring on your face, lips or nails
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing or a cough that gets worse
  • restlessness and discomfort
  • chest pain or tightness
  • fast or racing pulse.

You're probably wondering how to use one of these things.

Prepare

Man: Wash your hands and remove any nail polish or false nails.

Rest for at least five minutes before taking the reading. If your hands are cold, warm them by rubbing them together.

Your hand should be at waist level. Try resting your hand on a table or the arm of a chair.

Take a reading

Man: Make sure the batteries are inserted into the pulse oximeter and try to have a supply of new batteries handy.

Switch the pulse oximeter on, the display will light up. Squeeze to open and put your finger in until it touches the end. It's best on the middle or index finger. If it doesn't work, try another finger.

Keep your hands still for one to two minutes until your pulse reading is steady and your oxygen number has not changed for five seconds or more. If your numbers are not steady, try a different finger.

Record your numbers

Man: Record both numbers to track any changes.

On screen: The man holds up the oximeter, and text on screen points to the oxygen level (96) and the Pulse/Heart rate (76) that are displayed.

The man writes down his numbers on a tracking sheet.

Man: Your pulse and oxygen level numbers are easy to mix up. So record them carefully.

Keeping your diary up to date is really important. So your healthcare team knows what's going on.

Measure and record your numbers three times a day at about the same time every day.

You should take extra measurements if you feel a change in your health or your symptoms.

Pulse oximeter for children

Man: There's a special pulse oximeter for our young ones. Now most children with COVID won’t need one and will only receive a child's pulse oximeter if they do.

Children over 30kg, about 10 years or older, can use an adult pulse oximeter as long as their finger goes all the way to the end.

Using an adult pulse oximeter on smaller children may give an inaccurate reading. So for children under 30kg, that's most nine year olds or younger, such as Willow [daughter who appears with him], they’ll need a child's pulse oximeter.

Prepare the oximeter and record as you do for adults, starting with hand washing and removing nail polish.

For kids, oxygen levels are the same as adults.

On screen:

Oxygen levels

  • 95-100% = Normal
  • 92-94% = Contact your healthcare team or GP
  • Below 92% = Call 111

Man: Remember, don’t just rely on the pulse oximeter.

Other symptoms of low oxygen levels that need to be reported immediately can be if your child has blue lips and tongue, has difficulty breathing, has episodes of irregular breathing or stopped breathing, is unconscious or you can’t wake them up properly.

Man: If at any time a child has trouble breathing or the symptoms keep getting worse. You know what to do.

Girl: Call 111.

Man: Tika. Pō mārie.

Girl: Pō mārie, Dad.

On screen:

For more information, visit hn.org.nz/oximeter.

Limitations in using pulse oximeters

On screen: If you have any breathing problems, phone your healthcare team for advice.

Do not rely on a pulse oximeter alone to assess your health condition or oxygen level.

That's because a pulse oximeter is only a measurement device. And there's lots of things that can affect the accuracy of a pulse oximeter reading:

  • Poor blood circulation
  • Skin pigmentation/colouring
  • Skin thickness and temperature
  • Current tobacco use
  • Fingernail polish
  • Artificial nails, tattoos and dyes
  • Cleanliness of device

Credits:

  • Health Care Home
  • Health Navigator New Zealand
  • Ministry of Health

Positions to make breathing easier

COVID-19 often causes problems with breathing. By changing position regularly, it can make it easier to breathe and get air to different parts of your lungs.

COVID-19 often causes problems with breathing. It’s been found that changing position regularly can make it easier to breathe and gets air to different parts of your lungs.

Lying on your back can make it harder to breathe, so try a few different positions: (character does this along with script)

Roll towards your tummy as far as you can, maybe with a pillow under your arm and leg.

Lying on the right side.

Lying on the left side.

Then back to lying on your belly.

Maybe try lying on an angle in a lazyboy, or propped on an angle with pillows instead?

Aim for about two hours or at least 30 minutes in each position if you can manage it.

Use pillows under your:

  • head and neck
  • chest
  • pelvis
  • and lower legs [see images] to make yourself more comfortable.

It’s better to wait an hour or so after eating to try these positions out, (especially lying on your tummy!)

If you’re still feeling short of breath, here are a few more things you can try.

Try a sitting position. Support your arms on your legs, on another surface, or against a wall.

I’m going to give forward leaning a go. You lean forward from the waist with your head and neck resting on a pillow and your arms on a table.

Oh, that’s helping. I might just try it without the pillow and rest my head on my hands.

If you don’t have a table handy, you can use a walker or sit on a chair. Lean forward to rest your arms on your lap or on the armrests of the chair.

And you can lean forward while standing too. Like on a windowsill or the edge of the deck.

You don’t need to just lean forwards either. You can lean against a wall or a tree, or anything.

Make sure your hands are by your side, your feet are about 30cm away from the wall, and slightly apart.

You can do this! Remember if you have new, or worse trouble breathing and have concerns, call 111.

Better breathing:

  1. Lying on your back can make it harder to breathe.
  2. Try lying in different positions for 30 minutes or more.
  3. Use a pillow to make yourself more comfortable.
  4. Standing up and leaning on hard surfaces can help.
  5. Know when to call for help.

hn.org.nz/breathing-positions

Caring for tamariki with COVID-19

It can be an anxious time when tamariki (children) get COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms. Guidance for caring for tamariki with COVID-19 (Word, 299 KB), (PDF, 231 KB)

The Starship Foundation have produced this video for people who are caring for tamariki with a cough, a runny nose or a fever. 

Medicines to treat COVID-19

There are medicines available to treat COVID-19. If you test positive for COVID-19 and have other health issues or long-term conditions, talk to your GP, community pharmacy, or health care provider as soon as possible. They will advise if COVID-19 medicines are suitable for you.

More information: About COVID-19 medicines

Payment for medical costs

Currently, COVID-19 healthcare is fully funded for eligible patients up to six weeks from the first day you develop symptoms or the date of your first positive test, whichever is earlier. This includes one follow-up check with your healthcare provider if required during those six weeks, once your acute episode of COVID-19 is over.

After you have had the follow-up check, if you required one, and it is determined that you no longer have acute COVID-19, you will then need to pay for your future GP consultations and prescription dispensing fees, just as you would for other medical conditions, even if it is within the six-week period.

Long COVID

Most people who get COVID-19 recover fully within weeks of testing positive, but some may go on to develop longer term symptoms– known as ‘long COVID’. 

Long COVID is when symptoms persist for weeks and sometimes months after acute illness. Even people who initially had no symptoms may go on to develop long COVID.

If after recovering from the initial COVID-19 infection you still feel unwell, make sure you contact your general practice to discuss next steps in your care.

More information about long COVID

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