When COVID-19 Requires Urgent Care

Jul 12, 2022
When COVID-19 Requires Urgent Care
The official guidance regarding COVID-19 has changed so often, you may be wondering what to do if you test positive. Is it safe to go to urgent care? Do you need to see a doctor at all? Here, we discuss how to know when COVID-19 requires urgent care.

In early 2020, before vaccines and variants, you knew you needed to get emergency care if you had COVID-19 and your symptoms were severe. So many things have changed — and then changed again — that we thought it would be helpful to review what requires urgent care if you have COVID-19 now, in the summer of 2022.

The staff at Carolina Urgent Care, led by Dr. Wilby Kurian, provides urgent care for the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, community. If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, especially if you have significant risk factors for severe disease, we encourage you to continue reading and learn the signs that should send you to seek urgent care. 

When you test positive

If you know that you’ve been exposed, or you begin to show symptoms at all, you should take a rapid test. If that test is positive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following steps: 

  • Stay at home unless you need medical care
  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days
  • Don’t travel for 10 days
  • Stay away from others as much as possible 
  • Monitor your symptoms
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands often
  • Sanitize surfaces in your home often
  • Avoid sharing personal items with people in your house

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread through respiration. When someone who has the virus breathes out, microscopic droplets enter the air. If you breathe those droplets in, you may become infected. 

In early 2020, most guidance suggested staying at least six feet from other people in order to avoid breathing in their exhalations. We know now that six feet is often not far enough, and that the respiratory droplets can linger in the air for quite some time. 

Additionally, current variants are far more transmissible than earlier ones. That means it’s much easier for you to contract the virus. 

What symptoms to expect

In the early days of the pandemic, most people knew that shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell were common symptoms. Although those can still be symptoms, they’re less common. The range of symptoms people with COVID-19 may have is quite large and includes: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Not everyone who has COVID-19 has these symptoms, and these aren’t all of the symptoms you may have. The range of symptoms and high transmissibility of the variants that are currently circulating make testing especially important.  

How to know you need urgent care

You may be surprised by how bad you can feel if you have numerous symptoms! When doctors describe a case of COVID-19 as “mild,” patients are often surprised. However, there are warning signs that require urgent care, including: 

  • Trouble breathing beyond shortness of breath
  • Pressure or persistent pain in your chest
  • Feeling confused
  • Being unable to stay awake or to wake up
  • Pale, gray, or bluish appearance to your lips, skin, or nail-beds

Anyone with COVID-19 has some risk of developing severe symptoms, even those who are vaccinated or who have had it before. However, some people have an increased risk. 

If you’re pregnant or have a chronic health condition such as heart disease or diabetes, you should be extra cautious in monitoring your symptoms. Regardless of your health status, we’re happy to answer your questions by phone or in person. If you need urgent care to treat COVID-19, we can make an appointment for you, or you can simply come to our clinic.


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