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If you follow along on the Facebook page you’ll know this past week I tested positive for Covid 19. It was a bit of a shock but probably inevitable considering I work in the hospital.

In fairness, my clinical activity has been much lower in recent weeks as believe it or not, there is less need for a diabetes dietitian in the current climate. So although I was expecting to get it, I wasn’t expecting to be one of the first in my team.

I asked the question if it would be useful to write about my experiences with Covid 19 and the response was an overwhelming yes.

I stress these are only my symptoms. You or someone else may experience different symptoms and so this account is only my story of Covid 19.

First day of symptoms of Covid 19

I developed a very subtle cough on day one, which was the Friday. So subtle in fact, I didn’t even think I had a cough. My colleagues at work joked about it when they heard me clear my throat. The reason they joked is because I have a cough all year round anyway. A loose sphincter at the top of my stomach causes some silent reflux which irritates my oesophagus. This manifests itself as a frequent cough.

This is exacerbated by the usual culprits like alcohol, high sugar and fat foods, exercise etc. I’d had a bottle of wine over the course of the previous few days prior to day one so I just assumed it was the silent reflux playing up rather than Covid 19 related.

What’s more, I went for a 5km run on the Friday morning and posted one of my best times ever. I felt good and so had no reason to think otherwise. The exception was this very subtle additional cough which may or may not have been reflux.

Days 2-4 of Covid 19

My first real symptoms started about 3am on the Saturday morning. I woke with an awful chill over me. This then flipped between cold and hot spells for the next few days. I’d be sweating when the temperature was mild and shivering when covered in layers and under a blanket.

These were symptoms I’d had before. I’d had them previously when I developed flu many years ago. I also developed them when I’d had a dodgy takeaway a few months ago. I’d actually had the same takeaway the night before (don’t ask me why I went back!) so once again there was another variable thrown into the equation that may have been causing the symptoms. Still I did not suspect Covid 19.

I also felt very heady. By that I mean I had a heat on my head and a kind of pressure in there.

Yet the cough hadn’t developed, my temperature was normal and I was not short of breath. In fact, I was displaying none of the big symptoms. Though I was unwell, I was more annoyed at not being able to get stuff done I had planned.

I was still functional. I wasn’t feeling nauseas but I suppose looking back, I had flu like symptoms, which came in waves. A regular dosing of paracetamol probably helped see to that. Paracetamol really was a god send in those first few days.

I had a decision to make regarding work. After speaking with my boss I decided to stay home as a precaution. I think it helps put my symptoms into perspective. I wasn’t feeling well but I was still in 2 minds about whether I should go in. Had this not been a Covid 19 world, I probably would have manned up. Being a bit more active actually helped the symptoms and took my mind off it. I found when I was lying around, it was when the symptoms really kicked in.

My boss organised a swab test on the Monday to see if I could get conclusive result about my symptoms. We then knew whether I’d need to stay off and whether my wife would need to enter a 2 week self isolation. As fate would have it, she too would develop symptoms that evening, meaning if I did test positive, she too would now need to self isolate for 7 days.

Days 5-7 of Covid 19

The test result came back on the Tuesday and was positive. This was a shock because I still had no cough, no temperature and no shortness of breath. The Sunday, Monday and Tuesday had bought some intense muscle aches.

Once again though it was hard to separate out the symptoms. I’d been laying down for most of the day for 3 days straight so my back had seized up. Years of sport will see to that. So I couldn’t distinguish if it was due to the Covid 19 or whether I was just a bit sore.

In fact, on the Tuesday (day 5), I felt much better. The cold chills and hot sweats had finally broken. Now I almost felt like the back end of a cold but with one big difference. The fatigue. I felt very sluggish and very weak. Even texting was an effort.

As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of my symptoms were there but I couldn’t quite put my finger on them. So although I clearly wasn’t well, the symptoms were mild enough to second guess them. Do I have a cough, I’m not sure? Do I have muscle aches or am I just a bit stiff?

The Tuesday did bring a bit more of a pronounced cough. However, it wasn’t like coughs I’ve had in the past. I used to suffer with chest infections when I was younger and that’s a cough! You’re constantly coughing and unable to sleep at night. Covid 19 for me was nothing like this. Every 10-20 minutes I’d need to take a deep breath and clear my throat. It was fine really.

It was also Tuesday I noticed I couldn’t quite take a full breath and felt my breathing was slightly more shallow. Admittedly, this was before bed and my wife was reading out to me the expected timeline of certain symptoms developing. As she was reading them aloud I could feel myself developing each one instantaneously with shortness of breath being the main culprit. Had she not said anything and I hadn’t tested positive for Covid 19 that day, I’d probably have not thought twice about it. So it wasn’t like a sudden lack of oxygen.

Over the next couple of days I felt fine on the whole. I was experiencing drops in energy between days. Tuesday I felt good. Wednesday I had an overwhelming fatigue. Thursday I’d pushed on again and Friday I’d dropped back slightly but overall felt I was past it.

How am I now

I kind of feel like there is some residual cold lurking. Again, it’s hard to tell after one week having a complete break from my usual routine. I was also sleeping much more and generally lazying about. It turns out when you’re just laid around the house you develop a rather uncanny ability to fall asleep in all different positions throughout the house. So I was inevitably going to feel a bit more sluggish after a week of that. It’s very similar to when I went travelling. Out went exercise and looking after myself and in came late mornings, naps and a much more relaxed approach to life. I felt rather sluggish back then too.

I am due to return to work tomorrow and I feel ready. Once I’m back into my routine I’m sure I’ll be back at 100% and feeling good.

Don’t go out if you have symptoms

What was quite striking about all this was none of my symptoms are the ones I’d been told to watch out for. Yes flu like symptoms are on the list but the ones we mainly focus on are a cough, temperature and shortness of breath. Going by that and without access to testing for Covid 19, I could have carried on as normal.

Therefore, don’t think because you lack certain symptoms you do not have it. If you experience any symptoms that feel viral I’d urge you to self isolate for 1 week. It’s very easy to feel like I did where I nearly went into work. Luckily I didn’t as I’d have taken the entire team down. So please practice caution and think before going outside if you are symptomatic.

Why was my Covid 19 so mild

I suspect there’s several reasons. In reality, my journey through the virus is probably more common. The stories we read about in newspapers are the worst cases. Granted there are a lot of people dying and it is scary. Particularly if you are in the high risk group. However, most people will only get mild symptoms.

If I told you 36,000 people die each year from pollution related illness and reported that in the paper everyday you’d see 98 people die each day. It’s not quite as shocking as the Covid 19 statistics but pollution is something we don’t even think about as being a killer really.

So I think the media have a big role in how we view this. It’s good because it keeps us aware of the dangers but it does raise the fear factor.

I suppose I am lucky to have experienced such mild symptoms. I’m also young (35 at the time of writing) and generally look after myself. I’ve exercised 5-6 times per week since I was about 10 years old and eat pretty healthy. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself and have a few beers and feed my tremendous sweet tooth. It means I’m healthy most of the time.

I manage my weight and have no medical conditions except asthma. However, this is mild, though I’d argue so because I keep myself fit. When I don’t exercise, the asthma gets worse.

It could have very easily gone a different way. However, what I have done with my lifestyle is make my body much more robust to deal with such viruses. When we think about it, Covid 19 is maybe the 4th or 5th virus like this in recent times. It just so happens it is only Covid 19 that has caused such a big problem.

An opportunity to get healthy

I think what Covid 19 has taught us is we aren’t invincible. The idea of things never happening to us is now out the window. It’s happening and we’re living it.

We’re also a nightmare for looking after ourselves. For whatever reason, our health always seems to be bottom of priority list.

For me, this is a big opportunity to take hold of our health and make sure it’s one of the top priorities every day. Especially with reduced services in the NHS as it battles to deal with Covid 19. It means we are on our own much more when it comes to managing our health.

If you’re like some of the people I know, who are high risk but using the lockdown as an excuse to have a booze fuelled jolly, I’d urge you to have a re-think. Covid 19 isn’t going anywhere unless a vaccine can be found. Once the lock down is lifted, it doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get it and you are no longer at risk. It just means the hospital capacity is able to cope with a new wave of patients and so we can relax the measures in place.

Therefore, I encourage you to start looking at your diet and more importantly your exercise regime and start to own your health. If you’ve already started then terrific. If you haven’t, there really is no time like the present.

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