When (and how) to seek medical care in an era of social distancing

Respiratory symptoms can be concerning, especially for people living with asthma or COPD. Now, with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, it’s particularly important to know what to do if you begin experiencing symptoms. 

→ If you or someone you live with has symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, you should call your healthcare provider to find out how your symptoms should be treated. Your healthcare provider can tell you what to do or where to go. In cases of emergency, or if you have difficulty breathing, dial 911.

If you experience symptoms, here’s an overview of the care options typically available and when to seek them out.

If you’re experiencing mild symptoms… 

If you have mild symptoms, you should stay home and may want to check in with your healthcare provider to ask if they recommend changes to your therapy or treatment plan.

Your healthcare provider will be able to let you know if you need to be seen and whether telemedicine is available in your community. 

Different doctors will have different options for taking care of you while you’re at home. Some may be able to video chat. Others may be available by phone, email or text message to discuss your symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider what remote options are available and choose what works best for you. 

If your symptoms start to worsen… 

If you have symptoms that are worsening (but are not an emergency), call your healthcare provider’s office right away. The CDC recommends you describe your symptoms on the phone before you visit your healthcare provider to receive instructions about where and how to get medical care, so that precautions can be taken to keep you and others safe. 

For any in-person medical appointments, wear a face mask if one is available, and try to maintain a distance of six feet or more from other people whenever possible. 

If you have emergency symptoms… 

If you experience any of the following emergency symptoms, as defined by the CDC, you should dial 911 and describe your symptoms to the operator: 

  • Worsening of your breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Bluish lips or fingers

Note: This list of emergency symptoms is not comprehensive and you should always contact a medical professional if your symptoms are severe or concerning. 


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