OPINION

Coughs, colds, coronavirus and a valuable lesson: what I learnt at the GP

Coughs, colds, COVID-19 and a valuable lesson: what I learnt at the GP

I'm learning new things every day in this coronavirus climate.

Like the differences in symptoms between a cold and COVID-19, when you should call the hotlines, how to cancel annual leave because everything you've booked has fallen through.

This week I've learnt how to correctly put on a medical mask after causing a slight ripple of panic in a doctor's surgery. And then what it's like to walk around in public with one on.

I went to bed with a ticklish throat and by midnight it'd turned into razor blades. Come morning, I wasn't much better.

"That's ok," I thought, remembering the house guest who spent a couple of days laid up in the spare room with a dirty cold before coming good.

"You were thinking of going to the doctor anyway, just get it checked out too so you know if you can go back to the office."

Already working from home, but wanting the option to sit at a real desk if the opportunity arose, I figured it was best to get an all-clear.

I didn't meet the widely-shared criteria to call the COVID-19 hotlines - no, I haven't been overseas lately, no I haven't been in contact with confirmed cases, no I've barely been anywhere - so called ahead to the GP.

I answered the same questions (which I would hear repeated over and over again while waiting to see a doctor - honestly, medical receptionists deserve medals) and it was deemed I could come in and I'd be given a mask for precautionary measures.

I forgot to ask how to put it on properly, but I had a shot anyway. I don't think anyone else had a mask on. I took a selfie and sent a jokey snapchat to some friends with the caption "am I doing this right?".

And then as I walked into the doctor's room, I coughed. With my (unbeknownst to me) inside out mask that turns out wasn't doing much of a job at all.

And almost caused a mild panic.

From a safe distance, my doctor gave me a new mask and took me through the correct application process. Blue part and nose strip on the outside (for this type, anyway). Hold the mask over the nose and bend the top of the mask to fit over your nose. Tie the top ties behind your head. Pull the base of the mask down, so it folds out further, pulling it under your chin. Tie the bottom ties behind your head, sealing in the mask base to minimise how much air escapes. Reshape the nose if necessary. Keep those ties tied tight.

Hand washing, do it for a couple of minutes. Do it often. Keep sanitiser handy. Don't share utensils or crockery with housemates or family members until you're feeling better. Don't even wash them together.

Things are changing rapidly with the coronavirus outbreak, day by day. Sometimes by the hour.

What doesn't change is that we all have a job to do in keeping our germs to ourselves and not putting anyone else's immune system in any kind of danger.

And yes, it's just a cold. I'm giving everyone a very wide berth until it's gone.

  • Those suffering acute, cold, flu-like symptoms who have recently returned from travelling or are a contact of a confirmed case are urged to be tested for the virus. To do this, call HealthDirect on 1800 0222 222 to be triaged and advised by a nurse over the phone. Alternatively, contact your GP to book an appointment and let them know in advance if you have symptoms - these might include fever, cough, runny nose or shortness of breath.
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