Photo-illustration by Archi Banal; Photos: Getty Images
Photo-illustration by Archi Banal; Photos: Getty Images

SocietyMarch 23, 2022

I’ve had Covid and here’s my advice

Photo-illustration by Archi Banal; Photos: Getty Images
Photo-illustration by Archi Banal; Photos: Getty Images

Emily Writes (who hasn’t had Covid) put a call out for tips from those who’ve been through it. Here’s what they said.

This post was first published on the author’s newsletter, Emily Writes Weekly.

I have a fair bit of anxiety around Covid-19. I have an immune compromised child and I’m very worried about how he will cope. Not only that, but my husband and I are worried about how we’ll be able to manage his medications and treatments if we get sick. Preparing a Covid-19 kit and finding out what the virus has been like for other families has helped us feel a little more prepared, which helps with anxiety.

So I thought I’d share the tips I’ve been given to help you with your preparation. I thank everyone who so generously shared their experiences with me.

– Emily Writes

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Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I was struggling and my GP was able to prescribe an inhaler and prednisone to support my recovery. I’m glad I didn’t just soldier through, as I’m on day 12 now and still not recovered, so I would hate to think where I could have been without them. Hydralyte ice blocks got my three-year-old daughter through it – parents should stockpile those suckers. / Fern

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The “point and shoot” thermometer was worth every penny. I don’t know why I persisted with the under-tongue one so long. They’re on GrabOne for about $40.

The thermometer is so easy to use that we can actually see the Panadol working on the fever – make sure you have heaps of those, like 500 on prescription, not a packet from the supermarket.

If you can, splurge on the nice tissues with aloe vera in them. Your nose will thank you when you’ve finished a whole box in 48 hours.

Make sure you have honey. Lemon and honey is basic but it’s helping.

You cannot stock up on lemons weeks in advance. I tried. They do not last the way Panadol does.

My breathing is fucked – I’ve found a blue inhaler really helped. If you wouldn’t normally have one, ask your doctor if you can have one for your Covid kit.

Finally, It’s all very well to say “oh the neighbour could help with the dogs” in your Covid plan, but I would recommend actually going for a walk with that person and your dog instead of assuming it’ll be fine. Our two dogs are 45kg each and I feel like people need a few pointers on how to deal with them, which I can’t do when I’m stuck in bed. / Kat

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Rest. All the rest. Even when you think you feel better, rest more. If you’ve got kids, release expectations about parenting them. Do what you need to do. To be honest I felt a little foolish as I was expecting it to be the “mild” illness everyone keeps talking about. I’m 30, otherwise fit and well, no underlying illness and an avid runner.

I got completely floored by it and it terrified me. I’m so grateful I’m vaxxed and boosted. I’m on day 11 and still testing positive via a RAT. Today I attempted a 30 minute walk and my heart rate was 140 (equivalent to what it would be on an easy run!) and I was short of breath for some time afterward. I’m still really scared that I don’t know what’s happening with my body. / Kate

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Nausea meds! I wish I had got them from the doc. They were the only thing I didn’t get in my “kit”. I ended up finding some kids’ “tummy calm” with activated charcoal but it really didn’t cut it. /  Courtney

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Keep a diary of symptoms and meds taken and anything Covid related. I got really bad and Mum was able to tell whoever she called about how I had been managing everything. Also Panadol/ibuprofen for the headaches didn’t do shit for me before I got really bad, Panadeine helped though. / Phillippa

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Rest more than expected. It can feel exhausting to just stand up and cook, so take it easy. Stock up on super quick easy meals or freezer meals. We could have really used Betadine, Strepsils, Panadol. My Olbas Oil inhalant was great as my nose was perpetually blocked. It also would have been useful to have snacks – I had the essentials, but no nice snacks. / Josephine

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The key thing is rest (which is really hard with small kids). Fatigue was the worst for me, trying to look after kids with Covid and still feeling like I had to work, at least to start with, because my symptoms were “mild”. Partway through, my work was clear about being able to take paid special leave. The realisation that I was sick, but this wasn’t lockdown – so I could get support from others to get through it – was big. People loaned us toys for the kids which kept them pretty entertained, along with a lot of screen time so I could rest. / Michelle

‘Rest. All the rest. Even when you think you feel better, rest more’.’ (Photo: Getty Images)

Have a network who can drop off food, or random coffees, or stand at the end of your driveway with balloons for your kid’s birthday. I can’t imagine how overwhelmingly hard it would be to be socially isolated and have Covid.

I wish I had discussed expectations with my work about how I would manage it. I was the first in my workplace to get it, and that was stressful. They were really understanding, but I wish we’d discussed it in advance, for example, “You’re welcome to work from home if you feel well enough, but if you can’t because of your health or caring for others then you can take sick leave/carers leave”. It seems really obvious but I should have had that conversation, especially as I have a kid. Work was totally fine but the pressure of raising it with them (combined with the shock of getting Covid) was immensely stressful. / Sophie

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Panadol, Nurofen, tissues, soup, honey lozenges, rest-rest-rest-rest, ask for help, accept help, order takeaways, a million hours of screen time, give yourself permission to take it easy, don’t overdo it when you start to feel better. / Eva

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Get supplies like Panadol/throat lozenges/inhalers and have them at the ready so you feel mentally prepared. Use fans at night to keep kids’ temperatures down. So much of it is about tempering the anxiety – thankfully our 13-year-old got it first, so we had an idea of what to expect from the younger ones (and ourselves).

Our neighbours have been lovely checking in on us, even though we’re new to the area. Murphy’s law, isolation was supposed to end for four of us today, and the remainder of us tested positive yesterday so it’s almost another full week in isolation.

Try book grocery slots at New World as you can grab a slot and still change your order ahead of them picking your groceries – no such luck with Countdown. Thankful we have the privilege of a full pantry and kids who can help each other make food while we are convalescing in bed. It’s been better/worse than I expected in different ways, having friends to talk to has been a necessity. / Mere

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Painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and easy meals. It’s brutal. We have three kids – 10, eight and three months. I wish we’d had more snacks and ready meals as the older two have had to fend for themselves. / Ash

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Make sure you have Hydralyte, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Rest more than you think you should – just stay in bed. The fever should break in a few days, unless you are immune compromised or it worsens. But take it super easy and listen to your body. Covid is exhausting. I wish that I had known how raspingly sore my throat would be. I made myself endless honey lemon drinks, it felt like my throat was bleeding. / Emma

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Rest as much as possible. Eat and drink whatever you can. Being prepared definitely helped: having a thermometer, oximeter, pain killers, regular medicines. Having someone organised to drop off things. I wish I’d known that it could take several days to test positive (I was day four) and that you test positive for a while (longer than day seven). Work wanted a negative test before returning. / Katherine

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Have lots of painkillers, make sure you rest for at least a week, have easy to eat/make meals or snacks. We moved the couch outside so I could still lie down but have some fresh air. Keep a water bottle next to you at all times. Tell people!! Everyone is soooooo generous, we got heaps of stuff dropped off even though we said no we don’t need anything. / Karina

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Take paracetamol and ibuprofen as soon as you wake up. Keep the meds regimen for a few days at least. Drink loads of water, Coke, whatever helps get fluids in. Rest. Then rest some more. After that, do more resting. I went for my first walk today (seven days after first symptoms) and my heart rate went up to 120 and I felt dizzy. I went super slow. Then I rested. I’m about to take Panadol again as the headache is back.

[Rely on] streaming services, audiobooks, calm music, lots of fresh air. Get sun on your tits (this one purely anecdotal of course) from the safety of your back yard if you have one. The sun felt amazing. Then rest. / Em

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The best thing (apart from my stash of Panadol and Nurofen) has been kindy dropping off a craft pack to help keep the kids entertained. The isolation is worse than a level four lockdown as you can’t even go to the supermarket or pharmacy for an outing. / Claire

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Have plenty of Berocca on hand! The absolute absence of any kind of energy was rough but I’ve started having 4 x Berocca throughout the day and what a difference! / Sarah

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If you are a parent, make sure you have easy fast meals to get out and make, like two minute noodles or frozen packs. Or if you are in the position to, get Uber Eats delivered. Powerade is your best friend too. I’m usually a three litre a day water drinker and I couldn’t get through one litre. Powerade was so good to just sip on. If your friends offer help take them up on it! And REST…throw the mattress on the floor and give the kids screen time. Do whatever you can to rest. / Kendra

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Rest rest rest. Let your partner take over the house/kids and just let everything go in order to rest. Also drugs: Mucinex or other mucus-demolishing drug, ibuprofen, paracetamol. Tissues, Chapstick, lots of fluids and food – keep eating. Go hard on creature comforts: TV, good food, comfy blankets, books, candles etc. / Emily

A young unwell woman lying on bed.
‘Rest. Then rest some more. After that, do more resting.’ (Photo: Getty Images)

Rest more than you think you need to in the following days, the fatigue has been hard to shake. Currently day 10. Wish I had pre-made freezer meals for during recovery. / Kirsten

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Lots of easy to make and quick dinners! We live rural too so no easy delivery meals. I let the kids have free rein on screen time because I just couldn’t do anything for a good four days. After I was out of isolation and better, my friend also got it so I dropped around a hot chicken, some buns and coleslaw just because I knew how bloody amazing it would have been to not have to worry about at least one meal! / Kathryn

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Lie down and rest as much as possible. The tiredness is rough. Hard with kids but it’s the only way some days to make it. Lots of TV for the kids. Also make sure you keep up the pain relief on time! When I’ve forgotten and it’s crept over a few hours from last taking it I’ve really felt so much worse! And also get a decongestant nasal spray – that’s saving me. My husband says the decongestant nasal spray is 100% more important for him than anything else we got. / Amy

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What’s getting us through is lots of Panadol and ibuprofen, Betadine throat gargle, vitamin C and lots of vitamin D, thermometer, online grocery order, doorstep drop-offs of meals and treats, texts and calls checking in, unlimited kid screen time and lots and lots of rest, the exhaustion is next level. I would recommend getting a kit together of recommended medicines and vitamins so it’s all there ready to go when you need it.

Have people you tell so that they can support you with meals and any shopping. Let go of any time restrictions on screens for kids, rest as much as possible. Keep positive, it can feel pretty awful but it will pass! / Anna

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Have a supply of cold and flu tablets with decongestant, especially if you have to parent while trying to recover. Rest as much as you can (whatever is possible in your situation), don’t rush back to doing all the things. Don’t exercise even if you feel fine. Don’t “power through” if you’re working from home, take the sick leave. Even if you have kids and think it’s pointless because you can’t truly rest. I over prepared with all the “Covid kit stuff”, didn’t use a lot of it, but it helped me feel more in control.

The only thing I wish I had done is we don’t ever do online groceries, so would have been a good idea to set up online accounts with Countdown or whatever beforehand and set up your normal shop. It was super stressful trying to do this while sick and tired knowing that all the slots book out so quickly. Would have saved some time and stress [if I’d done that in advance]. / Terri

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Cannot stress the importance of rest enough…my husband and I were both sick at the same time, [our] two kids also got it but thankfully one before us and one after. We had days where neither of us could really get out of bed – throw out any guilt of kids spending days on screens when you have nothing left to parent with. [It has been] over two weeks since I was sick and [I] still get tired very quickly and need to consider my plans carefully so as not to overdo things. / Monique

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Rest rest rest! I got sick on the Monday and then tested positive on the Tuesday and ended up having two weeks off work. I am a nurse in Auckland and because I am a critical worker, I had to do daily RAT tests from day five because as soon as I tested negative they wanted me back at work. I tested positive all the way through to day 12 then I finally tested negative. And my mindset was “OK well I’m stuck at home so why not do all the jobs I can’t do while working”. Big mistake! I am now nearly four weeks down the line and still having really bad fatigue, headaches, body aches etc. I think if I had rested more I would have had a better recovery. I also have three kids and just carried on as if I wasn’t sick and I totally should have accepted more help. / Tania

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Accept ALL the help. Accept ALL the meals. Especially if you have kids. TV is a totally appropriate babysitter for a seven day isolation. I didn’t have any of the typical symptoms, I had a really minor cold, like in pre-Covid times I would have hit the office with it – barely registered! But oh my gosh the fatigue. Exhaustion. Like worse than early pregnancy. Worse than post-partum with a newborn. And I’ve had twins. I spent a lot of time in bed. Or on the couch. Just wiped out! So I wasn’t expecting that. And neither was my poor hubby who basically worked two full-time jobs for a week looking after me and the kids, and working from home. / Lindsay

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Rest even if you feel fine. Rest more than you think you need to. I’m on day four and felt better so went for a drive around the block (to escape my children) and am now back in bed with oxygen saturation levels down at 93 – after sitting on my ass in a car! / Michelle

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I hope that helps. It can feel really overwhelming trying to work and parent knowing Covid-19 is lurking around corners. What’s helping me and my anxiety right now is knowing I’m doing what I can to avoid it and that’s really all I can do. I can’t do more than that. So it’s out of my hands.

When I can’t control something I think about what I can control. I can minimise my risk. I can prepare. I can plan. I think about what I’m afraid of:

  • My babies or husband needing hospitalisation
  • Not being able to care for my kids because I’m too sick
  • Long Covid

I give space for those fears. Then I think about what I know to be true.

  • If anyone is hospitalised in my family we have made it through before and we will hopefully make it through again. Doctors know a lot about Covid-19 and how best to treat it.
  • We have a support network to help us through. I have family and friends I can call on and my son Eddie’s care team at the hospital to help us too.
  • We are starting to learn more about long Covid and possible ways to avoid it. I will do my best to do what is recommended – rest – to try to avoid long Covid.

We are also planning as much as we can to be ready if it does strike our household. And we are doing what we can to support others who don’t have the ability to prepare in advance, and those who cannot take sick leave or annual leave from their jobs.

So while there’s a lot I can’t control, and that scares me, there’s a lot I can control – and that gives me comfort.

– Emily Writes

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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