askST: Fever and cough most common symptoms of coronavirus, but see a doctor if you're generally feeling unwell

Temperature checks on a bus at Woodlands Checkpoint on Feb 1, 2020.
Temperature checks on a bus at Woodlands Checkpoint on Feb 1, 2020.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - There were 47 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (March 18), a new high. Among them, 33 were imported and 30 involved Singapore residents returning from abroad. This brought the total number of cases here to 313.

In light of these recent developments, it is vital that people mind their health, and take the necessary precautions should they feel unwell.

Q: What are the symptoms for Covid-19?

The two most common symptoms for Covid-19 are fever (of 37.8 deg C and above) and cough.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam said that those who are experiencing either of the two symptoms, or both, should consult a doctor.

He also added that those who feel generally unwell should also see a doctor, noting that practically all the identified Covid-19 cases had the sensation of being unwell at some point.

Q: What about mild, flu-like symptoms which are not fever and cough? Should I visit the doctor as well?

Other mild, flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, stuffy nose and runny nose should be monitored closely for at least five days, said Dr Leong, as sore throat and stuffy nose were not symptoms present in 90 per cent of the confirmed Covid-19 cases.

However, people should look out for any prolonged or worsening symptoms, as well as new, developing symptoms, he noted, and see a doctor if these occur.

In the meantime, individuals should practise self-quarantine measures at home and avoid going out, as there is a chance they could be incubating the virus.

Q: Can I self-medicate at home if I'm facing any of the above symptoms?

You may self-medicate if you are facing mild symptoms. However, you should visit a doctor if the symptoms are prolonged or worsening.

 
 
 

If you are having a cough or fever, which are common Covid-19 symptoms, you should definitely visit a doctor.

On whether people suffering from Covid-19 symptoms should avoid taking ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug meant for fever and pain, Dr Leong said that it has not yet been clinically proven that the drug predisposes the body to more infections.

But he suggests they choose alternatives such as paracetamol, synflex or voltaren as a precautionary measure.

Q: Should I visit the doctor if I'm experiencing breathlessness?

Yes, although breathlessness does not usually develop until the later stages of Covid-19. By then, individuals would have experienced other accompanying symptoms as well, noted Dr Leong.

Dr Piotr Chlebicki, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Alvernia Hospital, also shared the same advice, adding that breathlessness is cause for medical attention, as the individual could be facing other complications like heart disease or asthma.

Q: What if I am asymptomatic so far, but I don't feel very well in general, should I still see the doctor?

Yes, as long as you are feeling unwell, or sense that something is out of the ordinary, it would be a good idea to visit the doctor.

Dr Chlebicki also suggested that it would be good practice to call in to clinics before going, as this could help reduce overcrowding.

In addition, you should also refrain from doctor-hopping, said MOH in an advisory on March 11, as going back to the same doctor could ensure follow-up, and that you're sent for Covid-19 testing if necessary.