Coronavirus Update: The Symptoms, Precautions, & What to Do If You're Exposed

elderly man sick wearing mask

Although states, cities and counties are starting to open back up, there is still a potential risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Older adults have a significantly higher risk for severe illnesses, including coronavirus. There are other factors that may also increase the risk for severe illnesses, such as having an underlying medical condition. By understanding the factors that put you at an increased risk, will help you make decisions about the type of precautions you should take in daily life. Since there continues to be a risk of people, especially seniors, to be exposed to the coronavirus, here is an updated version of the symptoms to be aware of, the precautions and what to do if you are exposed to the virus.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

It is extremely important to be aware of and watch for possible signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The average time for symptoms to become present vary and may differ from one person to the next, so if you notice any of the following symptoms within a few days to as long as 12-14 days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19, it’s best to contact your family doctor for recommendations on how to proceed. If you or your senior loved one experiences any of these signs or symptoms, contact your family doctor.

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Muscles aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Loss of taste and/or smell
  • Some people may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea

The Precautions 

Evidence has suggested that certain precautions may significantly reduce your risk of catching COVID-19, as well as other infectious illnesses that seniors are especially susceptible to. Some of the ways to keep you and senior loved ones protected include:

  • Stay home as much as you can. Whether it is COVID-19, the flu or other contagious illnesses, the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid going out unless it’s essential. Even though the stay-at-home orders have been lifted in most areas, there is still a risk of contracting the virus, so your home is probably the safest place to avoid the COVID-19 virus.
  • Wear a mask and maintain social distance. If you must go out, try to go during the least crowded times. Many stores have special shopping hours for seniors and others with a high risk of getting sick. Wear a reusable mask whenever you are in public places, such as grocery stores and the pharmacy and be sure your mask fits snug around your mouth and nose. Stay at least 6-feet from other people. Most public places, such as grocery stores have placed signs and/or X’s on floors to help keep customers at a safe difference from each other.
  • Wash your hands often. Touching surfaces that have been contaminated then touching your eyes, nose or mouth allows the germs to enter your body and make you sick. For this reason, it is essential that you wash your hands often, especially before, during and after food preparation, eating, coughing, sneezing, using the restroom and blowing your nose.
  • Disinfect high touch areas regularly. The CDC has recommended that high-touch areas be regularly cleaned and disinfected to reduce the risk of contamination. The areas that should be regularly disinfected may include door knobs, light switches, phones, faucets, countertops and sinks.


If you or a senior family member have been exposed to the virus and develop symptoms, such as a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath or other possible symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor. Your family medical provider can decide whether a virtual, a phone or an in-person visit is the most appropriate for your individual needs. If you have been exposed to someone that tested positive for the virus, be sure to let your doctor know, even if you aren’t showing any symptoms.

If you are experiencing mild symptoms, which means you aren’t having breathing difficulties and you are able to stay hydrated, you may be able to manage the symptoms at home. In this situation, if you share your home with others, it’s best to spend the majority of time, if not all of your time in a separate room to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others in the home. If symptoms worsen, contact your doctor immediately. If symptoms such as chest pain or trouble breathing occur, call 9-1-1 and let the dispatcher know that it may be due to COVID-19.

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