High Risk for Covid? Here's Why Treatment Matters.
May 23, 2022 | COVID-19 | Share:
Contrary to what you may have heard, Covid is a treatable illness.
No, there isn’t a cure. But there are proven treatments that can be used to prevent severe outcomes, especially in patients who are at high risk for complications from Covid-19.
And while early treatment is vital in preventing these severe outcomes, follow-up treatment is just as important, not only for avoiding hospitalization but also in preventing long Covid.
Covid is Still Here
Covid may not be making the news, but it’s still around. While case numbers are much lower than those that we saw in the Delta and Omicron waves, variants are still circulating in Alabama and the Birmingham metro area.
For many, these variants cause a mild illness that has minimal impact. For these individuals, symptoms might be limited to mild cold symptoms that last for a few days. But for others, Covid-19 can still have a serious impact.
High-risk populations, including those who are over the age of 65, are obese, or who have other chronic conditions, are still at risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19. Long Covid, also known as Post Acute Covid Sequelae, also affects as many as 30% of patients who have tested positive for Covid, whether they’ve been hospitalized or not. Long Covid symptoms can persist for weeks after recovering from a Covid infection.
Fortunately, treatments are available that can prevent severe outcomes from Covid-19, such as hospitalization or death. And new research also indicates that specific treatments early in a Covid infection can help prevent these post-Covid conditions as well.
Early Treatment for Covid-19
It’s important to remember that it isn’t 2020 anymore: treatments are available if you test positive for Covid-19. If you believe that you have Covid, get tested so that you can get treated right away.
Early treatments, including monoclonal antibody infusions and antivirals (such as Paxlovid) can be administered right after testing positive for Covid-19. Monoclonal antibodies are delivered through an IV infusion in an outpatient setting and are still effective for the variants that are currently circulating in our community. These antibodies are available for high-risk patients who are over the age of 12. If you’re not sure if you qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment, your doctor can advise you at the time of your positive test.
Paxlovid is an oral antiviral pill that is prescribed by a doctor and taken at home. This treatment is also available for high-risk patients over the age of 12. Anyone, regardless of risk level, can follow home treatment protocols to shorten the duration and severity of their illness.
All of these treatments are most effective when they’re administered early, within the first few days of the onset of symptoms or a positive test. Many people recover well after receiving these treatments, but for others, further treatment may be necessary.
Continued Treatment for Covid-19
Sometimes it’s obvious that a patient isn’t improving, even after early treatment. But just because the early treatment protocols weren’t effective, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to be done.
Dr. Jordan Vaughn, CEO and practicing physician at MedHelp Clinics in Birmingham says, “We don’t tell patients with pneumonia to go home and wait until they can’t breathe to go to the hospital. If they’re not getting better, they reach out to their doctor. Covid is no different. There are abundant tools and resources for treating these patients.” There continues to be a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that outpatient therapies are effective at improving patient outcomes and helping patients avoid post-Covid conditions.
But it’s not always obvious when a patient needs further treatment. Because Covid-19 is an illness that manifests itself in stages, a patient could appear to be doing okay in the earlier stage but then end up in the hospital by the end of the second week of their illness. However, specific labs and chest x-rays can indicate a patient’s risk and guide further treatment.
Additionally, post-Covid conditions can affect both patients who have been hospitalized and those who have had a milder illness. People with long Covid often have symptoms such as:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially after physical activity
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disruptions
- Joint and muscle pain
- Stomach pain or diarrhea
- Ongoing loss of taste or smell
If you have long Covid, you may have one or several of these symptoms. Individuals with post-Covid conditions can have symptoms for weeks or months after recovering from a Covid-19 infection. Unfortunately, there are no good treatments right now for long Covid, so the best treatment is prevention through early, better treatment of the illness while it’s still in the acute stages.1
Because it’s not always possible to tell who needs additional treatment without lab work, we recommend a follow-up clinic visit for all patients who receive early treatment such as monoclonal antibodies.
What Kind of Follow-up Treatment is Needed?
Most importantly, high-risk Covid-positive patients need to be seen and treated in person by a qualified provider in the first week of their illness. In this clinic visit, a patient can discuss their symptoms with their doctor and receive appropriate treatment for these symptoms.
Additionally, studies show that specific lab results can indicate the potential for complications or post-Covid conditions. The earlier these results are addressed with treatment, the better the outcomes are for these patients.
At MedHelp, we schedule follow-up visits for all patients who receive a monoclonal antibody infusion. But if you’ve received early treatment elsewhere, you can still see a provider at MedHelp for follow-up treatment and labs. Even if you’re feeling better at the time of your appointment, you should still keep your appointment to confirm that you don’t need further treatment. Dr. Vaughn says, “Of course, we hope that everything looks great. But if you do need treatment, we want to make sure you get them early, before you start doing poorly.”
Your provider will be looking for indicators of worsening disease through key markers such as a chest x-ray and blood work, even if your symptoms don’t appear to be getting worse. If your x-ray indicates damage to your lungs or your labs indicate inflammation or clotting, your doctor will prescribe appropriate therapies such as anti-inflammatories and anticoagulants to prevent further disease progression. These are research-based treatments that are proven to help.2
There's no need to struggle with Covid-19 on your own. At MedHelp, we’re committed to providing safe, effective, and aggressive treatment for patients who have Covid-19. This aggressive treatment includes ongoing care for patients who are at high risk for complications from Covid to keep them out of the hospital and to avoid post-Covid conditions.
If you're at high risk for developing complications from Covid-19, ongoing treatment is key to keeping you out of the hospital and preventing post-Covid conditions. Treatment is most effective in the first week after you test positive.
1 Wang C, Chengyuan Y, Haijiao J, et al. (2022) Long COVID: The Nature of Thrombotic Sequelae Determines the Necessity of Early Anticoagulation. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 12:861703. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.861703
2 Xiang M, Jing H, Wang C, et. al. (2022) Persistent Lung Injury and Prothrombotic State in Long COVID. Frontiers in Immunology. 13:862522. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.862522