In mid-June, our family got Covid-19. (You can find more details on that here.) I’m writing a series of blog posts about our experience in an effort to help others navigate these uncharted waters because I desperately searched for information when I was at my worst and I couldn’t find much in between reports of asymptomatic twenty somethings and high death rates among the elderly and those with comorbidities. Where was the information for those of us treating ourselves at home, with little to no guidance from any doctor? I found it to be sorely lacking, so I’m on a mission to share my story in the hopes that it will help you. Today’s post in this series is about the items that I considered to be most helpful when we had Covid. You may want to stock up now on any of them that sound useful to you so that you’ll be ready in case you get it, because things seem to sell out so quickly these days. I bought basically everything off of Amazon, because that, Instacart and the Target curbside service have been the only places I’ve really shopped since March.
Let me quickly pause here and disclose that some of the links in this blog post are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase via these links, I will earn a VERY SMALL commission, at no extra cost to you. (Like, super small.) I hope that this is not a concern to you in any way and if it is, you’re welcome to reach out to me with any questions. I have spent countless hours while battling this virus notating my symptoms and what helped, documenting on Instagram and IGTV to share information and now writing blog posts solely in an effort to help people navigate this journey, because I really believe that most of us will end up having this virus at some point in the coming days. It may not seem like it, but writing these posts is hours upon hours of work. I ask nothing of you in exchange for all of this time spent, though I do appreciate your using these links if you think one of my recommendations is helpful and I REALLY appreciate your sharing this information for me if you find it to be helpful. It’s the very best way for me to get it out to people who may be served well by it. Okay, now on to my “must-haves.”
On my Amazon page, I have various lists of things that I have purchased with my own money and liked enough to share and I break those down by various categories. The one that I want to share with you today is my “Covid + Me” item list here.
By far, the most important thing that helped me during my bout with Covid-19 was a pulse oximeter. This little buddy was a lifesaver to me mentally and would be a lifesaver physically if you ended up with hypoxemia. In case it is new to you, a pulse oximeter is an easy, inexpensive and painless way to measure your oxygen saturation levels. It’s a little device that you put on your fingertip, press a button and read your saturation levels (which are stated as a percentage). It passes wavelengths of light through the body part to get a reading and for this reason, my husband recommends one that shows you the wavelengths on the digital output to be sure you’re getting a good reading. The one that we used is listed here. It is $36 and has been generally available within about a week. I would highly recommend buying one for your home now, regardless. It’s a small investment for your family’s safety and you’ll be prepared. I am not a doctor, so I don’t want to give any hard and fast medical advice, but in general, I have been told that any saturation at 95% or above is good. Anything between 90-94% should be monitored and below 90%, you should consult your doctor. That’s what I was told by two different doctors, but you should feel free to do your own research on that. Additionally, if you have a little one like I do (2 years old), it can be hard to get a good reading on their little fingertips, You can use a big toe, the outside of the foot just under the baby toe or an earlobe on them for a reading, depending on where you are able to get a good one.
Here’s why I loved it. . . Throughout our experience with Covid, I had many times when I felt unable to breathe. This didn’t feel anything like any bronchitis or any asthma attack that I have experienced. It didn’t feel like my tributaries were closed. It just felt like I was unable to breathe. There was sometimes pressure on my chest as though someone were squeezing it or someone were sitting on my chest, but sometimes it was just feeling like I could not get enough oxygen into my lungs. Throughout that feeling, however, I was able to inhale fully. I know that sounds insane and I promise you that it felt every bit as insane. It’s rather hard to describe, but I can tell you that it scared the heck out of me. Like, super scary. One thing that made me feel SO much better during those episodes was to take a pulse ox reading. I could plainly see that my body had plenty of oxygen, even when it didn’t feel like it. For those of us who have had to navigate this virus on our own, at home, the scariest part is not knowing exactly when you might need medical help. The fear of the unknown in the midst of this virus is hard to overstate. It is absolutely terrifying to wake up in your bed completely alone (my husband was isolating in the guest room) in the middle of the night out of a deep sleep, gasping for air. When this happened to me, I reached for the pulse oximeter next to my bed and was comforted by my readings, which never dipped below 94% throughout my ordeal. Additionally, our just-turned-two-year-old isn’t talking much and when he was ill with Covid and was fussy and crying nonstop on a few nights, I was immensely comforted by getting an oxygen saturation reading on him. Get a pulse oximeter. If you don’t end up needing it, you might consider loaning it to a friend during their ordeal and being a blessing to them! It gave me so much peace of mind throughout my Covid-19 experience and it could be something that alerts you to needing medical attention in yours.
The second most important thing for us was having a good thermometer that you trust. We failed on this front at first. I’ve never before put such stock in the accuracy of a temperature reading. I mean, really, what’s the difference between 100.9 and 101.5 in terms of how you’re going to treat your child if they’re sick? In my mind, not that much. But, when you’re trying to diagnose who in your house has Covid and fever is one of the main diagnostic symptoms, according to the literature (though not really in our case, as you can read here) you want to have a good thermometer. We ended up buying two pretty early on in our Covid experience – some oral ones (for under the tongue that the adults and bigger kids can use) and an infrared one for the younger kids who can’t figure out how to keep a thermometer under the tongue. Of course if you’re really wanting to be accurate, you can take a temperature in one of the auxiliaries, but I was not motivated to go that far, since I no longer have an infant!
Another item that I found to be super helpful was the Vick’s Steam Inhaler and Vapo Pads. I had never used these before this. (Well, I tried to once but it didn’t go well – more on that in a moment.) I found this to be VERY soothing to both my sinuses and my tight chest. When I was growing up, my mom would boil water in a pot on the stove and have me lean over it with a tea towel over my head. While I am sure that is fairly effective and basically free, since you likely already own those things, I found the convenience of this little gem to be worth the money spent. I was in no shape in the middle of this virus to tromp down the stairs and boil some water multiple times a day and because I have four young boys, I would need to stay very close to said boiling pot of water as it was heating up and I frankly didn’t have the strength. I considered buying a face steamer instead so that I could use it for a beauty routine later on, but in hindsight, I’m glad that I didn’t for two reasons. One, the plastic clear “mask” on this thing ensures that every bit of that helpful steam is funneled into your nose or lungs, depending on whether you breathe through your nose or mouth while using it. (I alternated between the two, since I had problems with both). The second is that this unit has a little slot to insert their Vapo Pads which come in various scents – Menthol Vapors or a blend of Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Lavender or just Lavender by itself. I found the added scents to be really soothing and helpful. I tried to do this multiple times a day, especially if I was feeling tightness in my chest or pressure in my sinuses. I also took a steamy shower almost daily for the same reason, but I didn’t have the strength to get in a steamy shower multiple times a day, so this little steam inhaler came in super handy.
One note about the Vick’s Steam Inhaler – USE IT ON A FLAT SURFACE. I know, the instructions tell you this and you roll your eyes at it, like I did many years ago. I was sick and my mom had lent me her steam inhaler and frankly, I wasn’t all that excited about using it, but moms do usually know best, so, I humored her. Unfortunately, I was exhausted and weak and I tried using it in my bed. BIG MISTAKE. I tilted it a little bit to get the mask part to my face and boiling water poured all over my chest and scalded me. It hurt like heck and then I had a burn on my skin to deal with in addition to my illness. I was furious and swore off of those inhalers forever. That is, until I got this Covid-19 and a dear friend told me that the steam inhaler helps her with sinus problems and so I ordered one on Amazon and tried again. But, this time – I set it on the counter in my dressing area – a nice, stable, flat surface – and leaned over it to use it. It’s very relaxing and you can do it hands-free this way, should you want to scroll through your phone as a distraction, which is nice if you’re doing this multiple times a day for 10-15 minutes each!
On the health front, I have been taking high doses of Vitamin C throughout my bout with Covid. I’ll ramp it down some when I feel back to 100%, but Vitamin C isn’t something you can overdose on, so I took quite a bit. I took some Vitamin C pills that my nutritionist prescribed and ordered for me that have a high absorption rate, but I also drank 2-4 Emergen-C packets per day. I love the way the Super Orange flavor tastes and it was sort of a treat along with giving my body Vitamin C in a different format. I have taken these packets for over 20 years, since I was introduced to them by a coworker who was a health nut in my very first job out of college. They’re also an easy way to get Vitamin C into your kids.
It’s also incredibly important to stay hydrated when you’re sick and Covid is no exception. Your lungs and body do not function well when dehydrated and preventing dehydration is crucial with a virus like this. I drank a TON of water, but I also took an oral rehydration supplement once or twice a day to get extra hydration and electrolytes without the added sugar like in Gatorade. My favorite brand is Drip Drop. I like all of the flavors and highly recommend getting a variety pack to try them all. If I had to rank them, personally, I like berry best, then watermelon and then lemon. I love that all of them come in individual packets of the powder, so they’re easy to take with you on the go if you’re working out or playing outdoors in the heat. I take them when I get migraines as well and another friend swears by them for hangover relief. You just pour one packet of the powder into an 8 ounce glass of water and drink it down! Nuun is another great brand for an electrolyte drink and I use these as well. These come as tablets (rather than powder) and again, you just pop one into your water and drink. Another good brand is Liquid IV, which makes a hydration multiplier packet that also has Vitamin C, Vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12. I like their Acai Berry flavor and Lemon Lime and use these sometimes as well. All in all, if you really want to hydrate, drinking one of these gets you 2-3x the hydration of a plain glass of water, so it’s a little easier to hydrate if you’re having trouble drinking enough water, which is a common problem when you’re sick!
Another thing that I found helpful was a humidifier. I’ve read in multiple places that the lungs don’t like to be dry, so it is important to keep them full of moisture, especially when you’re fighting a respiratory virus like Covid. We’ve always used a humidifier for our kids, but I only have one and didn’t have one for the adults, so when both the baby and I had Covid at the same time, I realized I actually needed a second one for the first time. Thankfully, they’re not terribly expensive and it was sort of nice to have a sleek one in my room that didn’t look like a froggie, though we have used that one for nearly ten years with our boys and it works great! The adult one we chose had 5-star reviews across the board and had an auto shut-off feature that I like.
Another helpful thing for me was Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals. I’ve always used this when I have a sore throat as I find that it soothes the pain, but my nutritionist said that the licorice, marshmallow root and slippery elm bark are actually really good for healing respiratory viruses, so now I have a scientific reason to drink it also. It tastes delicious, helps your sore throat feel better and is good for you – all wins! If you live in Central Houston, you might also want to pop in to Juice Well. They sell a drink called the Hot Fix that is sooooooo delicious and soothing that I drank it twice a day during the worst parts of my Covid. It’s a mix of hot water with fresh juiced lemon, freshly grated ginger and honey and it is delicious and feels great on a sore throat! Their Acai bowls are also delicious and I also ate one of those basically every day of my illness, too! They are so yummy and were easy to eat when I wasn’t super hungry and my taste was so diminished. I highly recommend both if you’re local to Houston! (And huge thanks to my darling friend who introduced me to those early on in my Covid fight!
I have been taking a LOT of supplements throughout this ordeal, which I’ll talk more about in another post, but I found this pill organizer to be a great size for all that I was taking because it holds a lot. It has been SUPER helpful to me. When our family was sick and staying home, the days completely ran together and there’s no way I could remember what I had taken or not each day, much less twice a day. This super inexpensive little pill organizer was immensely helpful!
The other category of items that were helpful to me is things that brought comfort. While they aren’t necessary, they sure made life better, so I want to share them with you as well. One item that we use every single day in our house is our Dohm sound machine. We have one in every bedroom of our house and it’s awesome – especially because we have four kids and on any given night, it is not uncommon that someone is up getting water or with a bad dream or sick or something. Also, if your spouse snores, this thing is a must-have! I found this to be a really helpful thing to have during this ordeal because it helped me tune out the noise of four boys when I was trying to sleep during the day.
This super comfy (and pretty!) silk sleep mask was helpful for the same reason. Sleep was hard to come by at my worst points of this and anything I could do to help me sleep a little during the day was a God-send. As a side note, we have a Tempur-Pedic bed that raises up (thank you, Gallery Furniture, but boo Rockets and Astros for not winning and letting me get it for free!) and it helped me SO much to sleep sitting up. It made a huge difference in my breathing abilities and I swear by it! I highly recommend propping yourself up in some manner when you sleep if you have the shortness of breath symptoms with Covid. One doctor told me to sleep on my stomach, but I can’t do that because it causes major pain in my back, so I just spent some time on my stomach each day, especially when my chest felt tight.
When you’ve got Covid, you spend a LOT of time in bed resting. Before I got it, I secretly thought that sounded kind of nice because I’m an exhausted mom of four boys. Of course, when you’re actually mandated to do it and life is still pulling at you from every direction and you’re trying to manage the demands of motherhood and running a business from your bed, it’s not nearly as nice as you’d imagined. Also, when you’re resting, you have plenty of time to focus on how bad you feel, which isn’t fun. I found it helpful to distract myself and this neck massager was a soothing way to get a little self-care while I was laid up. You just lay this thing over your neck and plug it in and turn it on and the rollers and optional heat feel really great on your tired neck muscles. It has arm holes in the bottom so you can pull it more taught if you’d like and they’re also helpful for using it on your back, etc as well. When I was restless and when I had the dreaded Covid headache (holy heck, that was terrible!) this felt great on.
The sinus pressure that I had during Covid was unbelievable. Unlike a traditional sinus congestion infection scenario, I had no drainage and no runny nose, but MAN, the pain in my sinus cavity was intense. It hurt so badly. I found this lavender-filled silk sachet mask felt really good laid across my eyes and you can keep it in the refrigerator to get a cooling sensation when you do, which was lovely. (Though, I couldn’t smell the lavender part since I had lost my sense of smell!) It is inexpensive and felt very soothing.
Another thing that I found really soothing was this aromatherapy neck and shoulder wrap that my mom had recently given me for Christmas. You can heat it up in the microwave or you can put it in the freezer, depending on whether or not you prefer hot or cold. It felt really good on when I had the horrible headaches of Covid and it also just felt soothing and cozy on in general. LOVE it. (Thanks, mom!)
The other thing that I really liked is doing Gua Sha massage. I had recently bought this set of tools after they were recommended by my friend Kathleen Jennings (who has myriad amazing beauty tips and definitely deserves a follow!) I bought them to try for beauty purposes, but I found that when I was at my worst on the sinus pressure, they just felt really good to use. There’s a chance that they have a medicinal purpose as well in that they push toxins towards your lymphatic drainage system, but I’ve done no research on that myself. I just know that it felt good to do when I had pain in my sinuses. For instructions on how to properly do Gua Sha, you can check out a tutorial Kathleen did with expert Jennifer Adell over here on her IGTV channel. All I know is that it felt good and these little tools are relatively inexpensive, so why not?
All in all, during our experience with Covid, in a lot of ways I felt rather unsupported in my quest to get better. My nutritionist, Kelly Hall, was, by far, my greatest resource. I think that our medical system is vastly overwhelmed right now and was not built to handle pandemics like this. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own health and that can be a scary place to be, especially when you’re used to relying on Western medicine and you’re dealing with a “novel virus” about which there is very little data and therefore, not very much information to guide you. However, it is simply not an option to ignore it. We must think critically and focus on what is truly important in times like these. The moment I realized that we had Covid, I switched into a mode of being laser-focused on our health. Nothing else mattered. For me, that was a balance of resting, hydrating, eating healthy, taking supplements and vitamins, doing what I could to address the symptoms I was experiencing, providing some self-care and comfort and doing my best to stay positive and mentally healthy. The list in this blog post addresses the latter two, but I will be sharing more about the others soon, because they were equally important.
I hope that this has been helpful to you. As always, please feel free to leave comments or questions below and please do share this post and my Instagram feed which has IGTV videos that I made during my time with Covid with anyone you think that it may help. Thanks, friends!