Edit on 16 December 2020: I am now almost back to “normal” (whatever normal is when living with a progressive illness…). Looking forward to relaxing over the holidays.
Tracking has probably never been more talked about than right now, during an ongoing global pandemic. Having an interest in self-tracking, I have of course followed the development with great interest, both on a global level, as well as on a national, regional, and local level. My interest on an individual level so far, has mainly been focused on trying to make the right decisions to avoid getting infected with COVID-19.
However, a few days ago, my personal interest in tracking COVID-19 increased, when I started noticing symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection. I have since then tested positive for ongoing infection and in this post I want to share a few learnings from my first few days.
I have tried to capture the main points in a brief form, so please excuse potential remaining inconsistencies and/or errors. Also bear in mind that I might not have enough energy to respond to comments and/or questions. Feel free to discuss here in the comments section and/or on Twitter, and I will contribute as and when I can.
First, a brief introduction…
Tracking on group level
For a population, a country, a region, or a city, group level tracking is important. This can include tracking of numbers of confirmed cases, numbers of deaths due to COVID-19, and, probably most important: the changes of those numbers over time. This enables the people responsible for healthcare provision, public health, and other societal structures (for example public transport and schools) to follow the development of the pandemic and, hopefully, be prepared for what is coming.
As individuals, we’re of course interested in the group level results, since it can help us make decisions on our own actions. But, there are also aspects of individual tracking that can be of interest:
If we develop symptoms of COVID-19, we probably take a test that can detect an ongoing infection of the virus. This is done with a swab test that is analysed with the PCR technique. For more information, see the wikipedia post here.
Tracking of symptoms
As with any kind of disease or illness, it is of interest to track the onset of different symptoms and how they vary over time. But this is a new disease so how to know which symptoms to look for and how to track them? Luckily, a very interesting article by Trisha Greenhalgh (link to her Twitter profile here) and colleagues was recently published in BMJ Open: “What items should be included in an early warning score for remote assessment of suspected COVID-19? Qualitative and Delphi study”: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/11/e042626.
In the article the authors present a suggestion for a not-yet-validated instrument for an early warning score for remote assessment of COVID-19. The instrument, RECAP (REmote COVID-19 Assessment in Primary Care), currrently in version 0 (V0), comprises a red flag alert box and 10 assessment items, see Figure below.
For more information on how the instrument was developed, see the article.
Now for the “main story”:
My COVID trajectory
Day 1? – Thursday 19 November
About 11:30 in the morning, my temperature started rising (at the most 38.5°C), I noticed a slight dry cough and that it took more energy and focus than usual to breathe (it felt like my lungs were too small).
Day 2? – Friday 20 November
Day 3 – Saturday 21 November
Day 4 – Sunday 22 November
Day 5 – Monday 23 November
Why to track?
My own experiences with tracking over the last few years have taught me to track to:
- Remember variations
- Use in communication with healthcare
- Get a sense of control
What to track?
See the Figure above. I use items 1-8.
It’s also important to know your own normal range. For me, normal temperature is 36.8-37.2°C and my heart rate normally ranges from 70 to 120 beats per minute over the course of day with a resting heart rate of around 80.
How to track?
- Electronic thermometer
- Pulse oximeter (link). Provides values for saturation level and heart rate.
- I have turned the Figure above into a Google form so I can track several times per day, see image below.