I Thought I Had COVID
Thanksgiving 2020 was an intimate event at the Shakhawala household. What’s typically a gathering of 30+ people was limited to our immediate family of 7 only. We spent the day at my parents’ house eating a ton of food, watching some football, and mostly passing Luna around like a hot potato.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving happened to be a beautiful day: it was 60 degrees and sunny. We decided to go for a walk in the park with a couple of friends. This was a regular occurrence throughout 2020. It seemed like the safest way to see the people we love. With winter coming, it also seemed like the last time we’d be able to go for one of these walks.
Then Monday came around and I felt like I got hit by a truck. Getting out of bed was difficult. My entire body ached. I needed to get myself together, I had a loan closing that day at my lawyer’s office.
Driving to and from Hackensack was a fog. “Why can’t we do this through Docusign?”, I thought the whole way there. “Because these signatures need to be wet”, my lawyer said when I arrived.
From my lawyer’s office, I went straight to the bank to make a wire transfer. As the teller helped me with my transaction, she asked if it was cold outside. She noticed my hands were in my pockets and my shoulders were hunched over.
I said, “Yeah, it’s probably like 30 or 35…” I checked my phone’s weather app and it was 62. But I was freezing... What the hell? I’m never freezing.
I completed the transaction and was off to pick up Luna from daycare. I decided to wear my mask the entire ride home. I dropped Luna off in her bedroom and told Dia I didn’t feel good and needed to take a nap. I slept from 4pm - 615pm.
I woke up to the sound of Dia prepping Luna’s bath. I was in a cold-sweat. This was the first time I was going to miss Luna’s nighttime routine. I was crushed, but I couldn’t risk getting her sick.
I had just enough strength to fire off a text to my friends I saw the day prior:
The messages were rolling in, but I needed to get back to sleep. Every breath was difficult and ended with a Zoolander type cough. I popped a nighttime Tylenol cold & flu and clocked out.
The next morning, Dia and I dropped Luna off at daycare (super questionable decision - feel free to judge me) and headed straight to the Neighborhood Urgent Care in Whippany, NJ. It was 7:30 am. The parking lot was full, but the facility had not yet opened.
There was a list on a clipboard at the front door. You had to put your name and phone number on it. Dia and I were 30th in line. I hate waiting in line.
And we waited…
Then we ordered bagels from a nearby deli…
Waited some more…
And finally at 11 am, they called us to get our personal and insurance information. This process took about 30 minutes.
We got rapid tests done at 1130 am. Our results were in my inbox by the time we got home.
They were negative. What a relief. I texted everyone and heard the collective sigh through WhatsApp.
So What’s Wrong With Me?
The relief from the negative test result was accompanied by an “I feel better already” attitude. The cold sweat stopped. The body ache went away. The headache was no more.
But this damn Zoolander cough. I could barely talk without coughing.
I continued the Tylenol Cold & Flu. A few days passed and no difference. I didn’t feel sick or groggy at all. I just couldn’t take a full breath or talk normally.
No Doctor Would See Me
I called 3 Primary Physicians in my area and none of them were seeing sick patients. Go figure: 2020 is so fucked up Family Doctors are now refusing to see sick patients.
Then one of my friends suggested a Teledoc appointment. Thankfully, Dia’s insurance plan has that benefit.
So I hopped on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield’s website and scheduled a videoconference appointment with a Doctor in Montville, NJ.
I was about 3 sentences into my spiel… “Hey, Doc, I was feeling pretty sick on Monday. I got tested for COVID on Tuesday. It was negative. But this nagging cough…”
The Doctor interrupted me and said it’s likely post-nasal drip.
This is exactly what the Dr. at the Urgent Care center said after using the stethoscope on my back. He said, “if your results are negative, which I believe they will be, we can likely assume you’re suffering from something called post-nasal drip. It happens around this time of year when it’s nice and warm during the day but freezing cold at night. The air dries up and it causes the glands that produce mucus to go haywire.”
What Is Post Nasal Drip?
I’m pretty sure I heard this term in a commercial at some point in my life, but this is the first time I’m dealing with it so I had to Google it.
Here’s what I learned:
When your body produces more mucus than usual or it’s thicker than normal, it becomes more noticeable. The excess can come out of the nostrils -- that’s a runny nose. When the mucus runs down the back of your nose to your throat, it's called postnasal drip.
One of the most common causes of post nasal drip is changing weather, cold temperatures, or really dry air.
Symptoms: A feeling of wanting to constantly clear your throat. Coughing (which tends to get worse at night).
Treating Post Nasal Drip
I was prescribed a 6 day regimen of Methylprednisolone, which is a steroid. The Doctor did warn me: it only had a 50/50 shot of working.
That was more than two weeks ago and not much has changed. The annoying cough is still here, but I’m managing it with the following:
- Humidifier. The one I have right now is too small so I have to get a new one. But I did learn the sweet spot for humidity is 35-45%.
- Drink [at least] a gallon of water per day. I’m drinking close to 32 oz right before going to sleep. I inevitably get up in the middle of the night to pee, but the absence of dry mouth is worth it.
- Vicks Vaporub. I am lubing up a q-tip and coating the inside of my nose with Vicks.
- Sugar-Free Cough Drops. I grab one anytime I walk past the bag sitting on our kitchen island.
- Zyrtec. This is a latest addition. My sister was recently in town with her dog so I had to take an allergy medicine. I’m not sure if I was firing on all cylinders that day, but I did feel better. It could have been the Zyrtec. I don’t take it every day, but I might start.
I think my next steps are:
- Get a bigger, better humidifier. The one we have now seems too small.
- Get an air purifier to remove the fine particles in the air
- Start using nasal saline sprays or irrigation like a neti pot. Definitely not looking forward to this.
Finally, I’d like your advice. Are you dealing with post nasal drip? If so, what works for you?