Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Treatment

  • Treatment

    Any significant trouble with breathing requires immediate medical attention Table 05.

    It is important to seek medical attention immediately if signs of serious breathing difficulty occur. These signs may include shortness of breath; lips or nail beds that are turning dusky, gray or blue; and breathing that is so difficult that you become tired. Confusion, dizziness, and fainting are also signs that hospitalization may be necessary. Oxygen, intravenous medications, and close monitoring may be required. Approximately 10% to 20% of individuals with SARS require help breathing from a machine (ventilator) for a period of time.

    Seek immediate medical attention if you are concerned that your symptoms are getting worse. Dial 9-1-1 or 0 for an ambulance if you develop breathing problems or have dizziness or fainting. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital. Warn medical personnel that you may have the SARS virus so that they can take appropriate infection control measures to protect themselves and others Table 05.

    Table 5.  Warning Signs That Your Illness Is Serious

    If you experience any of the following signs, seek medical attention immediately.
    Trouble getting your breath
    Difficulty breathing that is so severe you become worn out
    Nail beds and lips that are turning gray or blue
    Dizziness, confusion, or fainting

    Scientists are still researching the best drug therapy to treat SARS. Currently, clinicians are treating seriously ill SARS patients with antibiotics, steroids, inhaled medications to help breathing, and antiviral medications.

    Your clinician is the best source of information on the most up-to-date drug treatment choices available for SARS. Ask your clinician or pharmacist for more information on any medications prescribed or recommended.

    If your SARS symptoms are mild, you may recover at home [Table 4].

    The SARS virus can cause symptoms that range from mild to severe. Some people are able to recover at home. It is important that individuals recovering from SARS minimize their contact with others until all signs of illness have been gone for at least 10 days [Table 4].

    Drink plenty of liquids (preferably water), eat healthy foods, and get plenty of rest. Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen may help with fever and muscle aches Table 06.

    Table 6.   Ways to Take Care of Yourself While Recovering From SARS

    Drink plenty of water (at least 6 to 8 large glasses a day). This can help you cough up any extra secretions in your lungs that may make it hard for you to breathe.
    Take ibuprofen, or acetaminophen for fever, aches, and pains. Ask your clinician or pharmacist which medicine is right for you. Always follow the directions on the label unless otherwise instructed by your clinician.
    Avoid alcohol, since it can reduce the coughing and sneezing reflexes needed to clear your lungs. Drinking alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of many other medications and can increase your risk of serious side effects when you are taking certain medicines.
    Do not smoke.
    Wash your hands frequently. This can help minimize your chance of becoming ill with another germ while your body is recovering from SARS.
    Eat a well-balanced diet. Ask your clinician about any vitamins or supplements that may be right for you.
    Do not take a cough suppressant unless your clinician recommends it. You may need to take a cough suppressant at night if your cough makes it difficult for you to get enough rest. Use cough suppressants sparingly, and only if directed by your clinician.
    Be sure to get at least 8 hours of rest a night, preferably in a warm room. You may need extra rest, such as naps, while recovering from SARS.
    Keep your clinician informed should your symptoms worsen. Contact your clinician if your medication causes any unpleasant side effects.

    Smoking when ill with SARS can make your illness worse and delay your recovery.

    Smoking reduces the ability of the cilia in the lungs to function effectively. Cilia are small, hair-like cells that move to propel secretions, germs, and foreign particles out of the lungs. Having trouble coughing up the extra secretions in your lungs may cause you to feel worse or to feel sick longer. Your clinician can inform you of a number of medications and programs available to help you quit smoking.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    SARS pneumonia can be serious, even life-threatening.

    Approximately 10% to 20% of SARS patients develop serious breathing problems that require intensive care and respiratory support (ventilator). SARS has been fatal in about 4% to 6% of cases. Those who are elderly or who have a weakened immune system because of other health problems are more likely to develop serious complications from SARS.

    The course of SARS can vary widely. Some may be only mildly ill; others may require hospitalization.

    Some people who came in close contact with a SARS patient later developed a fever but did not develop respiratory symptoms. This may mean that illness from the SARS virus does not always progress to breathing problems.

    How long it takes people to recover from SARS depends on their age, their general health, and the severity of their illness.

    Middle-aged or elderly people may take longer to regain their strength. It is important for those recovering from SARS to continue to take care of themselves, avoid sick people, and get plenty of rest.

    If symptoms from your suspected SARS-related illness worsen at any stage during treatment, call your clinician Table 05.

    Illness caused by the SARS virus appears to be capable of worsening rapidly. If you are recovering at home, it is important to the doctor know if you are not getting better or if you start feeling worse. Evidence that you are not getting better includes a fever that stays high, excessive drowsiness, and shortness of breath. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these signs Table 05.

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