After two fevers and fatigue, I took an early guess and called it COVID-19. Two negative swab tests and a doctor consultation later, with no other symptoms, I realized I was dehydrated
I recently watched a French comedy called “Stuck Together.”
The plot untangles around the shared plight of seven Parisian families starting the pandemic lockdown in an apartment complex on the Rue de l’Humanité—a journey through changing habits, misinformation, and fear.
I’d say I’m most like Martin as portrayed by Dany Boon, a hypochondriac and excessive worrier. While I found my hand on my tummy, coddled in laughter, watching Martin spray his neighbors and his own mouth with disinfectant, I instantaneously thought, “Well, I’ve done that too.”
But that doesn’t make me crazy
And here’s why: I know actual, non-fictional people that have done the same thing.
That public speaking is one of the things we most fear is almost a truism at this point, but I’d be delighted to chat with whichever research body was able to prove this. I’d argue that the fear of catching COVID-19 has likely bumped the fear of public speaking down the list.
Not a cough goes unnoticed nor a runny nose or sore throat timed and noted down. You can only imagine my reaction to a fever I obtained at some point over the last two months.
I feared the worst
Luckily vaccinated but aware that there are breakthrough cases that hinge on severe, I was worried. The onset of a fever triggered a long series of calls: to people I’d interacted with, to HR representatives (I work from an office half the time), and to the teleconsulting doctors. Tucked in pockets of time between work and general household management, it was a pointedly stressful period of time.
Nonetheless, I tested negative. And all seemed well as the world morphed back into the state of normal I’d come to accept.
Until a few weeks later, I found myself sitting on my apartment’s toilet seat, shivering with a thermometer tucked under my tongue. Thirty nine degrees Celsius. Not in my life had I seen a thermometer with a 39 on it, much less one of my own. And again the trigger of worry had been pulled as did the series of concerned calls to people I’d interacted with.
And yet, I tested negative once again.
What was going on? I was dehydrated
Though thankful to have tested negative after multiple RT-PCR tests, I couldn’t help but be worried after two consecutive fevers. I’ve come to call them phantom fevers. They both haunted me at night, stayed just for the night, and left me feeling completely fine with no other symptoms—aside from a general feeling of unease and fatigue.
Another commonality of the phantom fevers? I’d gotten them both after physical exercise.
I’m going to go ahead and say it: Teleconsultations have proven ineffective. Somewhere in the swamp of poor phone connections, tired teleconsultation operators, self-examinations, and an “it’s probably COVID-19” mindset, an understanding of what was causing these fevers didn’t surface—until one particularly frustrating call. I’d locked onto understanding what was going on and decided I was going to get the Viber call’s full worth.
“So what else could it possibly be?” I asked in a tone that made me a little uncomfortable. It wasn’t threatening but definitely a bit more threatening than curious. And as the doctor ran down the list of familiar diseases—flu, colds, COVID-19—they arrived at dehydration.
A lightbulb glowed brightly above my head.
To be honest, I’m terrible at hydrating
During the course of the day, I chuck a couple cups of coffee back. That’s probably all I do in the way of hydrating. Combine that sort of hydrating technique with a fairly hard workout and you quickly understand why I had such a lightbulb moment.
The University of Rochester Health Center website enumerates the symptoms of dehydration under three levels of severity: mild, severe, and extreme. Symptoms range from blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature issues; to weakness and confusion, brain damage, and even death.
GoHealth Urgent Care, a United States-based healthcare provider with over 165 centers across the country, is more specific on its website: [Fever is] also a dangerous sign of severe dehydration. When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, it’s hard to maintain a regular body temperature and this can lead to hyperthermia and fever-like symptoms including chills.”
So while my quarantining and testing post-fever was prudent, I certainly didn’t have COVID-19. I was simply dehydrated.
Some tips I took to heart
After two frightening encounters with my phantom fever, I’ve made sure to stay hydrated even when I’m not working out. Here are some helpful tips I’ve found:
1. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that men need about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day while women typically need about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters).
2. Observe your pee. It should be slightly yellow but close to clear. Apparently, doctors call this “urochrome.” Welcome to the worst-at-trivia club. As long as you’ve been eating beetroot, rhubarb, or blueberries, a slightly pink color isn’t concerning.
3. Keep the coffee and booze in check. Per the Cleveland Clinic, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages are not optimally hydrating. Authors at the clinic write that these drinks—colas and teas too—tend to pull water from the body, thereby promoting dehydration.
4. Sport drinks can be a world of fun. I’m not about to say they’re healthy, but with their fantastic, if grossly otherworldly, colorings and candy-forward fruit flavorings, they’re easy to drink post-exercise. Even easier than water, I’ve realized (for myself anyway). They’re also a source of carbohydrates and electrolytes that replenish your energy levels and restore the balance of water in your body.
Sip away and stay vigilant
While I’m a lucky case, there are millions of people affected sorely by this pandemic. At the onset of even a mild symptom, it’s best to isolate, inform close contacts and employers, and consult a medical professional.
And when you’re not nursing some sort of symptom, keep your mask on in public, avoid large crowds, and exercise the judgment you know you have within you.
And why not give that emerald green drink a try?