Should you go to the ER for COVID-19? Try the “walking alphabet test” first

By: Dr. Kari WilliamsRMA (AMT), CPT (NHA), CET (NHA), BS (Nutrition), DC

We’ve all been told not to overwhelm the healthcare system by going to the ER for possible COVID cases. Stay at home if you’re sick and only go to the hospital if you experience severe shortness of breath and other symptoms (listed below). On the other hand, it is vital that your lung health is assessed early. Once a person with COVID-19 needs a ventilator, it is so much harder to recover.  

So, what should you do? Try this quick, easy way to evaluate your shortness of breath and determine if it requires a visit to the hospital.  


  1. If you are sick, do this a few times per day while at home to determine if your lung health is deteriorating.  
  1. Begin walking around for approximately 1 minute.  
  1. Singing your ABCs while walking.  
  1. If you can’t keep walking for ONE minute or can’t finish the alphabet without stopping, you might want to contact your doctor or go to the hospital for evaluation.  
Abc clipart abc song, Picture #31154 abc clipart abc song

Other symptoms that warrant a call to your provider:  

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest 
  • New confusion 
  • Inability to wake or stay awake 
  • Bluish lips or face 

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. 

Do you think a loved one might have COVID? Give them a quick call and have them sing their ABCs while walking around for one minute. This simple test can help catch COVID-19 effects on the lungs before it progresses.  

Source: interview with Dr. Comilla Sasson, December 1, 2020. Retrieved from: