How To Manage COVID-19 Symptoms at Home
If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19, below to care for yourself and help protect other people in your home and community.
- Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
- Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency.
- Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
How to Manage COVID-19 Symptoms at Home
Stay in One Room
As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a mask.
Notify Close Contacts
Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours (or 2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By letting your close contacts know they may have been exposed to COVID-19, you are helping to protect everyone.
- Additional guidance is available for those living in close quarters and shared housing.
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, someone from the health department may call you. Answer the call to slow the spread.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested. While waiting for the test results, you stay away from others, including staying apart from those living in your household.
- You should wear a mask over your nose and mouth if you are around other people or animals, including pets (even at home).
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Practice Good Hygiene
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Throw away used tissues in a lined trash can.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food.
- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
- Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Wear a Mask Around Others
- You don’t need to wear the mask if you are alone. If you can’t put on a mask (because of trouble breathing, for example), cover your coughs and sneezes in some other way. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people. This will help protect the people around you.
- Masks should not be placed on young children under age 2 years, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who cannot remove the mask without help.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
The Center for Disease Control specifies that there is no antiviral treatment for COVID-19. The main way for you to feel better is to manage and help relieve symptoms.
Your healthcare provider might recommend the following to relieve symptoms and support your body’s natural defenses:
- Taking medications, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever
- Drinking water or receiving intravenous fluids to stay hydrated
- Getting plenty of rest to help the body fight the virus
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Advice From Dr. Carrie Lam, a Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician
There are three common symptoms associated with COVID-19: fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath.
According to Dr. Carrie Lam, Board-certified Family Medicine Physician; If suspected or tested positive for COVID-19, but able to manage symptoms at home because they are still mild, make sure to get plenty of rest, sunshine, stay hydrated, and have good supportive care. Use a humidifier or hot shower to relieve chest congestion, gargle saltwater if having a sore throat.
If you become short of breath and can't seem to catch your breath and your fevers are getting worse and not improving despite taking Tylenol, call your doctor (or 911). They would be able to triage and see if you need to go to the emergency room. COVID-19 could affect the lungs very quickly, and you might need to get hospitalized to have pulmonary support if it comes to that. I would also recommend taking high doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin D to help boost the immune system.
How Long COVID-19 Symptoms Last
The main symptoms of COVID-19—fever, cold symptoms, and/or cough—typically appear within 2-14 days of exposure. How long symptoms last vary per person, but most people recover by two weeks.
When You Can See Others
You can be around others after 10 days since symptoms first appeared and 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and other symptoms are improving.
*Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation
These recommendations do not apply to people with severe COVID-19 or with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised).
Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.