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COVID-19: Caring for Yourself or Others

If you or a household member test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms like fever, cough, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, follow these guidelines for preventing spread of the virus and managing symptoms. These apply even if you are vaccinated.

If you have symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you test positive (even without symptoms):

  • Stay home and away from others (including people you live with who are not sick) if you have respiratory virus symptoms that aren't better explained by another cause. You can go back to your normal activities when, for at least 24 hours, both are true:

    • Your symptoms are getting better overall, and

    • You have not had a fever and are not using fever-reducing medicine.

  • When you go back to your normal activities, take extra precaution for the next 5 days, such as:

    • Improve airflow at home. For example, open windows to improve airflow, change filters in your air conditioning unit, and turn your thermostat to "on" instead of "auto" to improve airflow and filtration. For more tips, see the CDC website.

    • Don't share personal items such as eating or drinking utensils and linens or food.

    • Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask if you must be around others at home or in public.

    • If you develop a fever or you start to feel worse after you have gone back to normal activities, stay home and away from others again and repeat the process. Stay home until, for at least 24 hours, your symptoms are getting better and you have not had a fever and are not using fever-reducing medicines. Take extra precautions for another 5 days.

  • If you need to cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue. Then throw the tissue into the trash. If you don't have tissues, cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow.

  • Wash your hands often.

Self-care at home 


You can protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19 or from getting very sick if you get it:

  • Vaccinate. CDC recommends the 2023–2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. No vaccine is ever 100% effective in preventing any illness, but the COVID-19 vaccines work well and are safe. Expert groups, including ACOG and CDC, advise pregnant or breastfeeding people to be vaccinated. Talk with your healthcare provider about which COVID-19 vaccine is best for you and your family.

  • Practice good handwashing.

  • Stay home if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

  • Keep your distance from anyone who is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19 when possible.

  • Get tested if needed.

  • Wear a high-quality, well-fitted mask as advised.

  • Improve airflow indoors and move indoor activities outside.


Most people with COVID-19 recover with supportive care. This includes:

  • Getting rest. This helps your body fight the illness.

  • Staying hydrated. Drinking liquids is the best way to prevent dehydration. Try to drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquids every day, or as advised by your provider. Also check with your provider about which fluids are best for you. Don't drink fluids that contain caffeine or alcohol.

  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine. These are used to help ease pain and reduce fever. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for which OTC medicine to use.

If you've been treated for suspected or confirmed COVID-19, follow all of your healthcare team's instructions. If you were treated at a hospital and discharged, you may be sent home with a pulse oximeter. This is a small electronic device that you clip on your fingertip. It measures the amount of oxygen in your body. Follow your healthcare team's instructions on its use, how they will be in touch with you, and let you know when to call them.

Home care for a sick person 

  • Follow all instructions from healthcare staff.

  • Wash your hands often.

  • Make sure the sick person wears a mask. If they can't wear a mask, limit your time in the same room with the person and wear a mask around them.

  • Keep track of the sick person’s symptoms.

  • Monitor yourself for symptoms and take a COVID-19 test as advised by the CDC. Take a test even if you feel fine.

  • Clean home surfaces often with disinfectant. This includes phones, kitchen counters, fridge door handle, bathroom surfaces, and others.

  • Don’t let anyone share household items with the sick person. This includes eating and drinking tools, towels, sheets, or blankets.

  • Clean fabrics and laundry thoroughly.

  • Wear a high-quality mask around others as advised.

When to call your healthcare provider

If you have COVID-19 and are more likely to get very sick, call your healthcare provider or seek care right away. There are treatments available to reduce your risk of getting very sick or being hospitalized. Don't delay calling your provider or seeking care. Treatment must be started within 5 to 7 days after you first develop symptoms.

Call your healthcare provider right away if a sick person has any of these:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Pain or pressure in chest

If a sick person has any of these, call 911:

  • Trouble breathing that gets worse

  • Pain or pressure in chest that gets worse

  • Blue tint to lips or face

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

  • Confusion or trouble waking

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Coughing up blood

Date last modified: 6/10/2024

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2024
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.