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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (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. This is regardless of your vaccination status.

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 at least 5 days and isolate in your home. Separate from others as much as possible. You are most likely infectious during these first 5 days. Day 0 is the first day you tested or first had symptoms. Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms started or following your positive test. See the CDC's website for current, detailed information about staying home. Follow your local area's instructions on testing and staying home.

  • Stay away from work, school, and public places. Limit physical contact with family members. Limit visitors. Don't kiss anyone or share eating or drinking utensils. Clean surfaces you touch with disinfectant. This is to help prevent the virus from spreading.

  • Wear a high quality, well-fitting mask if you must be around others at home or in public. Don't go places where you are unable to wear a mask.

  • Don't travel.

  • Tell the healthcare staff about recent travel. This includes local travel on public transport. Staff may need to find other people you have been in contact with.

  • Take steps to 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.

  • 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.

  • Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. Call your healthcare provider’s office before going. They can prepare and give you instructions. This will help prevent the virus from spreading.

  • If you need to go to a hospital or clinic, expect that the healthcare staff will wear protective equipment such as masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection. You may be advised to wait in or enter through a separate area. This is to prevent the possible virus from spreading.

  • Follow all instructions the healthcare staff gives you.

Self-care at home 

Protection

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

  • Vaccinate. Several vaccines and booster shots are available to prevent COVID-19 or reduce its severity. These vaccines reduce how severe the illness will be if you get the virus. No vaccine is ever 100% effective in preventing any illness, but the COVID-19 vaccines work well and are safe. Vaccines are available for people as young as 6 months and boosters are available for people age 5 and older. 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.

  • Know your area's community transmission level and what to do if you've been exposed. Stay home if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

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

  • Get tested if needed.

  • Wear a well-fitted mask as advised. See the CDC's mask website.

  • Improve airflow indoors and move indoor activities outside.

  • Call your healthcare provider for treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick.

Treatment

Current treatment is mainly aimed at helping your body while it fights the virus. This is known as supportive care. If you have confirmed COVID-19, talk with your healthcare provider. You may qualify for certain medicines approved by the FDA to prevent severe COVID-19 infection.

For severe COVID-19, you may need to stay in the hospital. Supportive care 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. You may also get instructions on position changes to help your breathing, such as lying on your belly (prone positioning). 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.

If you test positive for COVID-19 and are more likely to get very sick, treatments are available that can reduce your chances of a hospital stay and death. For example, if you are at higher risk of inflammation caused by the COVID-19 virus, your provider may prescribe steroids or other anti-inflammatory medicines. The FDA has approved certain antivirals and monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19. Antivirals stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from spreading in the body. Monoclonal antibodies help the immune system fight the virus. These treatments are for people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.Talk with your healthcare provider to learn more. Follow your provider's specific instructions.

Home care for a sick person 

  • Follow all instructions from healthcare staff.

  • Wash your hands often.

  • Wear protective clothing as advised. Wear a mask when caring for someone with COVID-19.

  • Make sure the sick person wears a mask. If they can't wear a mask, don't stay in the same room with the person. If you must be in the same room, wear a face mask. When wearing a mask, make sure that it covers both the nose and mouth.

  • Keep track of the sick person’s symptoms.

  • 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.

  • Keep other people and pets away from the sick person.

When you can stop isolation

You can end isolation based on how serious your COVID-19 symptoms were.

If you had a positive COVID-19 test but had no symptoms, you can end isolation after day 5. Day 0 was the first day you tested. 

If you had COVID-19 symptoms, you may end isolation after day 5 if:

 

  • You are fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen, and

  • Your symptoms such as cough or trouble breathing are better

 

If you have moderate or severe COVID-19, your instructions on when to stop isolation are different. Moderate COVID-19 means you had shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Severe COVID-19 means you were in the hospital. If you have a weak immune system and COVID-19, you also will be advised to isolate longer. Some conditions and treatments can cause a weak immune system. These include cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplants, and conditions such as HIV or other immune system disorders. If you have moderate or severe COVID-19 or if you have a weak immune system and COVID-19, you will need to isolate through day 10. Day 0 is the first day you tested or had symptoms. If you had severe COVID-19 or have a weak immune system, talk with your provider before you end isolation.

See the CDC's isolation guidance.

CDC mask guidance after isolation

Follow the CDC's guidance on when to remove your mask after having COVID-19. After you end isolation when you are feeling better, wear your mask:

  • Through day 10, or

  • Sooner with testing. If you have 2 negative COVID-19 antigen tests taken 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10.

For COVID-19 prevention, follow the CDC's guidance and your local community's instructions on face masks.

  • Follow the CDC's guidance and your local community's instructions on face masks. Everyone ages 2 years and older should correctly wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public in areas where the COVID-19 Community Level is high, even if you are fully vaccinated.

  • Wear a mask with the best fit, protection, and comfort for you.

  • You may choose to wear a mask that offers greater protection in certain situations, such as when you are with people at higher risk for severe illness, or if you are at higher risk for severe illness.

  • See the CDC's mask guidance.

When to call your healthcare provider

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: 8/12/2022

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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