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 COVID-19 symptoms

  • Stay home. Call your healthcare provider and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms or you have tested positive for COVID-19. Do this before going to any hospital or clinic. Follow your provider's instructions. You will be advised to isolate yourself at home. This is called self-isolation. Isolate even if you don't have COVID-19 symptoms but you test positive. See the CDC's website for current, detailed information about staying home. Also, 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.

  • 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.

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

  • Don’t share food or personal items with people in your household. This includes items like eating and drinking utensils, towels, and bedding.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Follow all instructions the healthcare staff give you.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19

  • Stay home and isolate. Don’t leave your home unless you need to get medical care. Don't go to work, school, or public areas. Don't use public transportation or taxis.

  • 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.

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

  • Stay away from other people in your home. Stay in a separate room with its own bathroom, if possible.

  • Stay away from pets and other animals.

  • Don’t share food or personal items with people in your household. This includes items like eating and drinking utensils, towels, and bedding.

  • 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 

Prevention

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. One vaccine is available for people as young as 5. Booster shots are available for people as young as 5. Expert groups, including ACOG and CDC, advise pregnant or breastfeeding people to be vaccinated. Talk with your healthcare provider about which vaccine is best for you and your family and when you may need a booster shot.

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 serious 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. This will include when it's OK to stop self-isolation. 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.

The FDA approved monoclonal antibody therapy for emergency investigational use in certain people who have a positive COVID-19 viral test and have mild to moderate symptoms but are not in the hospital. Your healthcare provider will advise you on whether monoclonal antibody therapy is appropriate for you.

If you've had confirmed COVID-19, your healthcare team may ask you to consider donating your plasma. This is called COVID-19 convalescent plasma donation. Plasma from people fully recovered from COVID-19 may contain antibodies to help fight COVID-19 in people who are currently seriously ill with the disease. Experts don't know the safety of COVID-19 convalescent plasma or how well it works. Research continues. The FDA has approved it for emergency use in certain people with serious or life-threatening COVID-19.

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

When you have COVID-19, with or without symptoms, you should stay away from other people. This is called isolation.

Everyone who has presumed or confirmed COVID-19 should stay home and isolate from other people for at least 5 full days. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms or the day you had a positive COVID-19 test. You can end isolation after 5 full days if:

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

  • Your other symptoms such as cough or trouble breathing are better

If you tested positive (even without symptoms), wear a well-fitting mask 5 more days after leaving isolation. This is day 6 through day 10.

If you have a weak immune system and COVID-19, or if you've had severe COVID-19, your instructions on when to stop isolation will be somewhat different. 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. You may be advised to self-isolate up to 20 days after your symptoms first started. Your healthcare provider may want to retest you for COVID-19. Follow your provider's instructions.

See the CDC's isolation guidance.

CDC mask guidance

  • 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

Going home from the hospital

If you were diagnosed with COVID-19 and were recently discharged from the hospital:

  • Follow the instructions above for self-care and isolation.

  • Follow the hospital healthcare team’s specific instructions.

  • Ask questions if anything is unclear to you. Write down answers so you remember them.

Date last modified: 5/23/2022

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