How to Care for COVID-19 at Home

Treating and defeating the disease on your own

While there were 4,000 people hospitalized with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) between early March and early April, the majority of cases—about 86%—are mild and can be handled at home. Whether you find yourself ill or are caring for someone with the COVID-19 symptoms, here's what you need to know about recovering while isolated at home.

recovering from covid-19 at home
Verywell / Lara Antal

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 are not to be taken lightly, but for the most part, they can be managed at home. They often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever over 100.4°F
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Other symptoms that have been reported include a sore throat, stuffy nose, loss of taste and smell, and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or nausea.

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention if you or the person you're caring for begin to experience:

  • Shortness of breath that affects your ability to speak or walk
  • Ongoing pain or pressure in your chest
  • A blueish tone to the lips or face
  • New confusion or unresponsiveness

Should You Get a Test?

Not everyone needs a diagnostic test, but you should call your doctor if you think your illness is severe enough to warrant medical attention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued specific priorities for testing, with already-hospitalized patients, symptomatic healthcare workers, and symptomatic high-risk individuals topping the list.

To prevent further spread of infection and because of limited resources, your doctor may just advise you to stay home unless your symptoms get worse.

At-Home Treatment

While treatment options are being heavily investigated, there are currently no approved treatments or cures for COVID-19, nor is there a vaccine. Some medications are being tested in hospitals when advanced care is warranted, but most infections will only require supportive care at home. Supportive care includes:

  • Rest
  • Staying well-hydrated
  • Over-the-counter symptom control, like acetaminophen to lower fevers

Using a humidifier may be helpful for some people, though it is not routinely needed. Antibiotics are not recommended for general use with COVID-19 infections. Although there has been concern about the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in people with COVID-19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no evidence connecting any NSAIDs—like ibuprofen—to worsening COVID-19 symptoms.

Tip: Lean Back

How you're lying while you're sick can affect your recovery. If you're having trouble breathing, try to rest sitting or leaning back, but not quite lying flat on your back.

Protect Yourself and Others

Whether you are the person who is sick or you are taking care of someone who is sick, public health officials have a long list of precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

If You Are Sick

  • Stay home.
  • Separate yourself from other members of your household. Stay in a separate room away from other people and pets, and use a separate bathroom if possible.
  • Wear a facial covering if you need to interact with someone in your household, or if you absolutely must go out (to the doctor, for example).
  • Monitor your symptoms, but don't go to the hospital unless your symptoms become severe, or unless your doctor instructs you to do so. If you go to the doctor or emergency room, call ahead.
  • Don't share personal household items like utensils, cups, towels, or bedding.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes and wash your hands often.

If You're Caring for Someone Who Is Sick

  • Monitor their symptoms. Know their healthcare provider's contact information, and reach out to that provider if they get sicker or display the emergency symptoms mentioned above.
  • Isolate the person in one room. Have them use a separate bathroom from other members of your household as well, if possible.
  • Have them wear a facial covering when interacting with other people is necessary (whether at home, in the car, or at a doctor's office).
  • Wear a facial covering yourself. Wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off, which you should do by the straps only. Try to avoid touching the front of the facial covering.
  • Wash your hands frequently. Using soap and water is best, but hand sanitizer works, too.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and face.
  • Clean "high-touch" items and surfaces frequently.
  • Thoroughly wash utensils, cups, towels, bedding, and other items used by the person who is sick. Do not share these items.
  • If you need to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom (they are encouraged to do that themselves), only do so on an as-needed basis. Wear a facial covering and gloves. For bathroom and bedroom cleanings, wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the room.

Ending Isolation

Home isolation—including isolation from others within your home—can be discontinued when all three of the following criteria are met:

  1. No fever for three days
  2. Improvement in other symptoms, like coughing
  3. At least seven days have passed since your symptoms began

If you have the opportunity to be tested to see if you are still contagious, two negative results 24 hours apart are required to end isolation, in addition to improved symptoms and a lack of fever.

Once COVID-19 symptoms have resolved, you should still practice social distancing and follow the guidance of your doctor and local health department. There are still plenty unknowns when it comes to how the virus spreads, if it can reactivate, or how we achieve immunity.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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