NEWS

How to Care for COVID-19 at Home

While some people need to be hospitalized for treatment of their COVID-19 symptoms, the majority of cases are mild and can be handled at home. Whether you are sick or are caring for someone who has COVID-19, here's what you need to know about recovering while isolated 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?

Testing is recommended if you think you might have COVID-19. Discuss your test results with your healthcare provider so they can advise you about the steps you need to take to get better and to prevent the spread of this infection.

At-Home Treatment

There are some treatment options for COVID-19. If you have the infection, you might need treatment if you have symptoms or if you're at risk of becoming severely ill from the infection. Most infections will only require supportive care.

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 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.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and face.

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.
  • Isolate the person in one room: Have them use a separate bathroom from other members of your household, if possible.
  • Have them wear a facial covering: They should use a mask whenever 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.
  • Thoroughly wash utensils, cups, towels, bedding, and other items: Don't share items used by the person who is sick.
  • If you need to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom: They are encouraged to do that themselves, so you should 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

Most people can end home isolation after 5 days (with day 0 being the day of onset of symptoms or positive test) if they have been without fever for 24 hours and symptoms are improving. They also need to wear a mask for 5 more days when around other people in their home or outside.

Once COVID-19 symptoms have resolved, you should still practice social distancing. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and continue to follow guidance from health officials based on the community spread of COVID-19 in your area.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

11 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVIDView, Key Updates for Week 14.

  2. Li R, et al. Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2). Science.

  3. Mayo Clinic. Coronavirus Disease 2019.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of Coronavirus.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Testing for COVID-19.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid-19 treatments and medications.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for Clinicians on Investigational Therapeutics for Patients with COVID-19.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caring for someone at home.

  9. World Health Organization. Q&A on coronaviruses.

  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA advises patients on use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for COVID-19.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quarantine and isolation.

Additional Reading

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.