If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you may be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, you should take steps to take care of yourself AND help prevent the virus from spreading to people in your home and community.
Some people will be able to stay at home and recover without going into the hospital. However, older adults and anyone with certain serious underlying medical conditions like lung disease, heart disease or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19. In those cases, seek medical care as soon as symptoms start.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers extensive guidelines for how to care for yourself or a sick person at home, if appropriate, which should be followed along with your doctor’s orders. Note that these guidelines may change as new information becomes available.
Here are the basic steps for caring for yourself and your family at home should you suspect you have COVID-19:
Call your doctor: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as a cough, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. Don’t go into the doctor’s office until the doctor instructs you to do so.
Isolate: Stay at home if you have COVID-19, if you suspect you might have it, or if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus. Do not go out and do not have visitors. Remember that even though your case may be mild, you can infect others who may become critically ill or even die. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas. Avoid public transportation. Stay home!
Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. Use hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.
Clean and disinfect: Regularly clean any high-traffic, high-touch items and areas in your home, including phones; remote controls; counters; tabletops; doorknobs; bathroom fixtures; toilets; keyboards; tablets; and bedside tables. When using a disinfectant, be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed. Many also recommend precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
Don’t touch: Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Wear a facemask: If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
Stay separate: If someone in the home is sick or known to be exposed to COVID-19, keep them as far as possible from others. The sick or exposed person should stay in a specific “sick room” and, if possible, use a separate bathroom.
Hydrate: Make sure the sick person drinks a lot of fluids to stay hydrated and rests at home. Ask the doctor what over-the-counter medicines may help with symptoms.
In an emergency: Call 9-1-1 and alert dispatch that you or your loved one may have COVID-19. This will help first responders to protect themselves and other patients. Symptoms which indicate a possible emergency include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Note: This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
Limit contact with pets: Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people with the virus limit contact with animals until more information is known. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick with the virus. (If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them. Consult the CDC website for more information.)
When you’re the caregiver:
Caring for someone with COVID-19 (or possible COVID-19)
In addition to the above precautions, keep these suggestions from the CDC in mind if you’re caring for a sick person at home.
Wear a mask: If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live in the home should stay in a different room. When caregivers enter the room of the sick person, they should wear a facemask.
Do not share: Do not share dishes; drinking glasses; cups; eating utensils; towels or bedding used by the sick person with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher and or laundry.
Clean: Clean high-touch surfaces in your isolation area (“sick room” and bathroom) every day. If you’re sick, let a caregiver clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in other areas of the home. If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
Wash: If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
Monitor: Pay attention and alert a doctor if the person’s symptoms worsen. Have their healthcare provider’s contact information on hand. Know the emergency warning signs. Follow care instructions from the healthcare provider and local health department. Local health authorities will give instructions on checking for symptoms and reporting information.
When You Recover
People with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:
- You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (i.e. three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
- Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
- At least seven (7) days have passed since your symptoms first appeared, OR you have been tested and received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
In all cases, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department. The decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider and state and local health departments. Local decisions depend on local circumstances.