COVID-19

How to treat yourself at home if you have a coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis

March 31, 2020

If you have just been diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19), you and your doctor may decide that your best option for care is to recover at home.

This general guidance should not replace the instructions given to you by your doctor or healthcare provider. If this general guidance is different, be sure to follow the instructions provided by your doctor or healthcare provider to safely manage your care at home and help limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others.

The following are general tips to help you minimize the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), feel better and recover, and understand when to reconnect with your doctor or healthcare provider.

You should follow these recommendations until at least 7 days after you start having symptoms and at least 3 days after you no longer have a fever and shortness of breath.

Avoid contact with others as much as possible

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Family members or anyone living in the household with a person who is infected have a high risk of getting the disease because of the prolonged close contact. While you are ill, try to limit your contact with other people in your household and outside.

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, or wear a face mask when in the same room as another person. Frequently disinfect surfaces. As much as possible, try to stay in another room, separate  from others in the household, including sleeping in another room. Limit the number of people that come into contact with you.

Stay home unless you need to seek medical care. Ask family members or friends to shop for your groceries and other supplies.

Feel better and recover faster

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are cough, fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue. As you likely know, antibiotics have no role in treating this viral infection. The treatment begins with supportive care like you would do if you have the flu. It is very important to make sure you get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids so that you don't get dehydrated. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages (such as coffee, teas and sodas) and alcoholic beverages because they can lead to dehydration.

Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) should be used for fever and body aches. Make sure to talk  with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any underlying health conditions that might prevent you from taking acetaminophen products safely.

Acetaminophen won’t cure COVID-19, but it can help you feel better while your body finishes fighting the infection. Follow the recommendations on the medication label. Taking higher doses won't help and can cause other problems. There have been reports of patients that have used ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) for symptoms and who later developed pneumonia. So, the current general recommendation is to use acetaminophen to treat symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have a cough, it is fine to use over-the-counter cough medicines. These medicines won't cure the virus, but they will help you feel better while you recover.

Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if:

  • You experience a change in your symptoms or condition
  • Your symptoms get worse rather than getting better
  • You notice worsening of shortness of breath, or if you notice a change in your cough such that it is now producing more sputum or a change in the sputum produced
  • You were getting better but now your symptoms are worse again (many patients who get the sickest don’t get worse until after day 5 of the illness)

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency or if you are experiencing severe symptoms, go directly to the ER or call 911.

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