Caring for COVID-19
There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19. Supportive care is given for mild to severe symptoms. Supportive care means treating the symptoms while the disease runs its course.
If you have possible or confirmed COVID-19 you should:
- Stay home from work, school and other public places.
- Monitor your symptoms and report any changes to your healthcare provider via phone
- Separate yourself from others. This is known as home isolation. As much as possible, stay away from other people in your home by dedicating a sick room and use a separate bathroom, if available.
- Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated
- Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue that you throw away immediately after.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid sharing personal items with other people in your household, like dishes, towels, and bedding
- Clean all surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, and doorknobs. Use household cleaning sprays or wipes according to the label instructions.
Emergency Warning Signs
Adults over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions, including chronic lung disease, are more likely to develop severe symptoms. However, there have been reported cases of people under 65 developing severe symptoms, so please contact your healthcare provider if you start showing symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, regardless of your age so they can help you monitor symptoms and recovery.
Recovering from COVID-19
If you have stayed home due to illness from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 you should follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and local health department on when to end home isolation. Multiple factors are taken into account in determining when it is safe for you to return to work or emerge from self-quarantine.
If you had symptoms with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, your doctor will make a recommendation based on whether or not you have access to testing.
- If you have access to testing – You should stay home from work until you get negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 test per CDC guidelines. In addition, your symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, are better and your fever is gone without using fever-reducing medications.
- If no testing is available – You should stay home from work until at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery. This means your fever has been gone for that period of time without using fever reducing-medications, and your symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, are better. And it’s been at least ten days since the symptoms first appeared.
Some people have not had any symptoms and have laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. In this case, CDC makes the following recommendations:
- If you have access to a follow-up test – You should stay home from work until you get negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 test per CDC guidelines.
- If no follow-up test is available – You should stay home from work until at least ten days have passed since the date of your first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test. However, if symptoms appear you should defer back to the symptom-based strategies outlined above.
Regaining Your Strength After Severe Illness
While there is still much to learn about recovering from COVID-19, experience with other types of lung infections provides medical experts with some idea of what you can expect. Your path to recovery will be unique, depending on your overall health, the treatment provided and any co-existing conditions such as COPD, asthma or another chronic lung disease.
Some people feel better and able to return to their normal routines within a week. For others, recovery will likely be slower, taking a month or more. Don’t rush your recovery. Get adequate rest and follow your doctor’s guidance on when to return to a normal routine.
Now is a great time to recommit to good health practices that keep your lungs functioning at their best, including eating healthy food, getting adequate rest and avoiding exposure to smoke and air pollution. Exercise is also important to keeping your lungs healthy. Your doctor may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to ease back into your prior activity levels, especially if your illness was prolonged and severe.
Depending on your experience with COVID-19, the following complications may have occurred and may require additional support and recovery.
- Pneumonia, a lung infection that can be life threatening.
- Lung abscesses, which are infrequent, but serious complications of pneumonia. They occur when pockets of pus form inside or around the lung. These may sometimes need to be drained with surgery.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a severe form of respiratory failure.
There is much we are still learning about COVID-19, including any lasting effects on the lungs. This disease has not been seen in humans before so long-term or permanent damage to the lungs is something that will be studied for years to come.
Page last updated: May 12, 2020