If you or a loved one are sick with COVID-19, any treatments used should be prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Being up to date on all recommended COVID-19 vaccinations is your best protection against severe COVID-19 illness. And if you experience symptoms, test right away. If the test is positive and you are at increased risk for severe illness, talk with your healthcare provider. Treatments must be taken as soon as possible to help you avoid getting sicker from COVID-19.
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Understand Treatment Options If:
Many individuals, including those who live with chronic lung disease, are at high risk for severe illness if they get sick with COVID-19. Severe symptoms that may require hospitalization typically occur about one week after initial symptoms begin. The FDA has issued emergency use authorization (EUAs) for certain medications that your healthcare provider may prescribe with a goal of keeping you from developing severe symptoms. Depending on your situation, you may receive one of these treatments:
- Antiviral medications can help your immune system fight of the coronavirus infection by stopping the virus from multiplying in your body, with a goal of preventing you from becoming more seriously ill. There is a narrow window, typically five days from when you begin feeling ill, to begin this treatment so speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you test positive for COVID-19.
- Preferred therapies include PAXLOVID (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) or VEKLURY (remdesivir)
- Alternative therapies include Lagevrio (molnupiravir)
Treatments for COVID-19 are constantly evolving. The National Institutes of Health regularly updates current treatment guidelines to help guide healthcare providers in treating their patients who test positive for COVID-19.
|When to Begin Treatment
|How is treatment taken/given
|As soon as possible, within 5 days of symptom onset
|All ages (beginning at 28 days old)
|As soon as possible, within 7 days of symptom onset
|IV infusions for 3 consecutive days at a healthcare facility
|As soon as possible, within 5 days of symptom onset
Treatments are widely available. Find a location that offers testing and treatment or a pharmacy where you can fill your prescription.
- Monitor your symptoms and report any changes to your healthcare provider via phone.
- Severe illness, including shortness of breath, typically occurs about one week after initial symptoms occur and requires prompt emergency care.
- Stay home from work, school and other public places. Have groceries delivered or ask a family member or friend to pick up needed essentials for you and drop at your door.
- 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.
- If you are high-risk for severe COVID-19 illness, review the Treatment Options If You Are High Risk section above.
- Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.
- Cover your cough and sneeze 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.
You could be hospitalized for COVID-19 for several reasons including difficulty breathing, and your symptoms will determine your care once you arrive. Hospital staff will monitor your vital signs to make sure you are getting enough oxygen and may administer fluids so you stay hydrated. If your oxygen levels are low, you may be administered supplemental oxygen.
If your symptoms worsen, you may be transferred to an intensive care unit (ICU) for closer monitoring.
There is currently one drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19
- Remdesivir (Veklury), an antiviral which has been shown to shorten the recovery time needed in some hospitalized patients
The FDA has also issued emergency use authorization (EUAs) for certain medications that your healthcare provider may prescribe as treatment of COVID-19. Depending on your situation, you may receive:
- Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid used to prevent or reduce inflammation in hospitalized patients with severe illness who need supplemental oxygen
- Tocilizumab, baricitinib or sarlilumab biological therapy used to reduce inflammation in hospitalized patients with severe illness requiring oxygen delivery through a high-flow device, invasive mechanical ventilation or ECMO, if used in addition to dexamethasone
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly updates treatment recommendations based on the expert panel at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who have developed and regularly update the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines.
Supportive care is given for mild to severe symptoms. Supportive care means treating the symptoms while the disease runs its course.
Some people will take longer than others to feel well again after COVID-19 and may require additional support. Learn more about recovering from COVID-19.
Emergency Warning Signs
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.
Page last updated: February 2, 2024