COVID-19 Treatment

Learn about COVID-19 medications, supportive care and recovering from illness.

Treating COVID-19

If you or a loved one are sick with COVID-19, any treatments used should be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

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Testing and Treating COVID-19

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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.

Treatment Available 
Age Indications 
When to Begin Treatment 
How is treatment taken/given  
Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavi)
Ages 12+
As soon as possible, within 5 days of symptom onset
Taken orally
Veklury (remdesivir)
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
Lagevrio (molnupiravir)
As soon as possible, within 5 days of symptom onset

Taken orally

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

Are COVID-19 Treatments an Option for Me?

COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild to severe. Americans continue to fall ill with the disease and many recommended treatments are not yet widely understood. Take this quiz to help determine if it makes sense to consider outpatient treatment for COVID-19.

Are you 12 years of age or older?

Treatment options vary by age.

Are you at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

Some examples of individuals at high-risk for severe disease include if you are over the age of 65 years, or if you have one of the following conditions: chronic lung, heart or kidney disease, are pregnant, are immunocompromised or are overweight or obese.

Have you tested positive for COVID-19?

Please indicate vaccination status.

If you have symptoms of respiratory illness, it is important to get tested so you and your healthcare provider can determine the best course of action.

Are you currently hospitalized for COVID-19?

Please indicate vaccination status.

There are different recommended treatments depending on if you have been hospitalized or are treating your symptoms at home.

Has it been 7 days or less since you began having symptoms of COVID-19?

Please indicate vaccination status.

Treatment may be available if given within 7 days of symptom onset. Oral antivirals must be taken within 5 days of symptom onset. Generally, the sooner treatment is given, the better they work.


 Outpatient COVID-19 treatment is likely an option for you. Speak with your healthcare provider promptly to determine what treatment options are best for you based on your symptoms and health history. Treatments can help prevent severe COVID-19 illness. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible. 

 Outpatient COVID-19 treatment likely is not an option for you based on your responses. Regardless, you should speak with your healthcare provider about how to manage your symptoms. 

Summary of your answers:

  • You are 12 years of age or older.
  • One antiviral medication, Veklury (remdesivir) is recommended for use in children 28 days and older.
  • ✓ You are at high risk for severe illness. 
  • ☒ Treatments are not recommended if you are not high risk for severe illness.
  • ✓ You will need a positive COVID-19 test to seek treatment.
  • ☒ You will need a positive COVID-19 test to seek this treatment.
  • ☒ Different treatment options are recommended once you have been hospitalized with severe illness.
  • ✓ Treating COVID-19 now may help keep you out of the hospital.
  • ✓ You tested positive for COVID-19 and began having symptoms within the past 7 days.
  • ☒ It has been more than 7 days since you began having symptoms.

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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

Seek emergency care if you start having trouble breathing, experience pain or pressure in your chest, experience new confusion or inability to wake or stay awake, or develop a bluish tinge to your lips or face.

If you are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, you can reduce your risk of hospitalization by testing as soon as you have symptoms and discussing early treatment options with a healthcare provider.

Call the Lung HelpLine

Our Lung HelpLine is answering questions about COVID-19. Contact our Lung HelpLine by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA or submitting a question online.
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Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: February 2, 2024

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