If you have a fever, muscle aches, cough, or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19.

Most people with COVID-19 have only mild symptoms and can recover at home. If you have severe symptoms of COVID-19, including difficulty breathing, call 911 or visit your local emergency room immediately.

If you have COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19, there are steps you should take to help prevent the virus from spreading to others in your home and community. These recommendations are for people who are not healthcare workers. Healthcare workers should refer to specific guidance from the CDC and their employer.

Steps to Prevent Spreading COVID-19

Get tested for COVID-19

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested for the virus, either at a laboratory or with an at-home test. Every home in the U.S. can order up to four free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. Learn more at covidtests.gov.

While waiting for your results from a lab test, you should act as if you have COVID-19. Stay away from others, track your symptoms and rest. If you must be near others, such as those in your household, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you should inform your health care provider as well as anyone with whom you were recently in close contact. You also should stay at home for at least 5 days from the onset of symptoms, regardless of your vaccination status. View the latest quarantine and isolation guidelines from the CDC.

Given the surge of COVID cases across the region due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant, testing sites may have limited availability. If you cannot find a place to get tested, and do not have access to an at-home antigen test, you should assume your symptoms are likely to be from COVID-19. Isolate as described above in accordance with CDC guidance and talk to your healthcare provider.

Stay home unless you are seeking medical care

Most people with COVID-19 have only mild symptoms and can recover at home. If you have COVID-19, you should stay home except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas or use public transportation.

If you have a severe illness from COVID-19, including difficulty breathing, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room as soon as possible.

Contact your health care provider

If you test positive for COVID-19, let your health care provider know. They may give instructions to track your symptoms and report information.

If you have an in-person appointment scheduled, let your provider know if you have COVID-19 symptoms even if you are unsure whether you have COVID-19. Your provider may decide to postpone your visit or conduct it via telemedicine instead.

Rest and stay hydrated

As with any illness, it is important to take care of yourself if you have or suspect you have COVID.

Make sure you get adequate rest and stay hydrated to help you feel better as quickly as possible. Over-the-counter medicines might also help you manage your symptoms.

Track your symptoms

Some people, including people older than 65 or those who have chronic health conditions, are more likely to get severely sick from COVID-19. It is important to monitor your symptoms in case they get worse.

Call 911 or visit the closest emergency room immediately if you experience severe COVID-19 symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or persistent chest pain.

Stay away from others, even in your home

If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or are awaiting test results, be sure to separate yourself from other people. Do not visit public places unless you are seeking medical care.

Although it may be difficult to stay away from other people and pets in your home, it is important to help keep your family members and loved ones from catching COVID-19. Stay in a specific room, and if possible, use a separate bathroom. If you must be around other people, wear a mask that covers both your nose and mouth.

View the latest quarantine and isolation guidelines from the CDC, which differs based on whether you have symptoms or are immunocompromised.

Tell your close contacts they may have been exposed to COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19, tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed. A person with COVID-19 can spread the virus starting 48 hours before they have symptoms or test positive.

A close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of you for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Seek emergency medical care, if necessary

Some people with COVID-19 may experience severe symptoms and require emergency care.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest that is persistent 
  • Confusion
  • Trouble waking up or staying awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips or face

There are other possible severe COVID symptoms. Please call your health care provider for any additional symptoms that are concerning you.

Plan to get vaccinated or boosted

Penn Medicine offers several locations to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster doses. View our COVID-19 vaccine locations.

If are not vaccinated against the coronavirus, plan to get vaccinated once you are recovered. Adults who are vaccinated after recovering from the virus are less likely to get COVID-19 a second time compared to those who remain unvaccinated.

If you are vaccinated and are eligible for a booster but have not yet received one, plan to get boosted once you have recovered.

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