What to do if you have symptoms

This article was last reviewed and updated on April 28, 2021.

COVID-19 is an illness that can affect the lungs, skin, nervous system, blood as well as other organs. Here you’ll find all of the latest information on the symptoms and what you should do if you think you are sick.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. COVID-19 patients may have:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should not leave your home (except to get medical care as advised by a medical professional or in a medical emergency) if you have any of these symptoms or think you might have COVID-19. If you live with other people who do not have symptoms, you should practice self-isolation: separate yourself in a “sick room” if possible, and minimize contact with members of your household as much as you can. Wear a facemask around others, cover your coughs and sneezes, and clean your hands often. Call ahead before visiting your doctor, or schedule a visit by phone or telemedicine.

Use our COVID-19 Care Assistant

If you think you or someone you know might have COVID-19, you can check your symptoms using our COVID-19 Care Assistant. It helps you identify if you’re at risk, connects you with expert clinicians, and helps you self-monitor your health. It’s easy to use and helps you get the right care at the right time, all from your phone.

How to self-isolate

If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and are self-isolating, here’s some helpful information on what to do and how to cope when you’re stuck inside.

Will I get seriously ill?

Around 8 out of 10 people will get a mild form of the illness.1 A small number of people go on to develop difficulty breathing and need to go to the hospital.

Those who develop breathing issues usually do so in the second week of illness.2 3

The people most at risk for developing more serious symptoms are those aged 65 or older, people living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, smokers, and those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, kidney, lung, liver, or heart disease, Down syndrome, weakened immune system, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, diabetes, neurological condition, stroke, HIV, organ/stem cell transplant, smoking or substance use disorder.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Most people infected with COVID-19 either have no symptoms at all or have mild ones that require no treatment.

The FDA has approved an antiviral medication, remdesivir, to treat COVID-19. Based on the current NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, remdesivir is recommended for certain hospitalized patients with COVID-19.4

The FDA has also issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for bamlanivimab plus etesevimab and casirivimab plus imdevimab for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19. These drugs are monoclonal antibodies that can be used for certain patients that are at high risk for severe illness. They are not authorized for use in patients who are hospitalized or require oxygen therapy as a result of COVID-19.5

In rare and severe cases of COVID-19, treatment includes admission to the hospital and care focused on supporting the person through the course of the virus while their immune system works to overcome it.

References

  1. The Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Emergency Response Epidemiology Team. China CDC Weekly, 2020, 2(8): 113-122
  2. Zhou F et al. The Lancet. Online first, March 11, 2020
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim clinical guidance for management of patients with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Updated March 7, 2010
  4. FDA’s approval of Veklury (remdesivir) for the treatment of COVID-19—The Science of Safety and Effectiveness
    https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fdas-approval-veklury-remdesivir-treatment-covid-19-science-safety-and-effectiveness
  5. https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-legal-regulatory-and-policy-framework/emergency-use-authorization#coviddrugs