What to do if you have symptoms

This article was last reviewed on July 09, 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.

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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.

There are some medications that have received emergency use authorization for treatment of COVID-19 infection.

In 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.