Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, simple cold or flu-like symptoms can become unnerving. If you find that you start to feel ill and match the symptoms from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 list, here is what you should do:
First, Know the Symptoms
It’s important to review the CDC’s list of symptoms for COVID-19. Because this illness can feel similar to seasonal allergies or the common flu, knowing the distinctions will help you identify it.
Symptoms can occur 2 to 14 days after an exposure to the virus. The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
The CDC also provides a Coronavirus Checker feature on its website, so you can self-diagnose your illness and read the next steps for staying healthy.
Know When to Seek Emergency Care
Because most cases of COVID-19 are mild and do not require treatment at a hospital, it is not imperative that you get tested or leave your home for medical help. If you suspect that you have COVID-19, you should contact your primary care doctor. Do not travel to your primary care doctor’s office.
If you are having the following symptoms, you should be evaluated in an emergency room:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pressure in your chest
- New confusion or lethargy
- Bluish lips and/or face
- A pre-existing health condition causing you to become severely ill
If you are not critically ill, it is important to recover at home so hospitals can use their resources to treat people who need them.
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Remain at Home
The moment you start feeling symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay at home and limit your interactions with other people in your household. You should not use public transportation if you feel ill, including buses, taxis, and ride shares. Do not visit any public areas, including the grocery store and pharmacy. Use delivery services or have a household member pick up supplies for you.
Designate a sick-room or area in your home where you can self-isolate and recover. If you can, use a different bathroom from the rest of your household. Limit your contact with everyone else in your home to avoid spreading the virus to them. Designate your own bedding, towels, dishes, utensils, and cups, and make sure they are thoroughly washed before the next use. If you do have to be around others, wear a facemask (a homemade one works) and avoid touching shared items as much as possible.
Take Care of Yourself
Get plenty of fluids and rest. The coronavirus affects everyone differently, so be sure to listen to your body and be aware of your symptoms. You might feel better one day, then much worse the next. Stay home for at least seven days after the symptoms start showing.
Disinfect Everything, Every Day
Any high-touch surface should be cleaned every day in your isolation area. If you live with others, they should be cleaning the rest of the house every day as well. These surfaces include but are not limited to:
- Cell phone
- Remote control
- Laptop computers or computer keyboards
- Light fixtures
Use soap and water or a disinfectant spray, but make sure you are following the instructions closely. Some sprays require wet surfaces for several minutes to kill all germs.
Practice Good Hygiene
If you suspect you might have COVID-19, you are incredibly contagious to those around you. Now more than ever, it is important to follow the CDC guidelines to stop the spread.
- Cover your mouth with your sleeve, your elbow, or a tissue as completely as you can when you sneeze or cough.
- Dispose of any used tissues immediately.
- Wash your hands several times a day, singing “Happy Birthday” twice to reach the 20-second rule every time.
- If you do not have soap and water available or near, have a bottle of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol within reach.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands.
Monitor Your Symptoms
Monitor your symptoms every day and keep track of when you first started feeling ill. If your symptoms worsen to the point of needing medical attention, call your doctor or emergency room first to let them know you’re coming.
Don’t forget your facemask if you do need to enter a medical facility or any public building. Practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
It’s been over a week, and you are finally starting to feel better. You can discontinue your home self-isolation once you have:
- No sign of fever for over 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication AND
- It has been seven days since your symptoms have resolved.
If you are tested to see if you are still contagious, you can end self-isolation once you receive two negative tests 24 hours apart.
During the next month of stay-at-home orders, continue to disinfect surfaces and practice good hygiene. Wash any bedding and clothing you used during self-isolation yourself to reduce the risk of household members being exposed.
For more information regarding self-isolation for COVID-19, visit the CDC’s coronavirus website.
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About Infectious Diseases
If you have a disease caused by bacteria, fungi, parasite, or virus, the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases can help. Our team of experts is specially trained in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, including of HIV-AIDs, postsurgical and transplant infections, illnesses caused by international travel, and more. We research infectious diseases and participate in clinical trials to learn more and develop better treatment and prevention methods. Visit our website to find an expert near you.