Treating COVID-19 at home: Care tips for you and others

Providing care at home for a person sick with COVID-19? Or caring for yourself at home? Understand when emergency care is needed and what you can do to prevent the spread of infection.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have COVID-19, also called coronavirus disease 2019, you may have some questions. COVID-19 can affect people differently. Whether you’re caring for yourself or someone else at home, here is some basic information on emergency care, how to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and when you can get back to being with others.

At-home care for COVID-19

Many people with COVID-19 get better with rest, fluids and treatment for their symptoms. Medicine you can get without a prescription can help.

Some examples are:

  • Fever reducers.
  • Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
  • Cough syrup or medicine.

A person at high risk of serious COVID-19 illness may be offered medicine to prevent mild illness from getting worse.

Groups at higher risk are people age 65 and older, babies younger than 6 months, and people with certain medical conditions. Those conditions include blood disorders and chronic diseases.

If you are looking after someone with COVID-19, help the person track symptoms. You may need to help with child care or getting food and any medicine needed. And it can help to take care of the person’s pet.

For as long as COVID-19 symptoms get worse, stay home and apart from people who don’t have COVID-19. That will help stop the spread of the virus. People with weakened immune systems may need to stay apart, also called isolate, for longer. Your healthcare professional can advise you on what’s best in your situation.

If you have COVID-19 and are staying separate from others, it can be stressful. You can take these actions to help your body and mind through the illness and isolation:

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Get the rest you need.
  • Try relaxation exercises.
  • Keep up with hobbies you enjoy.
  • Connect with others through phone or video calls.

Also, if you’re caring for someone with COVID-19, think about how it might affect your health. If you are age 65 or older or have chronic medical conditions, you may be at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19.

Your best protection is a recent COVID-19 vaccine. But you might think about staying apart from the person with COVID-19. If other people could provide care, that might help lower your risk. Other actions, such as increasing airflow in your living space and wearing a face mask, can help you avoid getting the virus that causes COVID-19.

Emergency warning signs of COVID-19

Carefully watch yourself or the person you’re caring for to see if COVID-19 symptoms are getting worse.

Get emergency help right away for any of these symptoms:

  • Breathing problems or not being able to catch your breath.
  • Skin, lips or nail beds that are gray or blue.
  • New confusion.
  • Trouble staying awake or waking up.
  • Chest pain or pressure that is constant.

This list doesn’t include all symptoms. If you or a person you’re taking care of has symptoms that worry you, get help. Let the healthcare team know about a positive test for COVID-19 or symptoms of the illness.

Protecting others if you have COVID-19

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus to others, stay home and apart from anyone you live with for as long as you have worsening symptoms. You can wear a face mask if you must be around other people.

You also can take other actions that lower the chance of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands well and often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch often.
  • Do not share towels, cups or other items if possible.
  • Use a separate bathroom and bedroom if possible.
  • Get more airflow in your home.

Once you’re feeling better and haven’t had a fever for a full 24 hours without taking medicine for fever, you can go back to being around others. If your fever comes back or you start to feel worse, return to isolation until your symptoms improve and you are fever-free without fever-reducing medicine for 24 hours. But listen to the advice of your healthcare professional.

In the five days after isolation, to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, you can wear a mask and keep up with the actions that prevent the coronavirus from spreading. These actions are helpful even if you never had symptoms but tested positive for COVID-19.

Protecting yourself while caring for someone with COVID-19

As you care for someone with COVID-19, avoid touching that person’s fluids. Wash your hands after cleaning up waste such as used tissues, vomit, stool or urine.

Continue all the actions that help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. This includes washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, not touching your face, wearing a face mask when you’re in the same room as the person who is ill, and cleaning the home. But avoid cleaning the room where the person is isolating and set aside bedding, towels and utensils for the sick person only to use.

Avoid direct physical contact with the person who has COVID-19. Also try to limit visitors until the person has recovered.

After recovery from COVID-19

As you or the person you’re caring for gets better, watch for any symptoms that don’t go away. Some people report symptoms that continue for months or new medical issues after having COVID-19. Make sure to track symptoms and contact your healthcare professional if they don’t get better.

Also, once you recover, you will likely have some protection from getting the virus that causes COVID-19 again. But that protection seems to fade over time. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can boost your body’s protection and help prevent you from getting the virus again.


From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.