The coronavirus causes the infectious disease called COVID-19. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and appear within two to 14 days of exposure. Some people do not develop symptoms or become ill. About 80 percent of people recover with home treatment to manage their symptoms.
Learn more about Coronavirus.
These common mild symptoms come on gradually: aches and pains, cough, diarrhea, fever, headache, nasal congestion, runny nose, shortness of breath, sore throat and tiredness.
If you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD or other respiratory disease, seek medical care early, when mild symptoms first appear.
After several days, these symptoms can appear: shortness of breath, low oxygen levels, abnormal blood tests, kidney failure, liver failure, pneumonia or the need for hospitalization.
Call your doctor if you develop a fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling from an area with known infections or have been in contact with someone who has traveled from an area with known infections and who has symptoms. Usually, the throat or nostril will be swabbed for a sample.
The specimens are sent to the CDC or a CDC-approved laboratory. Results will be sent to your doctor. Your health care provider and the local health department will determine if you will wait for results at home or in the hospital.
Treatment for most people diagnosed with COVID-19 is about relieving symptoms, as you would with a normal flu virus. It is a virus, so antibiotics will not help.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom; before eating and touching any part of your face; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Disinfect surfaces you touch after each use. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces with household sprays or wipes.
Stay home from work, school and public places so you don’t infect other people.
Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help your body stay hydrated and in recovery, unless your doctor has directed you otherwise.
Get extra rest and sleep in a separate bedroom, so you don’t infect family members.
Take over-the-counter medications for fever, headache, congestion, cough and sore throat. Gargle with saltwater to relieve a sore throat. Eat a bland diet such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, if diarrhea is a problem.
Use a tissue or your elbow during coughs and sneezes. Throw away the tissue and wash hands thoroughly.
Wear a cloth mask when going out in public during social distancing, to protect yourself and others from asymptomatic carriers. The disposable surgical mask is usually worn by sick people to protect others from cough, sneeze and other body fluid droplets. Surgical masks should be thrown away each day or after each visit to health care providers.
The N95 respirator is for workplace settings. The CDC does not recommend wearing respirators at home or in the community.
Get your annual flu vaccine. If you have other health conditions, follow those treatment plans and ask questions if those treatments become challenging.
This information has been reviewed and approved by Carrie A. Horn, MD, Charles L. Daley, MD, Gwen A. Huitt, MD, MS, Shannon H. Kasperbauer, MD (February 2020)
Learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects specific health conditions in these printable patient education materials.
Download COVID-19 Materials