I Think I Have Coronavirus Symptoms. Should I See a Doctor or Self-Quarantine?
Feeling under the weather is never fun, and it can be especially scary now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is your cough just a minor cold or is it something more serious? Here’s what you should know if you’re not feeling well.
I think I might be sick. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The CDC recommends watching for the following symptoms, as they are common in people with COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath
These symptoms may appear anywhere within 2 to 14 days after you are infected with coronavirus.
Other common symptoms include:
- Feeling tired
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
Some people also report digestive or gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea.
I have these symptoms. What should I do?
Whether or not you should seek medical attention depends on your symptoms and how bad they are. People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may show none, some, or all of the symptoms listed above. If you have any of those symptoms, no matter how bad they are, you should wear a face mask in public(and at home as best as you can if you are living with others). Notify those you live with and those caring for you that you think you might have COVID-19.
If you feel that you have fairly mild symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home. If you believe you have COVID-19 and are experiencing both fever and cough, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor. Their office will have your health information and can assist with personal recommendations. Check with your doctor before visiting their office as they may advise you to stay home.
It’s important to understand that if you (or someone you are caring for) has a fever and a cough, this does not automatically mean it is because of COVID-19. There are other illnesses that have similar symptoms, such as the seasonal flu. You can read more about how COVID-19 differs from the flu here.
Only seek emergency care if you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or confusion. This is to protect you and others, as emergency departments are very busy during this time, and you don’t want to be around those who are seriously ill.
I have mild symptoms. What can I do to get better?
If your symptoms are mild, stay home. The majority of people that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization or medical care.
If you live with others, be sure to keep your distance as much as possible — and yes, this includes pets. Use separate rooms and bathrooms if available, clean common areas, and disinfect common surfaces.
As always, wash your hands thoroughly and often. Common symptoms, such as cough and fever, can be managed with over-the-counter cold and flumedications. It is important for your body to get rest and hydration as well.
When should I go see a doctor?
If you have more severe symptoms, go to an emergency room (ER) as soon as possible, or call 911. Severe symptoms that call for immediate medical attention include:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Sudden confusion
- Loss of consciousness (inability to wake up)
- Bluish color of the lips or face
These potentially dangerous symptoms should not be addressed at home. If you’re unsure whether your symptoms are mild or severe, HeyDoctor by GoodRx offers free online screenings where you can fill out an assessment, and a healthcare provider will let you know if you should stay home or seek medical care.
When should I self-quarantine?
Once you start feeling unwell, it’s a good idea to begin home isolation to avoid any chance of spreading the virus to others. (If you think you came into contact with the virus, you should start self-quarantining immediately, even before you start feeling symptoms.)
What’s the difference between isolation and quarantine? Isolation is separating people who are sick from those who are healthy. This means staying in a separate area in your home, if possible. Quarantining is limiting your movement outside of your home, so you don’t spread the virus to others in case you have it.
If you have the virus, you may not show any symptoms of COVID-19 early on, but you can still spread it. This is why it is important to quarantine — it helps contain any potential spreading of the virus and prevents others from getting sick. In many states, shelter-at-home orders are already in place, advising people to stay home to reduce the potential spread of the virus.
When can I stop self-quarantining?
If you’re starting to feel better, you’re probably wondering when it will be okay to stop self-isolating. The CDC recommends you meet three different conditions before you leave home:
- You must be without a fever for the previous 72 hours. In order for the 72 hours to count, medications to reduce fevers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen(Advil and Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol), should not have been used during those 3 days.
- Your symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, have improved.
- It has been at least 7 days since your symptoms first started.
If you have successfully met all three conditions, you may stop self-isolating. But be aware that this timeline is just general advice. Advice from your health provider and local health department will be more specific to you. Situations can vary between states and cities so it’s important to keep track of what your local recommendations are for self-isolation.