What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 Symptoms

People with COVID-19 might not have any symptoms. If they do have symptoms, these can range from mild to severe illness. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • muscle or body aches
  • headache
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms of COVID-19. Not everyone with COVID-19 will have all these symptoms. For example, you may or may not have a fever. Symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. While anyone exposed to the virus can get COVID-19, the risk for serious illness (having to be hospitalized, needing a ventilator, etc.) increases with age. The older you are, the more likely you are to get very sick if you get COVID-19. People of any age with certain medical conditions are also at a higher risk for more severe illness. If you have any of these underlying conditions or other serious medical conditions, including a weakened immune system, call your doctor right away if you develop symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting very sick and dying from COVID-19. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website for steps you can take to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Though most people recover from COVID-19 quickly, and many people have mild symptoms, some individuals feel sick for weeks or months. The term post-COVID conditions is used when someone continues to have health issues more than 4 weeks after they first became sick with COVID-19. A variety of long-term symptoms have been reported, including fatigue (feeling very tired), shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, and chest pain. More serious long-term symptoms are less common but can occur. These may affect different organ systems in the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, and nervous system. CDC and other scientists continue to study the long-term effects of COVID-19 to better understand their impact on health. For more information, visit CDC’s Post-COVID Conditions.

If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19

Anyone who has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 should follow the steps and recommendations on this page, even if they are fully vaccinated. 

  • Monitor your symptoms. You can download VDH’s Daily Symptom Monitoring Log to help keep track of your symptoms.
  • Seek medical care if your illness worsens. If you have any type of medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or call ahead to your local emergency facility.
    • Emergency signs of COVID-19 include trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that won’t go away, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.
  • Protect others. Separate yourself at home in a specific room away from other people and animals. Use a separate bathroom if possible. This is called self-isolation or home isolation. 
    • Avoid sharing household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, cups, utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed well with soap and water or laundered and dried.
    • Wear a mask when you have to be in the same room with other people or animals in your home and keep as much distance as possible between yourself and others. Put on a mask before going to medical appointments.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash your hands right after.
    • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together for at least 30 seconds until they feel dry.
    • Your local health department can assist you with making sure that your basic needs (for example, food and medication) are being met while you are self-isolating.
  • Avoid using public transportation, such as buses, trains, ride-sharing, or taxis. Avoid all public areas.
  • Clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces daily.
    • Clean and disinfect all surfaces that get touched often, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, remote controls, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
    • Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
    • If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and disposable gloves while cleaning. The person who is sick should also wear a mask. Open outside windows and doors and use fans and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning settings to increase air circulation. Do not touch your face while cleaning and be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning.
    • Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. CDC has more information on household cleaning and disinfection.

Get tested

If you have symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.. Contact your healthcare provider to find out how to get tested. You can also visit Virginia COVID-19 Testing Sites to find testing locations in your area.

Tell anyone you had close contact with that you are sick so that these people know to quarantine (stay home) and stay alert for symptoms. Help stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Call your contacts and tell them you are sick. By sharing your information with others, you can slow the spread of illness.
    • Inform people in your family and others you had close contact with while contagious (when you could spread the virus to others) that they need to stay home, get tested, and monitor their health to make sure they do not get sick and infect others.
      • People with COVID-19 are considered to be contagious both while they are sick and for 2 days before symptoms began. People who tested positive for COVID-19, but never developed symptoms, are considered to be infectious from 2 days before the positive test to 10 days after the positive test.
    • Learn how to identify and communicate with your close contacts.
    • Inform your close contacts that the health department may call, and ask them to speak with health department staff if they do call. Let your close contacts know that they need to stay home, get tested, and monitor their health even if the health department does not call them.
    • Visit Exposure to COVID-19 to learn more about how to monitor your health and protect your community if you’ve been exposed to a person with COVID-19.
  • Answer the call. Your local health department might contact you to check-in on your health, discuss who you’ve been in contact with and ask you to stay at home to self-isolate. This is part of contact tracing. You may also get a text message with more information from VDH.
    • If a health department is seeing a large number of COVID-19 cases, they may not have the resources to do timely contact tracing and case investigation for all reported cases of COVID-19. In this situation, the health department will need to prioritize who to contact for case investigations and contact tracing. Cases will be prioritized based on CDC guidelines.
  • Anonymously notify others. Use Virginia’s free COVIDWISE Exposure Notification app to report your positive COVID-19 test. This will send an anonymous notification to people you were in close contact with.

Treat symptoms with non-prescription medicines and call ahead before visiting a doctor.

  • Get rest and drink plenty of water or clear liquids. Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine, such as sodas, tea, and coffee.
  • Use over-the-counter medications based on your symptoms. Follow all usage and warning information on the label.
  • Seek medical care right away if your illness is getting worse (e.g., difficulty breathing or fever that won’t go down after using fever reducing medication). Call the doctor’s office and tell them you have or may have COVID-19.
  • Get medical care right away if you have any medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 and notify the dispatcher that you have or may have COVID-19. Emergency warning signs of COVID-19 can include: trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that won’t go away, new confusion or inability to arouse or wake, or pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.
Symptom Over-the-Counter Treatments*
Fever or headache or body aches Use a mild pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil or Motrin)
Sore throat Use a mild pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), throat sprays like chloraseptic spray, or cough drops
Productive cough (wet cough with mucus) Use an expectorant that contains guaifenesin (e.g., Robitussin or Mucinex)
Dry cough (without mucus) Use a cough suppressant that contains dextromethorphan (e.g., Delsym)
Both productive and dry cough Use a combination guaifenesin/dextromethorphan product (e.g., Mucinex DM or Robitussin DM)
Stuffy/runny nose Use a nasal decongestant that contains phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine (e.g, Sudafed), saline nasal spray, or oral antihistamines (e.g., Claritin or Zyrtec)

*Always follow the advice from your healthcare provider and the instructions from the manufacturer about the medicine you take.

Manage your stress and anxiety.

  • Being ill can be stressful. Remember that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.
  • Being ill with COVID-19 might be especially hard because it is a new disease and there is a lot of news coverage. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
  • Stay in touch with others with calls (audio or video), instant messaging, or email while you are sick. You may want to ask for help and support from friends, family, or neighbors.
  • People with pre-existing mental conditions should continue their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
  • If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety or feel like you want to harm yourself or others,
    • Call 9-1-1
    • Call VA C.O.P.E.S., the Virginia COVID “warm” line, which has been set up to help people who are having trouble dealing with the changes in our lives due to COVID-19. Callers can receive emotional support and referrals for mental and behavioral health and other services. Unlike 9-1-1, which is used only for emergencies, a warm line offers support and gives people the chance to talk about their struggles and mental health. Spanish speaking counselors are available. For assistance, please call toll free at (877) 349-6428, 9:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M. Monday - Friday, 5:00 P.M. - 9:00 P.M. Saturday and Sunday.
    • Visit the Disaster Distress Helpline or call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
    • Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224

Learn when you can stop self-isolation.

Most people with COVID-19 can be ‘released’ from isolation and can be around others after:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and
  • At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication, and
  • Other symptoms are improving. (Note: the loss of taste or smell might last for weeks or months after recovery. This should not delay the end of isolation)

If you tested positive for COVID-19 but never had any symptoms, you can be around others after 10 days have passed since the first positive diagnostic test.

For most people, getting another COVID test to determine when to end isolation is not recommended. If you have severe to critical COVID-19 and/or a weakened immune system because of a health condition or medication, check with your healthcare provider about when to stop isolation.

See the VDH When to End Home Isolation and Quarantine Infographic for more information.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome 

While children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults, VDH, CDC, and other public health staff are investigating Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children (MIS-C) linked to COVID-19. MIS-C may cause problems with a child’s heart and other systems in the body. Signs and symptoms of MIS-C include fever, belly or gut pain, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, rash, neck pain, bloodshot eyes, red or cracked lips, red or bumpy tongue, or swollen hands and feet.

CDC has also received several reports of cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in adults (MIS-A) linked to COVID-19. Adults can develop MIS-A days to weeks after having COVID-19. MIS-A can cause problems with the heart, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or brain. Signs and symptoms may include fever, low blood pressure, gut pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, chest tightness or pain, or feeling very tired.

If you or your child develop any of these signs or other symptoms of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider or pediatrician. If you or your child show any emergency warning signs including trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that won’t go away, new confusion, can’t wake or stay awake, severe belly pain, pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone, or other concerning signs, seek emergency care right away.

For more information:


Page Last Updated: April 29, 2021