On this page:
When you are considered contagious
Steps to take if you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19
Tell anyone you had close contact with
Who is considered high risk for getting very sick from COVID-19
Manage your stress and anxiety
Post-COVID Conditions ("Long COVID")
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS)
Symptoms typically appear 2-10 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms might develop sooner (2-4 days) with the Omicron variant compared to other variants.
People with COVID-19 might not have any symptoms. If they do have symptoms, symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Not everyone with COVID-19 will have all these symptoms.
CALL 9-1-1 if you or your child show any emergency warning signs
Emergency warning signs include 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.
Is it COVID-19, the flu, or a cold?
Some of the symptoms of the flu, COVID-19, or a cold are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Testing can help determine if you are sick with COVID-19.
It is also possible to be sick with both COVID-19 and the flu, or other respiratory diseases, at the same time. Symptoms alone cannot tell you if you have COVID-19 or another respiratory illness. That’s why testing is so important if you have symptoms.
Those who have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 should follow the steps and recommendations on this page, regardless of vaccination status.
Get tested for COVID-19, even if you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations. Contact a healthcare provider to find out how to get tested and to learn which type of test may be best for you. You can also visit Virginia COVID-19 Testing Sites to find testing locations in your area. You can read VDH’s COVID-19 Testing for more information. You can also consider taking an at-home test.
What should I do if my at-home test is positive?
If your at-home test is positive, stay home and away from others (isolate) for at least 5 days and follow the recommendations in the table below. Be sure to notify your contacts because they may need to stay home, get tested, and monitor their health to make sure they do not get sick and infect others.
Mild symptoms can typically be managed at home and with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Contact your healthcare provider after testing positive if your symptoms are worsening OR if you are at higher risk of progressing to severe illness (even with mild illness initially). If you are uncertain about your risk or have questions about your care, please speak to your healthcare provider. Early treatment options are available for certain individuals.
To report positive results from an at-home test, check if the test has instructions on how to report your results to the manufacturer.
What if I can’t find a test?
If you have symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 and can’t find a test, you should follow the steps for isolation. This is even if you do not know if you had contact with someone with COVID-19. Follow the steps for isolation below until you can schedule a test. To find a testing location near you, visit VDH’s COVID-19 Testing page.
If you test positive:
Follow the table below to know the steps to take if you test positive. This table is intended for members of the general public and may be applied to K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and workplaces. It does not apply to healthcare facilities (patients or healthcare personnel) or high-risk congregate settings. In the absence of setting-specific guidance from CDC, at this time, VDH recommends not applying this guidance to children or staff in child care settings as a best practice; these settings can consider applying it to staff if there are critical staffing shortages.
|What to do, regardless of your vaccination status:||If you have symptoms when you test positive:
Days 0-5: Stay home for at least 5 days. Day 0 is the day symptoms start. Day 1 is the first full day after symptoms develop. Wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others at home. If you have not been able to test, continue to follow the steps for isolation.
Day 6: If you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved, you can leave your home.*
If you still have a fever or your symptoms have not gotten better, continue to stay home. Loss of taste and smell might persist for weeks or months and should not delay the end of isolation.
Days 0-10: Wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others at home and in public. Do not visit people who are immunocompromised, at high-risk for severe disease, or live in high-risk settings.
|If you have no symptoms when you test positive:
Days 0-5: Stay home for at least 5 days. Day 0 is the day you were tested for COVID-19. Day 1 is the first full day after the day you tested positive. Wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others at home.
Day 6: You can leave your home if you continue to have no symptoms.*
Days 6-10: Continue to wear a mask when you are around others at home and in public. Do not visit people who are immunocompromised, at high-risk for severe disease, or live in high-risk settings.
|If you had no symptoms when you tested positive but you start to get symptoms:
Your 5-day isolation (stay at home) period starts over. Day 0 is your first day of symptoms. Follow the recommendations for people who had symptoms above.
*People who are severely ill from COVID-19 (including those who are hospitalized) and those with weakened immune systems might need to isolate for longer. They may also require a viral test to help determine when they can be around others. These individuals are recommended to isolate for at least 10 days and up to 20 days. They should talk to their healthcare provider about when they can end isolation.
Stay home (isolate), except to get medical care.
- Avoid all public areas.
- Do not go to work or school.
- Do not use public transportation, such as buses, trains, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Separate yourself at home in a specific room away from other people and animals if you can. Use a separate bathroom if possible.
- Do not share household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, wash them well with soap and water or laundered and dried.
- Wear a well-fitting mask that covers your mouth and nose and keep your distance when you have to be in the same room with other people or animals in your home.
- If possible, take steps to improve ventilation (air flow) at home.
- 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. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- 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.
- 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 isolating.
- Once you recover, make sure you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines, including getting vaccinated and boosted when you are eligible.
Monitor 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.
Clean and disinfect surfaces
Clean and disinfect all frequently touched or high touch surfaces daily.
- High touch surfaces are places that are touched frequently. These may include counters, tabletops, toilets, phones, and other places.
- If you are a caregiver that needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s space, wear a mask and disposable gloves while cleaning. The person who is sick should also wear a mask.
- See CDC’s Caring For Someone Sick At Home for more advice for caregivers.
- Open outside windows and doors and use fans and heating and air conditioning settings to increase air flow.
- Do not touch your face while cleaning. Wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning.
- Use a household cleaning spray or wipe. Follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. CDC has more information on household cleaning and disinfection.
Testing towards the end of isolation
When ending isolation, if you have access to testing and want to get tested, the best approach is to get an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period.
- If you ever had symptoms, only get tested if you have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved.
- If your test is positive, you should continue to isolate for the full 10 days.
- If your test is negative, you can end isolation after 5 days, but should continue to wear a mask at home and in public until day 10 and take other precautions.
Guidance for high-risk congregate settings
In certain congregate settings that have an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 and where it is not feasible to cohort people (e.g., correctional and detention facilities, homeless shelters, cruise ships) all residents should isolate for a full 10 days after symptoms develop (or positive test if symptoms never develop). Refer to setting-specific guidance for more information.
Tell anyone you had close contact with that you are sick, so that they know to quarantine (stay home), get tested, and stay alert for symptoms.
Call your contacts and tell them you are sick.
Share your information with others to actively slow the spread of COVID-19.
- Tell people in your family and others you had close contact while you were contagious. Being contagious starts from 2 days before you became sick (or 2 days before you were tested if you did not have symptoms). Tell them they may need to stay home, get tested, and monitor their health to make sure they do not get sick and infect others.
- Let your close contacts know that the health department may call, and ask them to speak with health department staff if they do call.
- Learn how to identify and talk with your close contacts.
- Direct your close contacts to Exposure to COVID-19 for additional guidance.
Participate in contact tracing.
Answer the call.
Your local health department might contact you to check-in on your health, ask you to stay at home to isolate, discuss who you’ve been in contact with, and notify your contacts. This is part of contact tracing. You may also get a text message with more information from VDH. Please know that if there is a surge in cases, you may not get a call but should still continue to follow all the steps if you are sick.
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 who also use the app.
- Expect a text from VDH (804-336-3915 or 855-922-2644) if you tested positive for COVID-19 or get your COVIDWISE verification code here: https://apps.vdh.virginia.gov/CWP.
Treat symptoms with over-the-counter medicines and follow care instructions from your healthcare provider or local health department.
Seek care instructions from your healthcare provider.
Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider.
Rest and hydrate.
Get rest and drink plenty of water or clear liquids. Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine, such as sodas, tea, and coffee.
Consider using over-the-counter medications based on your symptoms.
Follow all usage and warning information on the label.
|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.
Find out if you need treatment.
COVID-19 treatments may reduce severe illness in high-risk patients to keep them out of the hospital. For people with COVID-19 who are at high-risk, it is especially important that they seek medical attention promptly. Treatment is available for high-risk patients that may prevent their illness from getting worse. There are two classes of COVID-19 therapeutics: monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy and oral antiviral medications.
Patients can use the COVID-19 Treatment Locator to find a monoclonal antibody administration site near them OR a pharmacy near them that carries antiviral medication. The Locator Tool provides locations that may have COVID-19 treatments.
Not all sites will have appointment availability or treatments available. Supply of the products is limited. Provider prescription is required for monoclonal antibodies, pre-exposure prophylaxis (prevention), and oral antiviral pills. Many administration sites listed on the locator require a physician referral and an appointment.
Risk increases with age.
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.
Risk increases with certain medical conditions.
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 (e.g. weakened immune system), call your doctor right away if you develop symptoms of COVID-19. Early treatment options are available for high-risk individuals.
Risk increases with health and social inequities.
Long-standing 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.
Risk of MIS-C has been linked to COVID-19 in children.
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.
Ivermectin is not an approved treatment for COVID-19.
The FDA has not approved or authorized the use of ivermectin for COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health has also determined that there is not enough evidence to recommend it for treating COVID-19.
Ivermectin is used in the U.S. for the treatment and prevention of infection caused by parasites. Taking large doses of ivermectin or using animal ivermectin products is dangerous. Animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans. More information is available on the FDA Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin web page.
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 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.
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.
Pay attention if your mental health is worsening.
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 right away for any medical emergencies.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
- 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 more about steps you can take to cope with stress and ask for help and support if you are struggling.
Post-COVID conditions (also known as “long COVID”) are symptoms that can last for weeks or months after being infected with COVID-19. The symptoms can also start weeks after the infection, even if the person did not have symptoms initially.
Long COVID Symptoms
A variety of long-term symptoms have been reported and people may have different combinations of any of the following symptoms:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (“brain fog”)
- Loss of smell or taste
- Dizziness on standing
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Joint or muscle pain
- Depression or anxiety
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
Not everyone with post-COVID conditions will have all these symptoms. For example, you may or may not have a loss of smell or taste. These conditions can also have different combinations of health problems for different lengths of time.
Post-COVID conditions also can include the longer-term effects of COVID-19 treatment or hospitalization like post-intensive care syndrome (PICS), severe weakness, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Rare but serious Long COVID Symptoms
More serious long-term symptoms are less common, but can also occur. These may affect different organ systems in the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, and brain functions.
The effects of COVID-19 on multiple organs can also include conditions that occur after COVID-19 like multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS).
Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms.
If you think you have long COVID or a post-COVID condition, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about treatment options.
Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines to prevent long-term complications.
More information on long COVID
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. View the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation dashboard to track how many Americans have long COVID by state, county, and region.
MIS in Children
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 in children include:
- Fever, belly or gut pain
- Lack of appetite
- Neck pain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Red or cracked lips
- Red or bumpy tongue
- Swollen hands and feet
MIS in Adults
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 of MIS-C in adults may include:
- Low blood pressure
- Gut pain
- Neck pain
- Chest tightness or pain
- Feeling very tired
When to seek care for MIS
If you or your child develop any of these signs or other symptoms of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider or pediatrician.
CALL 9-1-1 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.
- Visit CDC’s COVID-19 website What To Do if You Are Sick
- Visit the ‘Illness from COVID-19’ section of the VDH FAQ Page
- See CDC’s easy to read materials: Things to Know about COVID-19 and 10 Things to Know When You Have COVID-19
- Read more guidance and other prevention strategies for healthcare professionals at: Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages and Interim Guidance for Managing Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 web pages
- Call the VDH COVID-19 hotline at 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343)
Page Last Reviewed: January 10, 2022