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

COVID-19 Symptoms

Symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms with the Omicron variant are similar to those of other variants. 

People with COVID-19 might not have any symptoms. If a person has symptoms, they can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

  • 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

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, difficulty waking a person or the individual cannot 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 symptoms of the flu (influenza), 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.

Please see our comparison chart (Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog) to view the differences in symptoms.

When you are considered contagious

The majority of COVID-19 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-5 days after. However, spread is still possible for up to 10 days after infection.

Steps to take if you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19

If you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, you should follow the steps and recommendations on this page, regardless of your vaccination status.

Get tested.

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 VDH's COVID-19 Testing in Virginia website to find testing locations in your area. You can read VDH’s COVID-19 Testing webpage for more information. You can also consider taking an at-home test.

The Test to Treat Program

In March 2022, the federal government began the Test to Treat Program.  This program provides people with COVID-19 symptoms or those who think they have the illness a way to get rapid testing. If a person tests positive and a medication is appropriate for the treatment of COVID-19, the individual can obtain a prescription and have it filled at the same location. Facilities that currently participate in the Test to Treat Program include clinics inside pharmacies and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). A Test to Treat Locator shows participating sites across the country.

Free COVID-19 Tests by Mail from the Federal Government

Separate from the Test to Treat Program, the federal government also offers free COVID-19 antigen tests by mail. For more helpful COVID-19 information, see the federal government’s website at www.covid.gov.  Free tests can be ordered online.  You can also call 800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489) for more information. Please note that mailed tests may take time to reach you, so if you have symptoms, be sure to get tested right away.

What should I do if my at-home test is positive?

If your at-home test is positive, contact your healthcare provider right away. You should 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. Refer your close contacts to VDH’s If you were exposed web page.

Mild symptoms can typically be managed at home 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 and/or the Test to Treat Locator tool. 

If you test positive:

Contact your healthcare provider right away and follow the steps in the table below if you test positive. This table is intended for members of the general public and may be applied to K-12 schools, child care facilities, colleges and universities, and workplaces. It does NOT apply to healthcare facilities (patients or healthcare personnel) or high-risk congregate settings such as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, jails or prisons, etc.). This shortened isolation guidance is meant to be applied when masks are used from Days 6–10 of isolation. For those who are unable to consistently wear a mask when around others (including all children aged 2 and under) the safest option is to isolate for a full 10 days.You may not be contacted by VDH, even if your results are reported to VDH.

 

Click the button below to help you calculate how long you may have to isolate.

What to do, regardless of your vaccination status: If you have symptoms when you tested positive: 

Days 0-5: Stay home for at least 5 full 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 can’t wear a mask around others, isolate (stay home) for the full 10 days.
  • Do not travel for a full 10 days after your first full day of symptoms.
  • Do not go to places where you can’t wear a mask, like restaurants or the gym.
  • Do not eat around others at home or at work until 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
If you have no symptoms when you tested positive: 

Days 0-5: Stay home for at least 5 full 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 can’t wear a mask around others, isolate (stay home) for the full 10 days.
  • Do not travel for a full 10 days after your first full day of symptoms.
  • Do not go to places where you can’t wear a mask, like restaurants or the gym.
  • Do not eat around others at home or at work until 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
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 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 bedroom, if possible.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Do not go to work or school.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Read VDH’s When Is It Safe to Be Around Others.
  • 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 a person or for them to stay awake, or pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

You may also qualify for care resource coordination (CRC). CRC is a program for people who were exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 and need support to isolate or quarantine safely. See if you qualify for Care Resource Coordination.

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 who 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.
  • Do not touch your face while cleaning. Wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning.
  • Open outside windows and doors and use fans and heating and air conditioning settings to increase air flow.
  • 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 they have a 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 with 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.

Notify your contacts.

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.

If you tested positive from an at-home test, follow the isolation guidelines above and notify your contacts.  It is likely that you will not receive a call from VDH.

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.

Treatment options for symptoms with non-prescription medicines
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 and other brands)
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 Allegra)

*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 and/or prevent them from dying because of COVID-19. For people with COVID-19 who are at high-risk, it is especially important that they seek medical attention promptly.  

Currently, there are two classes of COVID-19 therapeutics: monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy and antiviral medications. Visit the COVID-19 Treatment Locator page to find a monoclonal antibody administration site near you OR a pharmacy near you that carries antiviral medication. 

Not all sites will have appointment availability or treatments available. A prescription is required for monoclonal antibodies and antiviral medication. Generally, it is a good idea to contact the monoclonal antibody administration site or pharmacy to make sure they have the product available. Many monoclonal antibody administration sites listed in the locator require a physician referral and an appointment.

The Test to Treat Program:  In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) launched “Test to Treat” locations to distribute oral antiviral medication to eligible patients who test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The goal of the program is to evaluate patients with COVID-19 symptoms rapidly and provide treatment if it’s appropriate.  Patients will be able to get a COVID-19 test, be evaluated by a medical provider if the test is positive, and receive treatment if it is appropriate for them. All of this will be done in the same location. The program has been launched nationwide and will be available in more locations. 

More information about the Test to Treat program is available online. There is also a locator tool to look up nearby Test to Treat sites.

Ivermectin is not an approved treatment for COVID-19. 

The FDA has devoted an entire webpage on Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin as treatment for COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health has also determined that there is not enough evidence to recommend it for treating COVID-19. 

A randomized clinical trial (RCT) of 490 patients found the use of ivermectin during early illness did not prevent the progression to severe disease. 

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.

Who is considered high risk for getting very sick from COVID-19

Risk increases with age.

While anyone exposed to the virus can get COVID-19, the risk for serious illness (having to be hospitalized, needing a ventilator, etc.) or death associated with COVID-19 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.

Manage your stress and anxiety.

Being ill is 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 health conditions should continue their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.

Seek help.

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,

Learn more about steps you can take to cope with stress and ask for help and support if you are struggling. Read CDC’s Coping With Stress page for more information.

Post-COVID Conditions

(“Long COVID”)

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. More information about “long COVID” can be found on the CDC webpage “Post-COVID Conditions.”

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS)

See the CDC’s website for information on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults (MIS-A).

When to seek care for MIS

If you or your child develop any signs or symptoms of MIS-A or MIS-C, be sure to contact your or your child’s healthcare provider right away.

For more COVID-19 information:

Page Last Updated: April 15, 2022