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You tested positive for COVID-19. Now what?

Getting a positive test result for COVID-19 can not only be stressful and anxiety-inducing, but can also leave you wondering, “What do I do now?”

First things first: talk with your healthcare provider. They can help you understand what your test results may mean for you by considering your medical history, symptoms, and other factors.

We’ve also put together the following resource that covers self-care tips, seeking emergency medical attention, the CDC’s guidance on ending isolation, retesting, and more—so keep reading to learn this key information.

Self-care tips

Here are some self-care tips that may help during this stressful time:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Remaining hydrated while feeling sick helps fight back against infection. In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to drink 6-8 glasses of water/day, 8oz per glass. Foods like soups, fruits, and vegetables with high water content—such as melon and cucumber—also count as fluid sources. Unsure if you’re getting enough fluids? If you’re well-hydrated, your urine should be a light color.
  • Get adequate rest. Rest for as long as you need. This may mean sleeping from 8-10 hours per day, and that’s okay—your body needs it.
  • Eat a balanced diet, as much as possible. In general, eating a balanced diet is ideal, but at the height of feeling unwell and feverish, our appetites are often suppressed. Nonetheless, try to choose lean protein sources, fruits, and vegetables which are rich sources of vitamins A, C, and E—as well as zinc. All of these serve an important role in supporting immune function. For additional nutrition tips, read: COVID-19 and nutrition: care for yourself and others with these tips.
  • Consider smaller, frequent meals. Smaller meals are a great solution for early satiety (or feeling full quickly). Aiming for around 4-6 small meals per day may help maximize calorie intake once someone has passed the acute phase (first 24-48 hours) of illness.
  • A humidifier may help you breathe more easily. Symptoms like congestion, runny nose, dry cough, and sore throat often make breathing feel challenging. But a humidifier can help ease congestion and coughs. It’s important to regularly clean your humidifier’s water and filter to avoid mold build-up—and if you have a diagnosed respiratory condition such as asthma, it may be a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider prior to using a humidifier.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about which over-the-counter pain reliever would be best for combating body aches.

Stay in close contact with your healthcare provider if symptoms worsen, and be sure to ask your healthcare provider about your risk factors for developing serious complications due to COVID-19.

While information regarding COVID-19 is continually evolving, current evidence suggests that older people and people who have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease are among those who are at higher risk for complications.

Seeking emergency medical attention

It’s important to seek emergency medical attention if you (or someone you know) is experiencing warning signs, including:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Read more from the CDC here.

CDC guidance on when it's safe to end isolation

Based on current literature, symptoms can develop anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is believed that those with mild to moderate symptoms may be contagious for up to 10 days following symptom onset, whereas some others may be contagious for up to 20 days after symptoms begin.

Before you end home isolation, the CDC recommends that you wait until a minimum of 10 days have passed since you first started experiencing symptoms, you haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours (and haven’t taken fever-reducing medication), and your symptoms have improved.

If you tested positive but haven’t experienced any symptoms, the CDC recommends waiting until 10 days have passed since you got tested.

Other guidelines from the CDC exist to advise healthcare personnel with a SARS-CoV-2 infection and people who are immunocompromised.

Retesting

Ask your healthcare provider if—and when—they advise you to retest after your initial positive result. According to the CDC’s guidelines:

  • If you have had COVID-19 symptoms and tested positive, you can be in contact with others (and end isolation) if you receive two back-to-back negative test results (at least 24 hours apart), you have no fever, and respiratory symptoms have gotten better.
  • If you tested positive but didn’t have any symptoms, you can resume contact with others if you later test negative two times in a row (at least 24 hours apart).

Ensuring your test results are negative may let you return to work (depending on your employer) or your normal daily routine with peace of mind that you are not exposing others to the virus. Everlywell provides a downloadable version of your results for our COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit, so you can easily share your test results with your employer, healthcare provider, or loved ones.

Protect yourself and prevent the spread of the disease

You can reduce your chances of being infected with or spreading COVID-19 by following these rules of thumb.

  • Stay home, unless you need medical care
  • Keep a distance and limit contact with other people
  • Let your healthcare provider know that you’re sick before any in-person appointment
  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Wear a facemask
  • Cover your sneeze or cough
  • Keep “high-touch” surfaces clean on a daily basis
  • Keep a close eye on your symptoms
  • Don’t share personal household items

Helpful resources

Here are some resources from our blog that you may find helpful:

30-Day Self-Care Challenge + Printables

COVID-19 and nutrition: care for yourself and others with these tips

Coronavirus safety: top tips for prevention, treatment, and easing symptoms during a quarantine