Set up a comfy spot at home. You’ll need to hunker down for a while.
You took all the precautions: wore a mask, remained socially distant, avoided visiting your parents for the last year, took every meal to-go, and more. Yet the word on the screen undoubtedly stares back at you in bold, black letters. POSITIVE. Darn it. What should you do after testing positive for COVID-19?
Break out the takeout menu, power up your favorite streaming service, and settle into a comfy spot in your home. You may need to hunker down for a while.
What Does a Positive Test Mean?
If you tested positive for COVID-19, it means you currently have the virus in your system. You may or may not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms of COVID-19, they may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
What to Do After Testing Positive for COVID-19
Here’s what you should do after testing positive for COVID-19:
Step #1: Stay Home Unless You’re Getting Medical Care
Most people who only show mild symptoms of the virus can recover at home without medical care. Isolating at home will help protect others from getting the infection.
Some things to remember:
- Don’t visit any public areas or use public transportation
- Only leave your house to visit a doctor or hospital
- Make sure you have all of your medicines stocked and easy to access
- Get plenty of rest
- Stay in touch with your doctor
Step #2: Isolate Away from Others
If you can, stay in a specific room, and away from pets or other people in your home. If you can’t avoid someone, wear a mask!
Step #3: Contact Others Who You May Have Exposed
Let anyone who might’ve come into contact with you know you have tested positive for COVID-19. An infected individual can spread COVID-19 starting 48 hours before they experience any symptoms or test positive. If you had close contact with them, they should get tested themselves.
Step #4: Compile a Mini First-Aid Kit
Some important things to have on hand include:
- Medicines: Make sure you have fever-reducing medicines, such as ibuprofen. This can help manage fever, body aches, or other COVID-19 symptoms.
- Thermometer: Check your temperature several times a day, and keep a record if it starts getting higher.
- Pulse oximeter: This measures the oxygen levels in your blood. Your oxygen levels should be 95 percent or greater. Anything below 95 percent is a medical emergency.
Step #5: Monitor Your Symptoms
Follow the care instructions from your doctor, and seek emergency help if your symptoms start to get worse or if you experience the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Step #6: Exercise Proper Hygiene
When you’re sick, you have germs, which means you’re contagious. Some basic rules you should observe whether you’re sick or not include:
- Washing your hands: Anytime you go to the bathroom or before you use anything located in common areas, turn on the sink and reach for that soap.
- Wearing a mask: You don’t have to wear a mask when you are alone, but you do have to wear one when you’re around other people. Cover your mouth and nose if you don’t have a mask and make sure to stay six feet away from others at any given time. Learn more guidelines about masks here.
- Avoid sharing: Make sure you’re the only one eating from that plate or drinking from your cup. You don’t want to put someone else’s life in danger.
- Clean “high-touch” surfaces everyday: Wear disposable gloves and clean all the surfaces in your room and private bathroom, if possible. If someone else needs to do it, make sure it’s on an as-needed basis.
High touch surfaces include:
- Remote controls
- Bathroom fixtures
- Bedside tables
If you think you think you have COVID-19 or if you tested positive, call your doctor so you can come up with a care plan that is appropriate for you. This way, if your COVID-19 gets worse, you are prepared to take action.
Tamara Moise, MD, is an emergency medicine physician at Big Apple Medical Urgent Care.Preeti Parikh
Preeti Parikh, MD serves as the Chief Medical Officer of HealthiNation. She is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Westside Pediatrics, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and has completed post-graduate training at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
- When to Quarantine. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed March 11, 2021)
- Test for Current Infection (Viral Test). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed March 11, 2021)
- When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19. Atlanta,GA: Centers for Disease Control. (Accessed March 11, 2021)