When you isolate, you’re trying to keep away from other people so you don't make them sick. That includes members of your household.
Isolation keeps people who are definitely infected away from other people.
Quarantine keeps people who were exposed to the virus away from others until they find out if they're infected.
Yes. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you could still be contagious. Here’s what you need to do:
Isolate yourself for at least 5 full days.
For the next 5 days you should wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. If you can’t wear a mask, keep isolating for that second group of 5 days.
It's a good idea to get tested after the first 5 days have passed, because you may still be contagious. If you test positive, continue to isolate and test yourself again in a day or two. You may need to isolate for 10 days.
If you are at high risk of getting very sick with COVID, talk with your health-care provider about starting treatment, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you don’t have a health-care provider, call Combat COVID at 1-877-332-6585 to find out who to talk with about treatment.
If you get symptoms at any point, start your isolation process over and follow the instructions for people with symptoms.
These two actions will do a lot to help protect the other people in your home:
Keep the air in your home as fresh and clean as you can.
The more the air in your home is like clean outdoor air after a rainstorm, the better. Here's how you can make that happen.
Open as many windows as is possible and safe. If you can open windows on opposite sides of your home to create a cross-breeze, that's best.
Put a box fan in a window, facing out. Seal the window around the fan. That helps pull germy air out of the home.
If you have an exhaust fan in the bathroom or kitchen, turn it on. Make sure the windows are open if you run the fan for more than 10 minutes, so you don't pull toxic gases from the heating system into your home.
Viruses like dry air, so keep the air in your home more humid if you can.
Run an air cleaner with a HEPA filter and keep it right near you. You can make an inexpensive air cleaner called a Corsi-Rosenthal box using these instructions.
You need to isolate yourself for at least 5 full days.
You can stop after 5 days if you don’t have a fever and your other symptoms are getting better. Wear a mask around others for the next 5 days, and don't travel. If you can’t wear a mask, keep isolating for that second group of 5 days.
If your immune system doesn't work properly, you should isolate for 10 full days. Check with your health-care provider before ending isolation.
It's a good idea to get tested after the first 5 days are over, because you may still be contagious. If you test positive, you should continue to isolate and test yourself again in a day or two. You may end up needing to isolate for 10 days.
If you are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID, you can get a prescription and medication at pharmacies and community health centers that are part of the Test to Treat program. You can also get a prescription from a health-care provider, urgent-care center, or community health center and bring it to a pharmacy that carries COVID medication to get the prescription filled. If you don’t have access to any of these, call Combat COVID at 1-877-332-6585 to ask about treatment options.
All of the medications for COVID have to be used early. Some of them have to be started within 5 days of the time when symptoms began. If it’s been more than 10 days since you first felt symptoms, then it’s too late for any of the current medications to be used. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to get tested if you feel sick.
When you go to get your prescription, you'll need to bring with you a list of all the medications you are already taking. If you have recent lab reports, bring those, too.
Antivirals don’t usually kill viruses directly. Instead, they make it harder for viruses to make more virus within your body. They may also make it harder for viruses to get into your cells.
Antibodies are proteins that stick to the virus and then tell the immune system to kill it or keep it from entering cells. They’re one of your body's first defenses against getting infected. Monoclonal antibodies are a set of antibodies that all look exactly alike. Because they all have the same shape, they all stick to the virus in the same way.
Today, only a few medications for COVID are available for people who aren’t in the hospital. Because of the way they were developed and tested, and because there's not a lot of medication to go around yet, they can only be used:
By people who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID.
By people who have only mild to moderate symptoms.
Within a few days after symptoms start.
To get medication for COVID, you need a prescription from a health-care provider, urgent-care center, or community health center. You can also get a prescription and medication at pharmacies that are participating in the Test to Treat program. If you don’t have access to any of these, call Combat COVID at 1-877-332-6585 to ask about treatment options.
If you have any of the conditions on the CDC Medical Conditions page, you’re at high risk. Here are just a few examples from that list:
65 years old or older
Obese or overweight
Chronic kidney disease
Have a condition or receiving treatment that weakens or suppresses your immune system
Chronic lung diseases including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and moderate to severe asthma
Sickle cell disease
Neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy
Have a medical device (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides which drugs and medical tests can be used in this country. The full FDA approval process can take months to years.
When a public-health emergency happens, there isn’t time for new drugs or tests to go through the entire process. That’s when the FDA can use Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). It allows the FDA to let certain medical products be used more quickly, while still making sure they are as safe as possible. All treatments and tests for COVID used in the US have received an EUA. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have received full approval from the FDA for adults. The Pfizer vaccine has an EUA for children ages 11 to 16.