COVID-19: Symptoms and What to Do When Sick

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Some people do not have any symptoms.

Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms and recover on their own. Less commonly, COVID-19 may lead to pneumonia, other severe complications, hospitalization or death.

If you have mild to moderate symptoms, stay home. Do not leave home except to get essential medical care (including testing for COVID-19) or to get basic needs such as groceries, if someone can not get them for you.

Getting Care and Staying Safe at Home

When to Call 911

You should go to an emergency room or call 911 immediately if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • New confusion or inability to stay awake
  • Blue lips or face
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Sudden face drooping
  • Numbness in the face, arm or leg
  • Seizure
  • Any sudden and severe pain
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea

This is not a complete list. If you are concerned you may be experiencing a medical emergency, contact your provider immediately or call 911.

When to Contact a Health Care Provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms, especially if you are an older adult, pregnant or have health conditions that put you at increased risk for severe illness.

Call, text, use telemedicine or use your patient portal to contact your health care provider. If you need help getting medical care, call 311. You can get care in NYC regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.

When to Get Tested

All New Yorkers should get a COVID-19 diagnostic test, whether or not they have symptoms or are at increased risk. Tests are free. You should look for a testing site near your home.

You will not be asked about immigration status. COVID-19 testing and care services are not a public benefit under the public charge rule (PDF).

Who Should Get Tested Immediately

You should schedule a test as soon as possible if you:

If the test result is negative, talk with your health care provider about whether you should get tested again the following week.

More Testing Recommendations

Health care workers, other essential workers and workers who have in-person contact with people as part of their jobs should get tested once a month.

People who are not essential workers do not need to be tested as often. If you work outside the home, or if you live or work in a congregate setting, you should get tested regularly.

You should get tested before visiting someone who may be at increased risk of severe COVID-19. If you test positive, are showing symptoms or recently were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, cancel your visit

You should not get retested for COVID-19 during the 90 days after your symptoms began or, if you did not have symptoms, from the date you were tested. A person who has recovered from COVID-19 may have a positive test result even though they are no longer contagious.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and have new symptoms of COVID-19, consult with a health care provider, especially if you had close contact with someone who currently has COVID-19.

When You Are Sick and Staying Home

If you are sick, stay home as much as possible. Do not go to school or to work, even if you are an essential worker. Only leave home to get essential medical care or to get basic needs such as groceries, if you have no other way to get them.

To protect others in your household from getting sick:

  • Stay at least 6 feet from everyone in your home — distance is the best way to protect others. If you cannot maintain this distance from others, wear a face covering.

  • Use a separate bathroom if available. If you share a bathroom, disinfect surfaces and fixtures after each use.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Do not use your hands to cover your sneeze or cough. Immediately throw out tissues and wash your hands afterward.

  • Clean surfaces that are frequently touched, such as counters, doorknobs and phones. Clean them after each use or at least once every day. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe.

  • If you share a bed with someone, sleep head-to-toe or have one person sleep on the couch or floor.

  • If you need to be in the same room as others, move around furniture so that you can sit further apart.

  • Do not share personal household items, such as glasses, cups, eating utensils and towels.

  • Do not have visitors come to your home.

When taking medicine, remember that many products to treat fever, cough and other symptoms contain the same active ingredient, and you could be taking too much if you take more than one medicine. Follow the recommended dosage on the medicine label.

To check if you are managing medicines safely, contact the Poison Control Center to speak with a registered pharmacist or nurse.

Paid Sick Leave Information and Resources

When You Are Sick and Need to Leave Home

If you need to leave your home to see a health care provider or to get medicine or groceries:

  • Stay at least 6 feet from others — distance is the best way to protect others.

  • Wear a face covering to cover your nose and mouth.

  • Wash your hands before going out and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer while outside your home.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with your arm or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

  • Avoid other people as much as possible — walk if you can and do not enter crowded stores or transportation.

When You Need a Hotel for Isolation

If you tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, you may qualify to isolate in a hotel for free. These hotel rooms are intended for people who do not have a safe place to isolate at home. Rooms are also available for people without COVID-19 who live with someone who has the virus or may have been in close contact with someone who has it.

For more information:

When You Are Feeling Better

You can leave home when all the following are true:

  • It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms started.

  • You have not had a fever for the last 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing drugs.

  • Your overall illness has improved.

There are still many unanswered questions about COVID-19, including whether it is possible to get sick again. For this reason, it is important to continue physical distancing, wearing a face covering and taking other precautions even after you are better.

More Information