COVID-19: Symptoms and What to Do When Sick

People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and commonly include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

This list is not all inclusive. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Older adults may show confusion or disorientation and experience falls.

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’t 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

You should call your health care provider if you have symptoms and one of the following applies to you:

  • You are 50 years of age or older, pregnant, or have other health conditions, such as:
    • Lung disease
    • Moderate to severe asthma
    • Heart disease
    • A weakened immune system
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Kidney disease
    • Liver disease
    • Cancer

  • You do not feel better in three to four days.

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

You should get a COVID-19 test if you:

  • Have COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of age, chronic conditions or occupation

  • Come in close contact with someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19, regardless of whether you have symptoms

  • Work in a congregate residential setting (nursing home, shelter or adult care facility), regardless of whether you have symptoms

Find a testing site near you.

COVID-19 Testing: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, May 11)
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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.

COVID-19 Hotel Program

You could be eligible to stay in a free hotel room while you or a person you live with recovers from COVID-19. An authorized health care provider must confirm you are unable to live apart from other members of your household and book you a room.

For more information, including a list of participating health care providers:

When You Are Feeling Better

You can leave your home for essential work and solitary exercise (in addition to essential medical care and getting basic needs), when all the following are true:

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

  • You never had fever, or you have not had a fever for the prior three days without the use of fever-reducing drugs such as Tylenol® or ibuprofen.

  • Your overall illness has improved.

Remember, even when you feel better, stay home as much as possible. There are still many unanswered questions about COVID-19, including how long the virus remains in someone’s body and whether it is possible to get sick again. For this reason, it is important to continue physical distancing and taking other precautions after you are better.

More Information