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How to prepare a kit to manage COVID-19 at home

Blog post | 12 Jan 2022

With daily case numbers in the thousands, many people reckon it’s not so much a matter of ‘if’ you’ll get COVID-19, but ‘when’.

Of course, you may never get infected with COVID-19. But if you do, there’s no need to panic.

Most Australians who get COVID-19 will be able to manage their symptoms at home. The Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in Australia and, while extremely transmissible, early reports show its symptoms are generally less severe than those of the 2021 Delta variant.

This is particularly true for fully vaccinated people. Boosters provide even more protection against severe illness caused by Omicron.

Even if you feel well, if you receive a positive COVID-19 test result you’ll need to isolate at home for a few days. Here’s how to prepare a COVID-ready ‘kit’ for managing your symptoms — and sanity — at home.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the COVID-19 Symptom and Antiviral Eligibility Checker to find out if you need medical help.

Checklist — what to buy

You don’t need to max out your credit card but there are a few essentials that will come in handy during 'iso'.

  • Thermometer: you can measure your body temperature using a thermometer. A fever, which can be a symptom of COVID-19, is a temperature of 38°C or higher.

  • Pain-relief medicine: paracetamol or ibuprofen may ease any discomfort caused by a fever (high temperature). However, you don’t need to treat fever with pain-relief medicine unless you’re uncomfortable.

  • Your usual medications: make sure you have at least a week’s supply of any medicines you take regularly, including prescription medicines.

  • Treatment for dehydration: some people with COVID-19 may experience vomiting or diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration. Consider keeping over-the-counter oral hydration solution (available at pharmacies) or make your own. However, drinking water is the best way to treat mild dehydration.

  • Disposable surgical masks: COVID-19 is more likely to spread within a household than in many other settings. If you’re isolating in a home with other people — particularly if they’re older or more at risk of complications from COVID-19 — everyone should wear masks when in a room together.

  • Hand sanitiser and soap: at the risk of sounding like a broken record, good handwashing helps prevent the spread of viruses. Ensure you have enough liquid soap to get you, and any household contacts, through iso.

  • Cleaning products and disposable gloves: while the risk of transmission from a contaminated surface is low, coronaviruses such as COVID-19 can survive on frequently-touched surfaces — including doorknobs, light switches and remote controls — for up to a few days. Stock your cupboard with household detergent and disinfectant. Use disposable gloves when cleaning up, making sure to dispose of them and wash your hands as soon as you're finished.

What’s the difference between detergent and disinfectant? Detergents help remove germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Removing them lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfectants are chemical solutions designed to ‘kill’, but not remove, viruses and bacteria. — NSW Health

Do I need a pulse oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a small device that clips onto the end of your finger and estimates the level of oxygen saturation in your blood, and your heart rate. It doesn’t hurt and it only takes a minute to check your levels.

Some people with COVID-19 will be provided with free pulse oximeters to use at home by health authorities, if they meet certain criteria. However, they’re available for anyone to purchase at pharmacies and online.

Pulse oximeters are increasingly being used at home because of the pandemic, but the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warns that it’s safer and more effective to use an oximeter at home when your health is being overseen by a doctor. Your doctor can also recommend the right oximeter for you if it’s necessary.

According to the TGA, pulse oximeters may also over- or under-estimate oxygen saturation. Their accuracy can be affected by many factors, such as darker skin pigmentation, incorrect fitting of the device, and whether you’re wearing nail polish or have tattoos.

If you choose to buy a pulse oximeter, learn how to use it properly. Read more here.

For more information

  • Contact your GP if you have any questions or concerns about managing COVID-19 at home. If you don’t have a GP, use the healthdirect Service Finder to locate one near you, as well as other health services.
  • Check out healthdirect’s ‘Managing COVID-19 at home’ information hub.
  • The Victorian Government has a fact sheet and checklist for managing COVID-19 at home.
  • Visit the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW site for a COVID-19 plan you can fill out.
  • Need to book a COVID-19 vaccination (including for a child) or a booster appointment? Use the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

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