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Managing COVID-19 at home

6-minute read

If you develop symptoms such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, call triple zero (000) immediately. Tell the phone operator and the paramedics on arrival if you have COVID-19.

Quick read

For most people, mild COVID-19 symptoms can be safely treated at home.

How should I manage my symptoms? What treatment is available?

Most adults with a mild case of COVID-19 can manage their symptoms in a similar way to how they treat a seasonal flu: rest at home, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain and fever, keep hydrated and take cough medicine if needed.

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. It can make you feel overwhelmingly tired, physically and mentally. To manage fatigue, make sure you get enough rest, maintain a healthy diet and stay well hydrated.

Sipping warm fluids may help soothe a sore throat.

In general, you should avoid smoking when recovering from COVID-19 and make sure that your room has good air circulation.

If you have a higher chance of developing more serious disease from COVID-19, you may be able to take certain antiviral medications at home. Learn more about COVID-19 antivirals.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I seek medical advice?

You should contact a GP if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and you are pregnant, have any chronic conditions or have any concerns about your health.

While managing COVID-19 symptoms at home, ask yourself these questions 3 times a day — morning, afternoon and night:

  • Can I get my own food?
  • Can I drink?
  • Can I go to the toilet normally?
  • Can I take my regular medication?

If you answer no to any of these questions, call a GP.

When should I go to hospital?

Most people with COVID-19 will recover without needing hospital or receiving any special treatment, especially if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, some people may develop severe COVID-19 symptoms and need to be supported in hospital with oxygen, corticosteroids, antivirals and other drugs, depending on how severe their symptoms are.

If you or someone in your care develop any of the following symptoms of COVID-19, this indicates more severe or serious illness, requiring treatment at hospital:

  • breathlessness at rest or unable to speak in sentences
  • unconscious, faint or drowsy
  • skin or lips turning blue or pale
  • cold and clammy, or pale and mottled, skin
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • confusion
  • becoming difficult to wake up
  • not passing urine (wee) or passing a lot less urine than usual
  • coughing up blood

A GP may also advise going to hospital if you or someone in your care experience other symptoms, depending on factors like health and circumstances.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has developed a guide for people managing COVID at home. This resource includes a COVID-19 action plan and a diary to track your symptoms. Monitoring symptoms is important in case they worsen and require medical attention. Some people should also monitor their heart rate, respiration (breathing) and oxygen levels. For more information, visit RACGP.

How do I get to hospital in an emergency?

If you experience severe symptoms of COVID-19, call an ambulance on triple zero (000) immediately. If you can’t call, ask someone else to.

Tell the phone operator that you have severe COVID-19 symptoms and that you need an ambulance.

If you are well enough to go to hospital for emergency medical care without an ambulance, try and use private transport.

When you arrive at the hospital, tell the staff that you have COVID-19. You should also:

  • wear a face mask
  • keep your distance from other people as much as possible
  • use hand sanitiser

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Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023


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