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Managing COVID-19 at home

19-minute read

If you have severe difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival if you have COVID-19.

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

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you test positive for COVID-19, you must self-isolate at home. Your local public health service will contact you with advice about how long you will need to do so.

Most people with COVID-19 will not need to go to a clinic or hospital and can safely self-manage the illness at home.

However, it is important to remain in touch with an appropriate healthcare service. You should contact your GP or a dedicated COVID-19 service for an initial assessment and continued care throughout your illness.

Your initial assessment may be over the phone or by video. If you need to attend a medical centre in person:

  • Contact the medical centre before attending to inform them that you are a confirmed COVID-19 case. You may request a telehealth consultation if they provide this service.
  • Otherwise, take a private vehicle or walk if practical. You should not take public transport, taxis or ride-share cars.
  • Wear a face mask while travelling and in the practice. Others in the vehicle should also wear a face mask.
  • From your arrival at the practice, wear a mask at all times, notify reception and report directly to staff that you are a confirmed COVID-19 case. Then, follow instructions from staff.

If your symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider.

How do I isolate when I have COVID-19?

Self-isolation means you must stay at your home or accommodation and remain separated from others. You can’t leave your house or accommodation, unless for medical care or a permitted purpose. This is usually for 14 days.

If you are in isolation, you shouldn’t go out in public. You shouldn’t go to work, school, childcare or university. Don’t travel on public transport or in taxis or ride-share services.

Only people who usually live with you should be in your home. Do not allow visitors into your home unless it is absolutely necessary or they are providing medical or personal care.

You should only self-isolate in your home if you are able to separate yourself from the other members of your household as much as possible. This includes staying in a separate, well-ventilated room, sleeping alone and using a separate bathroom if one is available.

If you can't isolate in a separate room, avoid shared spaces in the house, such as the kitchen, as much as possible. Wear a mask when moving through shared areas.

You should consider different accommodation for the duration of your 14-day isolation if you cannot do this.

You will be provided with information on how to properly self-isolate at home.

What if I live in an apartment building?

If you have to self-isolate and you live in an apartment building, you will need to follow extra steps to protect other building residents from COVID-19.

  • You must remain inside your own unit. You should not use any shared or common facilities, such as the laundry room, gym, pool or outdoor areas.
  • Wash your clothes inside your own unit.
  • Ask a neighbour or contact your building manager about collecting your rubbish. Leave the rubbish outside your door, return inside your unit and close your door.
  • If you are receiving deliveries, including food, at your home, ask for them to be left outside your door. Do not open the door to pick up the delivery until the corridor is empty.

Can I isolate at a hotel or other accommodation?

You should spend your self-isolation period at the place you are staying. This may be your home, a hotel, motel or other form of accommodation. You must be able to safely stay there and separate yourself from any other people.

If you are in a hotel you must stay in your room. You should avoid contact with other guests and staff, but you can go onto your private balcony.

You may at any time be told to self-isolate in different accommodation by an authorised health officer if they determine you cannot safely isolate at home. This accommodation might be a quarantine facility, hospital or other medical facility.

Do I need to notify my close contacts?

Make sure everyone who is staying at your house knows that you have tested positive for COVID-19. All your household members are considered close contacts.

Tell your work manager or the relevant person at your education facility that you have tested positive for COVID-19. Give them the date of your test; when you got sick if you had symptoms; and the days you were at work or the education facility in the two-day period before you got sick, or 2 days before your test if you have no symptoms.

You should also tell anyone whom you spent 15 minutes or more with in an indoor environment without a mask either:

  • from 2 days before you got sick until the present; or
  • if you had no symptoms, from 2 days before your test until the present

This, for example, may include friends you had dinner with in a restaurant or family who visited your home.

Tell them to get a COVID-19 test immediately, to return home and to follow the advice from their state or territory Health Department.

Authorised contact tracers will be in touch with your close contacts to tell them what they need to do.

How should I prepare my home for if a family member or housemate gets COVID-19?

The person with COVID-19 should have a separate, well-ventilated room where they can sleep alone. They should have access to a separate bathroom if it’s available. If they can’t isolate in a separate room, they should avoid sharing spaces — such as the kitchen — as much as possible.

Shared spaces should have good air flow, such as through an air conditioner or open windows.

Stock up on masks because all household members will need to wear one when moving through shared areas, and when in the same room as the person with COVID-19.

You’ll need cleaning products, including detergent and disinfectant, and disposable gloves, to wipe down frequently-touched surfaces often — especially door handles, light switches, phones and tablets, toilets, taps and sinks.

Buy a disinfectant whose label says it’s hospital-grade and that it kills viruses. You can also use a chlorine-based product such as bleach.

Throughout your home provide easy access to tissues, lined bins and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

You shouldn’t share dishes, cups, cutlery, towels, bedding or other items with the person with COVID-19, so consider labelling them. After use, wash them thoroughly using the hottest possible setting.

How do I care for someone with COVID-19 in my home?

If you are looking after someone in your home there are things you can do to keep yourself, your household and the person with COVID-19 well.

Home care includes wearing a single-use surgical mask and disposable gloves when you are in the person’s room, keeping vulnerable people away from the sick person and ensuring everyone has continued access to medical care.

Learn more about caring for the members of your household.

What do I do if my child gets COVID-19?

Children with COVID-19 will often have similar symptoms to other viral infections — such as fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy.

A small number may develop other symptoms such as tummy or chest pain, headache, body aches, breathing difficulties or loss of taste or smell. Up to half of the children who get COVID-19 may have no symptoms at all.

There is a small risk of severe disease from COVID-19 in children but this is very rare, even in children who have medical vulnerabilities.

If their symptoms are mild, most children who get COVID-19 can be cared for at home. Parents and carers should use the same general guidelines that they would for other viral infections:

  • Children should be dressed in comfortable clothing, to prevent any sweating or shivering.
  • Make sure they drink lots of fluids.
  • Children can also take paracetamol or ibuprofen if they’re uncomfortable because of the pain or fever.

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • prolonged fever (for more than 5 days)
  • difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • severe abdominal pain, vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • if they’re drinking less or passing less than half the amount of urine they usually would
  • if they’re excessively sleepy or irritable

In case of these or other serious concerns, parents and carers should seek urgent advice from their care team. In an emergency, they should request ambulance assistance and tell the operator the child has COVID-19.

Learn here how to reduce the risk of spread to other household members.

How will my health be monitored at home?

If you’re able to manage your COVID-19 at home, healthcare professionals will form a management plan to ensure your own and your household members’ safety.

The management plan will detail:

  • when you first started showing symptoms and what your current symptoms are
  • any risk factors you may have
  • how often a healthcare provider will contact you
  • how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your home
  • how the disease progresses and what you might expect in the second week of infection
  • what to look out for if your symptoms get worse and what to do

Your healthcare provider will check on you on a regular basis, either in person or via a telehealth call. It might be daily or every 2 to 3 days, depending on your illness.

If you’re at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, your healthcare provider may consider giving you a pulse-oximeter so you can monitor your oxygen saturation levels.

Most people with COVID-19 will only have a mild illness and will usually recover 2 to 3 weeks after their symptoms began. However, if your symptoms do worsen, you, your household members or your caregivers should ring your GP for advice. If you can’t reach your GP straight away, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance and tell the ambulance staff that you have COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 treated and how do I relieve my symptoms?

Adults with a mild case of COVID-19 can treat their symptoms in a similar way to how they treat a seasonal flu. That is, rest at home and take paracetamol or ibuprofen if needed. Adults with moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms may need to be treated in hospital with corticosteroids, antivirals, and other drugs depending on how severe their symptoms are.

Try to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and eat a healthy diet.

If you are a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, record your symptoms and discuss these with your GP during your consultations.

What kinds of medication might I be given for COVID-19?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the following medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 in Australia:

  • Remdesivir
  • Sotrovimab
  • Ronapreve (casirivimab + imdevimab)

Medicines such as antibiotics, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are not effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and are not approved  for the treatment of COVID-19 in Australia.

Learn more here about COVID-19 medications.

How much will my COVID-19 treatment cost?

If you have a Medicare card, you can access a range of healthcare services at a lower cost or with no out-of-pocket expenses, including medical services from doctors, specialists and other health professionals; hospital treatment; and prescription medicines.

If you have treatment as a public patient at a public hospital, you do not pay anything for the medical services provided. Services Australia has information on who is eligible for Medicare and how to enrol.

Costs for many private treatments are also fully covered by Medicare and private health insurers. However, you may have to pay out-of-pocket costs if you have medical treatment as a private patient in a private or public hospital.

If you get tested for COVID-19 at a public health facility, mobile testing centre or GP medical practice that offers bulk billing, you won't have to pay for the test. You might have to pay to see your GP if they don't offer bulk billing, but the test itself is free.

If your health deteriorates and you need an ambulance to get to hospital, you may have to pay a fee — it depends on which state you’re in and whether you have private health insurance.

  • In Tasmania and Queensland, ambulance services are generally free to state residents.
  • In NSW, if you need treatment and/or transport related to COVID-19 — including if you have had an adverse reaction to a vaccine — you will be exempt from paying the invoice.
  • In Victoria, ‘special consideration’ is given if you need an ambulance service because you are a COVID-19-positive patient. If this applies to you, you should contact Ambulance Victoria online or on 1800 990 029.
  • In other states and territories, you will usually be charged for ambulance services.

How do I know if my COVID-19 is getting more severe and I need medical help?

You should contact your GP if the symptoms worsen. If your GP isn’t immediately available, call triple zero (000) and let the operator know that you, or the person you’re calling about, has COVID-19.

Look out for severe symptoms, particularly:

  • severe headaches or dizziness
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • chest pressure or pain
  • blue lips or face
  • cold and clammy or pale and mottled skin
  • confusion or fainting
  • unresponsiveness
  • urinating (weeing) less or not at all
  • coughing up blood

If you have severe symptoms, call triple zero (000) straight away. Tell the ambulance staff you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you attend the emergency department (ED), contact them before attending to inform them that you’re a confirmed COVID-19 case. Wear a surgical mask at all times and report directly to staff that you’re a confirmed COVID-19 case.

If you’re not sure what to do, use the healthdirect Symptom Checker.

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

How long does COVID-19 last? When will I recover?

The infectious period varies from person to person. Most people with COVID-19 will have a mild illness and recover within 2 to 3 weeks of their symptoms starting. Generally, symptoms in children and babies are milder than those in adults, and some infected kids may not show any signs of being unwell.

People at higher risk of serious illness may take weeks to recover. If a person develops long-term health problems caused by COVID-19, symptoms most commonly continue for 2 to 8 weeks after infection.

Generally, people with mild illness are not considered infectious 10 days after their symptoms started or from 72 hours after the symptoms stopped (whichever is later). At this point, transmission of the virus is unlikely and the person is considered to be recovered.

They might, however, still return a positive COVID-19 test. This is because people with COVID-19 have infected cells in their body that release the virus into the environment through breathing, sneezing or coughing, or through their faeces and urine. This is called ‘viral shedding’.

After recovering from COVID-19, some people can have non-infectious fragments of the virus left in their bodies for some time. This may lead to a weak positive COVID-19 test and prompt further testing to confirm the person is no longer infectious.

When can someone with a mild COVID-19 illness stop isolating?

Your area public health unit will advise you when you are medically clear to end isolation and return to normal activities. You need to continue to follow any restrictions in your state or territory. You must also continue to observe physical distancing rules and good hygiene practices.

If you are issued with a medical clearance notice, it’s important that you keep it in case you need to show it to a health or other authority.

  • Generally, if you had COVID-19 but no symptoms (you were asymptomatic) you can stop isolating 14 days after your first positive COVID-19 test — if no symptoms have developed since the test.
  • Generally, if your fever and acute respiratory symptoms have cleared up, you can stop isolating 14 days after your symptoms first appeared and if your respiratory symptoms have significantly improved in the past 72 hours.
  • Generally, if your fever and acute respiratory symptoms have not cleared up completely, you can stop isolating when at least 20 days have passed since the symptoms first appeared — and if your immune system isn’t significantly compromised.

The doctor who has been treating you should decide whether your COVID-19 symptoms have cleared up.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 have a low risk of getting it again in the 6 months after infection since most people develop some ability — known as immunity — to fight off the disease.

However, if you become unwell and have any cold or flu-like symptoms after you are released from isolation, return home and contact your doctor. They may ask you to have a COVID-19 test.

Can I get my medicines delivered to me at home?

If you’re isolating at home on medical advice — or if you’re an older or other vulnerable Australian — you may be able to have Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines delivered to you at home.

The Australian Government’s temporary Home Medicines Service will operate until 31 December 2021. Eligible people can use this delivery service once a month.

Your local pharmacy can explain how to use the service so you can safely obtain your medicines without leaving home.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How can I get food and essential supplies?

Consider asking friends, family members or neighbours — who don’t live with you and who aren’t self-isolating — to obtain food or essential supplies for you. They should drop these items at your door but shouldn’t come into your accommodation.

You may also be able to order your groceries and other items online. The major supermarkets have increased their capacity for home deliveries and you can order take-away food from restaurants that use a home-delivery service.

To search for local emergency relief and food relief providers, go to the Department of Social Service Grants Service Directory: For 'Service type', select, 'Financial Crisis and Material Aid ‐ Emergency Relief' or 'Financial Crisis and Material Aid - Food Relief'.

I feel very depressed and anxious because of COVID-19. Can you help me?

Feelings of  anxiety, distress and concern are normal — there are several steps you can take to look after your mental health.

Learn more here about managing your mental health and who you can reach out to for help.

Do I need a medical certificate or negative test result to return to work after self-isolating?

You don't need a medical certificate and your employer should not ask you to be tested for COVID-19 in order to return to work.

Your public health unit will advise you when you’re clear to end isolation and return to normal activities. You need to continue to follow any restrictions that apply to the community in your state or territory.

Specific criteria apply to healthcare workers and aged care workers. Since the criteria may change, before they return to work these workers should check with a medical practitioner or the public health authority whether they meet the requirements for clearance to leave isolation.

What is ‘long COVID’?

Also called ‘post COVID-19 condition’ by the World Health Organization, this refers to when a person continues to have COVID-19 symptoms for months after their diagnosis.

Post COVID-19 condition can occur in adults with a history of COVID-19, usually 3 months from the start of their COVID-19 symptoms, with symptoms that last for at least 3 to 9 months and which can’t be explained with a different diagnosis.

Even people who had a mild COVID-19 infection and weren’t hospitalised can still have long COVID.

Common signs and symptoms that can continue after a person first becomes infected may include:

Symptoms may appear after a person’s initial recovery from COVID-19 or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also change from time to time or go away and reappear.

There is no specific treatment for this condition. Any person who develops post COVID-19 condition should seek care.

Where can I find information about how COVID-19 is managed in my state or territory?

For more information on what to do if you have COVID-19, visit your state or territory website:

Looking for more information?

Visit healthdirect's COVID-19 information hub for more answers to questions about the coronavirus, including vaccinations and restrictions.

Resources in other languages

COVID-19 resources in other languages are available from the Department of Health, as well as from the ACT, NSW, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic and WA health departments.

Information is also available in Aboriginal languages (NT).

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

Last reviewed: November 2021

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