What to do if you have COVID-19, and tips on how to manage your symptoms at home

You've tested positive for COVID — the next week probably won't be much fun. (Flickr: Jernej Furman)

You've been feeling off and have taken a rapid test to see if you've got COVID-19. When the 15 minutes is up, there are two little red lines on the reactive strip.

You're COVID-positive and the next week probably won't be much fun.

Here are some things to think about.

How do I isolate if I live with other people?

For starters, go home and stay there. In most of the country, you'll be required to isolate for seven days from the date you got a test.

At the end of your isolation period, you'll be allowed out if your symptoms have ceased.

In the meantime, you'll need to remain separated, not just from the community, but also from other people who live with you.

NSW Health recommends avoiding common areas, sleeping alone and using a separate bathroom if these options are available to you.

Try to minimise your use of common areas as much as possible.

When you do use common areas, disinfect surfaces you touch and try not to occupy the same room as another member of the household.

You'll also need to tell people you've been in contact with that they need to monitor for symptoms.

Under the national cabinet definition, anyone who's spent four or more hours with you in a household-like setting is a close contact and must isolate for seven days.

South Australia and Western Australia have their own definitions and rules for close contacts, so check the advice where you live.

How can I look after myself in isolation?

NSW Health says most people who get sick with COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms that can be managed with:

  • Bed rest
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief
  • Throat lozenges for a sore throat or cough
  • Staying hydrated

The common symptoms you should expect include a headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, fever and loss of taste or smell.

Some people can contract COVID-19 without experiencing symptoms at all.

Some state governments advise you to prepare a COVID pack ahead of time in case you need to isolate, so you'll have everything at home with you if you test positive.

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Queensland Health recommends you consider including paracetamol or ibuprofen, hydration packs or ice blocks, a stock of masks, hand sanitiser, a thermometer and rapid antigen tests.

You might also prepare frozen meals that can be reheated for an easy dinner when you're feeling ill.

Some people choose to buy a pulse oximeter to monitor their oxygen saturation, however the Therapeutic Goods Administration has warned against over-reliance on them.

"The TGA recommends that home use of pulse oximeters is safest and most effective when done as part of treatment provided by a doctor," it said in an update last week.

But spending a week in isolation isn't just about your physical wellbeing.

Queensland Health recommends your COVID kit should also include activities to keep yourself occupied like books, puzzles, a series to binge or games you can play by yourself.

The good news is that for most people, this story ends here — you might feel run down for a couple of days but you'll soon be on the mend.

When do I need to go to hospital?

In a small number of people, symptoms may worsen and require hospital care.

If your symptoms get worse but not to the point that it's an emergency, most states recommend you call a GP for health advice.

According to NSW Health, you should call triple-0 immediately if you develop severe symptoms.

Those might include:

  • Severe dizziness
  • Severe drowsiness or confusion
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or finishing sentences due to breathlessness
  • Chest pressure or chest pain lasting more than 10 minutes
  • Being unable to stand

If it comes to that, be sure to tell the operator you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 so you can be handled safely.

Queensland Health recommends preparing contingency plans for who will look after children or pets in the event you're not able to do so.


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