Tips for being prepared at home if you test positive for COVID-19

This was updated on 2/7/2022, clarifying advice to seek medical attention if you have a fever of 102 or higher.

The last couple of years has brought a near-constant stream of stress, worry and loss for so many of us. Those feelings are often worsened by the helplessness and lack of control we feel.

While our latest Weekly Report shows a decline in weekly cases, which is good news, people are still getting infected and our hospital systems continue to be strained. If you test positive for COVID-19, hopefully your symptoms will be manageable, and you can recover at home. Being prepared will help ease your stress. Planning helps give us a sense of control during difficult times. Things like figuring out household needs and who you can call for help will make it easier to heal or care for loved ones if anyone in your home is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive.

Thankfully, with vaccines and boosters readily available, our chances of taking a trip to the emergency room or being hospitalized because of COVID-19 is lessened.  

Helpful resources

If you test positive or have been exposed and have questions, call our hotline (866-917-8881) or visit our Test Positive webpage. Our Case Support Hotline team offers support in 10 different languages, and written materials are available in 12 languages. So far, more than 1,300 people have called and received help. You can find additional information about food and financial assistance here.

Make a plan

  • Make a list of emergency contacts.
  • Know how you’ll communicate with family, friends and co-workers. Consider doing a phone, text or email tree with a couple of friends or colleagues where you would contact them first and let them do the rest.
  • If possible, think about where in your house you could isolate from others as best as you can.
  • If accessible to you, know how to get food and/or groceries delivered. To help meet essential needs, expanded resources are available.  
  • Prescription medications
  • If you have asthma or another respiratory illness, have extra inhalers and medications at home.
  • If you have other chronic illnesses, particularly those which place you at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, like diabetes, heart disease and immune system disorders, try to have a four-week supply of prescription and over-the-counter medicines on hand.
  • If you have pets, reach out to a friend or neighbor in advance to see if they can help walk the dog or provide other pet care.

Shopping list to consider

If you are able, plan to have at least a two-week supply of food, cleaning supplies, medicine and household staples on hand.

Food and drinks:

  • Water and other hydrating drinks
  • Staying hydrated is important, especially with a fever. Healthy hydration can also help decrease irritation in your nose when coughing and sneezing.
  • If tap water at home isn’t safe to drink or is communally shared, bottled water is best.
  • If you develop stomach and digestion issues, drinks with electrolytes can help prevent dehydration.
  • Nutritious food that won’t spoil like rice, pasta, canned or dried beans, dried fruit, frozen vegetables
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables have essential nutrients. Try to select your favorites and those that won’t spoil quickly.
  • Ingredients for meals that can be made ahead of time and frozen, like soups, sauces and casseroles
  • Pet food and supplies
  • Rubber gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes or cleaners for high-touch surfaces
  • Sponges that can be tossed after using to help prevent the spread of germs

Household staples:

  • Toilet paper
  • Tissue
  • Hand soap
  • Paper plates to reduce clean-up and dish-washing time
  • Laundry detergent (wash towels and bedding in hot water if you or someone in your household is sick)

Care for COVID-19 symptoms

If you have asthma or other respiratory conditions, it’s important to continue taking your respiratory medicines and follow any other directions from your doctor.

  • Check your temperature with a thermometer twice a day. Seek medical attention if you have a fever of 102 or higher, or if you have shortness of breath. Please note: If you are unvaccinated, symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, can start out mild and worsen very quickly. Being fever-free is recommended before ending self-quarantine.
  • Over-the-counter medicine that can help ease headaches, body aches and fever (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen).
  • A cooling blanket or ice packs can help provide comfort if you run a high fever.
  • Cough, fatigue, and congestion or runny noise are common symptoms with the Omicron variant. While over-the-counter cough medicine won’t stop a cough, you can try to lessen its severity. Cough drops with honey, or honey alone, can help sooth a cough.
  • For congestion, you can take cold medicine containing guaifenesin and for a runny nose try sinus rinses with distilled water, or over-the-counter nasal steroids like flonase.
  • Supplements and herbs can help with symptoms of congestion and runny nose slightly, but they do not cure COVID-19. Please talk to a healthcare provider about potential interactions with prescription medications.
    • Vitamin C supports immune cell activity, not to exceed 2000mg per day.
    • Zinc is a mineral that plays a role in keeping your immune system strong, however there is no evidence that zinc can prevent or treat COVID-19.
    • Ginger and turmeric are herbs with anti-inflammatory properties that are high in antioxidants. Ginger can also help with colds and stomach-related problems. Turmeric can offer some pain relief.

These are difficult times for so many of us and no one should feel alone. Read on for additional resources.