If you develop symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or you've been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, contact your doctor. Also let your doctor know if you've had close contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Factors used to decide whether to test you for the virus that causes COVID-19 may differ depending on where you live. Depending on your location, you may need to be screened by your clinic to determine if testing is appropriate and available.
In the U.S., your doctor will determine whether to conduct tests for the virus that causes COVID-19 based on your signs and symptoms, as well as whether you have had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Your doctor may also consider testing if you are at higher risk of serious illness or you are going to have a medical procedure.
To test for the COVID-19 virus, a health care provider takes a sample from the nose (nasopharyngeal swab) or throat (throat swab). The samples are then sent to a lab for testing. If you're coughing up sputum, that may be sent for testing. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized at-home tests for the COVID-19 virus. These are available only with a doctor's prescription.
Currently, only one medication has been approved to treat COVID-19. No cure is available for COVID-19. Antibiotics aren't effective against viral infections such as COVID-19. Researchers are testing a variety of possible treatments.
The FDA has approved the antiviral drug remdesivir (Veklury) to treat COVID-19 in hospitalized adults and children who are age 12 and older in the hospital. The FDA has granted an emergency use authorization for the rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib (Olumiant) to treat COVID-19 in some cases. Baricitinib is a pill that seems to work against COVID-19 by reducing inflammation and having antiviral activity. The FDA states baricitinib may be used in combination with remdesivir in people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 who are on mechanical ventilators or need supplemental oxygen.
Two monoclonal antibody medications have received emergency use authorization from the FDA. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins created in a lab that can help the immune system fight off viruses. One medication is called bamlanivimab, and the second medication is a combination of two antibodies called casirivimab and imdevimab. Both drugs are used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in people who have a higher risk of developing serious illness due to COVID-19. Treatment consists of a single intravenous infusion given in an outpatient setting. To be most effective, these medications need to be given soon after COVID-19 symptoms start and prior to hospitalization.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health recently recommended the corticosteroid dexamethasone for people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 who require supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. Other corticosteroids, such as prednisone, methylprednisolone or hydrocortisone, may be used if dexamethasone isn't available.
The FDA has also granted emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19. Convalescent plasma is blood donated by people who've recovered from COVID-19. It's used to treat people who are ill with COVID-19 in the hospital.
Supportive care is aimed at relieving symptoms and may include:
- Pain relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
- Cough syrup or medication
- Fluid intake
There is no evidence that ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) need to be avoided.
If you have mild symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you recover at home. He or she may give you special instructions to monitor your symptoms and to avoid spreading the illness to others. You'll likely be asked to isolate yourself as much as possible from family and pets while you're sick, wear a mask when you're around people and pets, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom.
Your doctor will likely recommend that you stay in home isolation for a period of time except to get medical care. Your doctor will likely follow up with you regularly. Follow guidelines from your doctor and local health department about when you can end home isolation.
If you're very ill, you may need to be treated in the hospital.
Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.
Coping and support
It's common to feel fearful and anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic. You're probably worried that you or those you love will get sick. You may be concerned about taking care of yourself or others who are ill.
During this time, remember to take care of yourself and manage your stress.
- Eat healthy meals.
- Get enough sleep.
- Get physical activity as you're able to, such as using exercise or yoga videos. If you're healthy, go outside for a walk.
- Try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, stretching and meditation.
- Avoid watching or reading too much news or spending too much time on social media.
- Connect with friends and family, such as with phone or video calls.
- Do activities you enjoy, such as reading a book or watching a funny movie.
If you're ill with COVID-19, it's especially important to:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink fluids.
- Let your doctor know right away if your symptoms worsen.
Having COVID-19 or caring for someone with the disease can cause stress and anxiety. If stress is affecting your daily life after several days, contact your doctor. He or she may suggest that you talk to a mental health professional.
Preparing for your appointment
During a pandemic, it's not always possible for everyone who is ill to see a doctor. You may start by seeing your primary care doctor or other health care provider. Or you may be referred immediately to a doctor trained in treating infectious diseases. If you think you have COVID-19, tell your doctor or clinic before going in. The doctor and medical team can then:
- Contact infection prevention and control and public health officials
- Prepare to move you to a room quickly
- Have a mask ready for you
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
- Your recent travels, including any international travels
- Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes and family medical history
- All medications, vitamins or other supplements you take, including the doses
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given. Avoid bringing more than one or two people. Check before you go to the appointment, as your hospital or clinic may have visitor restrictions.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- How likely is it that the new coronavirus is causing my symptoms?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What tests do I need?
- What course of action do you recommend?
- Are there restrictions I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Where have you traveled recently?
- Who have you been in close contact with?
- How severe are your symptoms?
Dec. 22, 2020