Conversation Guide: COVID-19 Infection and Recovery

Woman caring for man who has cough

Many people are getting sick from COVID-19 every day, and some people experience severe illness or die. Testing, quarantining, and isolation are all important steps to take to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19 anytime you feel sick. There are treatments available to help you recover from COVID-19, but it is important to start them right away, especially if you are at risk for becoming dangerously ill.

Getting Sick

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I have already gotten COVID-19. Can I get it again?

Yes, people who have gotten COVID-19 can get it again. While you might have some protection for a short while after recovering from COVID-19, that protection starts to wear off quickly. It becomes more likely you will get COVID-19 again the longer it has been since your last infection. 

It is important to stay up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines. This includes getting any booster shots you are eligible for. Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings with many people, staying home when you are sick and washing your hands frequently are other ways to keep yourself and others safe.

I am up-to-date on my vaccines. Can I still get COVID-19?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Boosters offer even more protection. However, since vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection, some people who are up-to-date on their vaccines will still get COVID-19. Usually, infections are not very serious for people who are up-to-date.

What are symptoms I should look out for?

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue (tiredness), sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, and headache.

The symptoms of COVID-19 and the symptoms of the seasonal influenza (flu) are very similar. The only way to know for sure whether you have COVID-19, the flu, or another cold virus is to get tested.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Regardless of whether you are up-to-date on your vaccines, get tested for COVID-19. Other viruses like influenza (the flu) and the common cold can have many of the same symptoms so the only way to know for sure if you have COVID-19 is to get tested.

If you feel sick, it is important to get tested as soon as possible, especially if you are at high-risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. Some treatments need to be started right away to work well. Treatment works extremely well if you start it shortly after infection; it does not work well if you wait too long.

Staying home from work, school or social events anytime you feel sick and while you wait for test results is one of the most important things you can do to protect your family, friends and community.

Who is more likely to get dangerously ill from COVID-19?

People with certain conditions listed below are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. This means they are more likely to:

  • Be hospitalized
  • Need intensive care
  • Require a ventilator to help them breathe
  • Die

This applies to people who:

  • Are 65 years old or older
  • Are overweight
  • Are pregnant
  • Have diabetes
  • Have heart problems like heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Have lung problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Have other conditions like chronic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, or a weakened immune system
  • Have a neurodevelopmental disorder like cerebral palsy
  • Have a medical device like a tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation

Quarantining and Isolating

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What does it mean to quarantine?

Quarantining means staying home and away from others until you can find out if you have COVID-19. People are asked to quarantine if they are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines and have spent time with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

People who travel internationally may be asked to quarantine when they arrive. Check the country’s COVID-19 travel guidelines before you make travel arrangements and again just before you leave. Travel guidelines change frequently.

What does it mean to isolate?

Isolating means staying home and away from others when you are sick or infected, so you do not infect others with COVID-19. People are asked to isolate if they have COVID-19, even if they do not feel sick at all. 

Staying home from work, school or social events anytime you feel sick is one of the most important things you can do to protect your family, friends and community.

What’s the difference between quarantining and isolating?

People quarantine if they have spent time around someone with COVID-19. People isolate themselves when they have a COVID-19 infection (they feel sick or they just tested positive).

When is it safe to stop quarantining or isolating?

You will need to stay home and away from others for at least 5 days. The exact timing depends on your symptoms and whether you are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines. Complete guidance is available on the CDC website.

What if I am not able to quarantine or isolate?

If you live alone or others in your household have to quarantine or isolate too, see if friends, family or neighbors can help you while you recover by:

  • Getting groceries or other items you may need. 
  • Filling prescriptions or getting over-the-counter medicine to treat fever. 
  • Care children who are not isolating or quarantining
  • Care for pets

If you are still unable to stay home and away from others, wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid gatherings with many people and wash your hands frequently.

If possible, protect the people you live with by: 

  • Staying in a separate room and using a separate bathroom.
  • Not sharing items such as cups, utensils, dishes, and towels.
  • Wearing a mask at all times and practice social distancing

Treatment

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Can home remedies cure COVID-19?

Home remedies have not been shown to help people recover from COVID-19. There have been many scientific studies on medicines and there are now some available that are very effective in helping people recover from COVID-19.

How can I relieve symptoms of COVID-19 at home?

Many people can treat symptoms of COVID-19 at home. Many healthcare providers recommend:

  • Taking medicine, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever
  • Taking cold medicine (like cough medicine) to make you more comfortable
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Getting plenty of rest to help the body fight the virus
  • Staying home and away from others

Watch for severe symptoms. If you have any of these severe symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Constant chest pain or pressure 
  • Confusion
  • Cannot wake up or stay awake
  • Changes in skin color

There are other ways to monitor yourself such as home oxygen monitoring (e.g pulse oximetry) that should be considered especially if you are high risk.  You can contact a medical provider or pharmacy for more information.

How can a medical provider help me treat COVID-19 at home?

If you test positive for COVID-19, there are different treatment options to help minimize the effects of the virus on the body. Certain antiviral medicine (pills) may be available to help your body respond to the virus and recover more quickly. 

  • These pills require a prescription, but many pharmacies and clinics can give them to you. In some cases the pills are free. You can take these pills at home if you qualify.
  • The sooner you start the medicine, the better it will work. It is important to go to a pharmacy or clinic quickly for this medicine. You will need to start taking the pills within 5 days after the first symptoms appear. Getting tested right away is important to ensure you can start treatments on time.  
  • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their doctors to see if this medicine is safe for them.

What treatments are available in a hospital?

If you get very ill and are hospitalized, there are more medicines available that will help your body fight the virus. Your doctors will determine what is right for you.

If medicines and treatments exist, does that mean vaccines are no longer necessary?

It is much safer to prevent yourself from getting sick in the first place by being vaccinated, rather than seeking treatment after you are already ill. Once you get ill, you could have severe complications that cause hospitalization or death even if you get treatment. 

If you are not up-to-date on your vaccines, you can get a shot after you recover from COVID-19. Ask your doctor about when you can get a vaccine.

Preview of handout from MDH on COVID-19 treatments

View translated materials on COVID-19 medications from our partners at the Minnesota Department of Health.