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Home isolation and COVID-19

Home isolation for COVID-19 keeps people with COVID-19 away from other people who are not infected with the virus. If you are in home isolation, you should stay there until it is safe to be around others.

Learn when to isolate at home and when it is safe to be around other people.

You should isolate yourself at home if:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19, and you can recover at home
  • You have no symptoms, but tested positive for COVID-19

While in home isolation, you should separate yourself and stay away from other people to help prevent spreading COVID-19.

  • As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can. Do not leave your home except to get medical care.
  • Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, taking over-the-counter medicines, and staying hydrated.
  • Keep track of your symptoms (such as fever >100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or >38 degrees Celsius, cough, shortness of breath) and stay in touch with your doctor. You may receive instructions on how to check and report your symptoms.
  • If you have severe symptoms, call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Tell your close contacts that you may have been infected with COVID-19. Close contacts are people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting 2 days before symptoms appear (or before a positive test) until the person is isolated.
  • Use a face mask over your nose and mouth when you see your health care provider and anytime other people are in the same room with you.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Throw out the tissue after use.
  • Wash your hands many times a day with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not easily available, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Do not share personal items such as cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding. Wash anything you have used in soap and water.
  • Clean all "high-touch" areas in the home, such as doorknobs, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, toilets, phones, tablets, counters, and other surfaces. Use a household cleaning spray and follow instructions for use.

When to End Home Isolation

Talk with your health care provider about when it is safe to end home isolation. When it is safe depends upon your specific situation. These are the recommendations from the CDC for when it is safe to be around other people.

If you think or know you had COVID-19, and you had symptoms.

It is safe to be around others if ALL of the following are true:

  1. It has been at least 10 days since your symptoms first appeared AND
  2. You have gone at least 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine AND
  3. Your symptoms are improving, including cough, fever, and shortness of breath. (You may end home isolation even if you continue to have symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, which may linger for weeks or months.)

If you tested positive for COVID-19, but did not have symptoms.

You can end home isolation if ALL of the following are true:

  1. You have continued to have no symptoms of COVID-19 AND
  2. It has been 10 days since you tested positive

Most people do not need to be tested before being around others. However, your health care provider may recommend testing and will let you know when it is safe to be around others based on your results.

People with weak immune systems due to a health condition or medicine may need to be tested before being around others. People who have severe COVID-19 may need to stay in home isolation longer than 10 days. Talk with your health care provider to find out when it's safe to be around others.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call your health care provider:

  • If you have symptoms and think you may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • If you have COVID-19 and your symptoms are getting worse

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion or inability to wake up
  • Blue lips or face
  • Any other symptoms that are severe or concern you

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Contact tracing for COVID-19. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/contact-tracing.html. Updated December 16, 2020. Accessed February 7, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Isolate if you are sick. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/isolation.html. Updated January 7, 2021. Accessed February 7, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: When you can be around others after you had or likely had COVID-19. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/end-home-isolation.html. Updated February 11, 2021. Accessed February 11, 2021.

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Review Date: 2/7/2021

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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