Practical information about Coronavirus

Know when to call for help

Pay attention to your symptoms. You need medical care if you’re getting sicker (for example, if it’s hard to breathe).

  • Call before you go to the doctor’s office or hospital. They can tell you what to do.
  • Wear a face mask if you have one. This can help protect other people from the virus.
  • Call 911 or emergency services right away if you have any of these symptoms:
      Severe trouble breathing or shortness of breath.
      Constant pain or pressure in your chest.
      Confusion or trouble thinking clearly.
      A blue tint to your lips or face.
How to protect yourself
Why is social distancing important now?

Social distancing is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This virus seems to spread from person to person through droplets from coughing and sneezing. So if you keep your distance from others, you’re less likely to get it or spread it.

And social distancing is important for everyone, not just those who are at high risk of infection, like seniors. You might have the virus but not have symptoms yet. You could then give the infection to someone you come into contact with.

Who is at high risk?

COVID-19 causes a mild illness in many. But certain factors may increase your risk for more serious illness. These include:
Age 65 or older.
Living in a long-term care facility 
Ongoing serious health issues.             

Some examples are:

  • Chronic lung disease or asthma.
  • Heart problems.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Cancer treatment.
  • Diabetes.

This is not a complete list. If you have a chronic health problem, ask your doctor if you should take extra precautions during the outbreak.

How likely is it that my child will get sick?

Most reported cases of COVID-19 so far have been in adults. This may be because most children don’t get sick or they have mild symptoms.
We don’t know yet whether some children, like those who have a serious health problem, may be at higher risk of getting sick. Experts are studying the virus and learning more every day.

How caring for yourself at home if you’re sick
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Take care of yourself

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Relieve fever

Fever is a sign that your immune system is fighting the virus. Reducing the fever won’t make your symptoms go away faster, but it may make you more comfortable.

If you need to reduce a fever:
• Sponge your body with lukewarm water. Don’t use cold water or ice.
• Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). It may also help with muscle aches. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

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Get extra rest

Bed rest can help you feel better.
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Drink plenty of fluids

This helps replace fluids lost from fever. Fluids also help ease a scratchy throat. Water, soup, fruit juice, and hot tea with lemon are good choices
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Use petroleum jelly on sore skin

This can help if the skin around your nose and lips becomes sore from repeated rubbing with tissues.

FAQ

COVID Symptoms & Treatment

Do children get the same symptoms of COVID-19 as adults?

Yes, children get the same symptoms as adults, such as a fever and a cough. But children’s symptoms are usually milder. Children also may have a runny nose, a stuffy nose, or a sore throat. They sometimes get an upset stomach, with vomiting and diarrhea (which adults sometimes get too).

Experts are still learning about how the virus affects children. They don’t know, for example, why children don’t seem to get as sick as adults. They’re also not sure if children who already have a health condition may be at higher risk than other children of serious illness from COVID-19.

Can immunoglobulin be used to treat COVID-19?

Doctors and hospitals are starting clinical trials to see if this treatment will help to fight COVID-19. Immunoglobulin (also called gamma globulin or immune globulin) is made from the blood of people who have recovered from an infection. In the case of COVID-19, it contains antibodies that fight COVID-19. When a person gets an infection, the body responds by making antibodies. These antibodies attack the infection and help the body fight it.

The hope is that if immunoglobulin is given to someone who is very ill from the virus, the antibodies will help that person fight and overcome the infection.

Experts don’t yet know if this will work and be safe for people with a serious COVID-19 infection. It seems to help in some other serious infections.

How long does the virus that causes COVID-19 live?

A new study shows that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive in an aerosol form for at least 3 hours. An aerosol is something under pressure that can be released as a spray, like a sneeze or a cough.

The virus can survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

How well it survives may depend on the surface it’s on. In the study, the virus lasted longest on plastic and stainless steel. It didn’t live as long on cardboard.

Because the virus can live for hours to days, it’s especially important to keep items around you clean. Experts advise disinfecting surfaces and objects you touch a lot, such as tables, door handles, faucets, toilets, handrails, and remote controls. You can use household disinfectants, a bleach solution, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.

Why is the virus making some young and healthy people very sick?

Experts don’t know why some people, even those who are healthy, get very sick. Overall, COVID-19 seems to cause fewer problems in people who are young and healthy. Those who are older or have other health problems, like diabetes or heart disease, have a higher risk of getting very sick. But the virus can affect anyone, even those who are young and healthy. And it can cause serious problems (even death) at any age. Data from the CDC has shown that 38% of people who have needed care in a hospital for COVID-19 have been between ages 20 and 54.

Will antibiotics help prevent or treat COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics treat infections that are caused by bacteria. COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Viruses are different than bacteria. Antibiotics don’t help and can even cause other problems.

What is the average length of COVID-19 illness (mild and severe)?

The length of time someone is sick with COVID-19 varies. It depends on how sick a person is. When people are mildly ill, they usually get better in 1 or 2 weeks.

People who are more severely ill have worse symptoms, like severe shortness of breath and pneumonia. They need care in a hospital. They usually get better in 3 to 6 weeks. Some people who get very sick may need even more time to recover.

Some people with COVID-19 have very mild or no symptoms. They may get over the infection without even knowing they had it.

What is a ventilator? Why is it so important in this outbreak?

A ventilator is a machine that breathes for a person when they can’t breathe well enough on their own. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. This means it can affect the breathing systems of the body, especially the lungs. Most people with COVID-19 don’t get seriously ill. But when someone is very ill, the infection affects the lungs so severely that breathing is hard or impossible.

A ventilator has a tube that goes through the mouth into the lungs. The machine brings oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide. A ventilator is important because it does the work of the lungs and gives them time to heal. After they heal, the tube can be removed.

One of the main concerns about this virus is whether there will be enough ventilators if many people get sick at the same time.

How is COVID-19 treated?

There is no medicine right now to fight the virus. Antibiotics don’t work against a virus. If you have mild symptoms, you can care for yourself at home while you are in isolation. Your doctor may have you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever. Treatment in the hospital for more serious cases includes support, such as a ventilator (to help with breathing) and medicines.

If I test negative for COVID-19 but continue to have symptoms, should I get tested again?

If your test is negative and your symptoms continue or get worse, you should call your doctor or other health care provider. They will tell you if you need another test.

No medical test is perfect. If your test result is positive, you are believed to have COVID-19. You will be diagnosed with it. But if your test result is negative, you still could have COVID-19. There are several reasons why a test might be negative, even though you have been infected. For example, your virus levels might be too low for the test to detect. Or the virus may not have been in your nose, throat, or lung fluid when the test was done, even though it was in your body.

Sometimes there are errors in how the sample was collected or how the test was run. This could cause a negative test, even when you have an infection.

How COVID-19 Spreads

Can you get COVID-19 from ticks or mosquitoes?

So far, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by ticks or mosquitoes. COVID-19 is spread mainly person-to-person. It can be spread by close contact or by droplets when a person who is infected sneezes or coughsh.

How likely is it that someone without symptoms can spread COVID-19?

Some people who have COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms. That’s called being asymptomatic. There have been reports that these people may be able to pass the virus to others. That’s another reason why it’s important to keep following social distancing guidelines and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

People with COVID-19 seem to be most contagious when they have symptoms like a fever and a cough.

I don’t have COVID-19. What can I do right now to stop the spread of the virus?

Everyone can help protect themselves and their community. The U.S. government has issued guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus:

  • Work from home, if possible, and keep kids home from school.
  • Avoid any events with more than 10 people.
  • Don’t go out to restaurants, bars, or food courts. Instead, if you want food from a restaurant, seek out places that offer drive-thru, pick up, or delivery.
  • Don’t go out to friends’ or family members’ houses or invite them to yours.
  • Don’t visit older people in retirement communities or nursing homes.
  • Don’t travel unless you have to.
  • Keep your hands and your home clean. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Disinfect items in your home that you touch a lot.
Will COVID-19 go away when the weather gets warmer?

The virus is new, so it’s not known how warmer weather will affect it. Some illnesses (like the flu and colds) are more common in colder weather than warmer weather. But it’s not known if that will be true of this virus.

We’re told to avoid “close contact” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. What is close contact?

Close contact means that you are closer than 6 feet away from someone who has COVID-19. The CDC says the contact is for “a prolonged period of time.” It also means that you have come in contact with droplets of the virus when someone who has the infection coughs or sneezes.

The virus mainly spreads person-to-person through close contact.

Can you get COVID-19 from water or food?

There’s no evidence that the virus can be spread through water or food. The virus is believed to be spread from person to person. This happens through close contact (being within 6 feet) and droplets when a person who has the virus coughs or sneezes. Experts also think it may be possible to get the virus by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

City water treatment disinfects water. While food doesn’t spread the virus, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you prepare food. It’s also important to disinfect surfaces like kitchen counters, tables, and objects that you touch.

Can my pets get COVID-19?
There haven’t been any reports so far of household pets getting the virus. But if you have COVID-19, experts recommend that you stay away from your pets—just like you would stay away from people when you’re sick. If you have to care for your pets yourself, wash your hands before and after.
Can I travel during the COVID-19 outbreak?
The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America recommend against any non-essential travel because of the risk of people getting or spreading the virus. The hope is that by staying away from crowded airports, hotels, and restaurants, all of us can slow the spread of the virus.

The U.S. State Department recommends against any international travel at this time. The State Department and the CDC also advise against travel by cruise ship.

If I test negative for COVID-19 but continue to have symptoms, should I get tested again?

If your test is negative and your symptoms continue or get worse, you should call your doctor or other health care provider. They will tell you if you need another test.

No medical test is perfect. If your test result is positive, you are believed to have COVID-19. You will be diagnosed with it. But if your test result is negative, you still could have COVID-19. There are several reasons why a test might be negative, even though you have been infected. For example, your virus levels might be too low for the test to detect. Or the virus may not have been in your nose, throat, or lung fluid when the test was done, even though it was in your body.

Sometimes there are errors in how the sample was collected or how the test was run. This could cause a negative test, even when you have an infection.

How to Protect Yourself

How can I make my own hand sanitizer?

You probably wouldn’t bother with making your own hand sanitizer if you could find the product in stores or online. It’s been in short supply. The World Health Organization has a recipe for making sanitizer. But you should know that the CDC doesn’t recommend homemade sanitizer. There is a concern about making sure it’s made under sterile conditions. It’s also not certain how well the homemade sanitizer works compared to store-bought versions.

Washing your hands with soap and water is preferred. Store-bought alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the next-best choice if soap and water aren’t available. But if you can’t find it in stores and you want to have hand sanitizer around, you can try this recipe. Do not use the homemade sanitizer when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Before you make the sanitizer, make sure to wash your hands first and use clean containers and utensils.

The items to make it are usually available at drugstores, grocery stores, and online. (But even these items may be hard to find in many stores.)

Makes 1-1/3 cups
Gently shake or stir together:

  • 1 cup of 99% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 teaspoon of 98% glycerin or glycerol (a moisturizer)
  • Enough water to make the mixture reach 1-1/3 cup (about 1/4 cup water)

Use a clean funnel to pour the mixture into clean bottles.

Is there something I can take to boost my immune system to help fight infections like COVID-19?

There’s no evidence yet that any supplement can prevent infection with COVID-19. Vitamins C and D are the supplements that have been studied the most for other respiratory infections. The studies so far have shown mixed results for vitamins C and D preventing respiratory infections or reducing how severe they are. Some studies showed some benefit, while others didn’t.

Experts do agree that the best way to boost your immune system is by having a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, stay active, limit alcohol if you drink, and find ways to reduce stress.

How should I clean surfaces if I or a family member has COVID-19?

Experts say it may be possible to get the virus by touching something that has the virus on it. This includes surfaces like tables and countertops and objects such as doorknobs, faucets, toilets, remote controls, and handles on the fridge and microwave.

To clean and disinfect surfaces and objects:

  • Wear disposable gloves. Throw them away after you clean and disinfect. Wash your hands after you take off the gloves.
  • Use a detergent or soap and water to clean any dirt from surfaces and objects.
  • To kill the virus, use a household disinfectant cleaner, a household bleach solution, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. Make sure the product is right for the type of surface you are cleaning. Follow the directions on the product. You can make your own bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach with a gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach with a quart of water.
How do I protect myself when I’m out?

It’s best to only go out if you have to. For example, you might need to go to a supermarket or to work. Ask yourself if the trip out is necessary. Do you have to go out to eat, or can you choose take-out or even better, cook at home?

If you do go out, try to avoid groups of people. Practice social distancing. This means if you have to be around someone, don’t get too close. It’s safest to stay at least 6 feet away from others, but if you can’t be 6 feet apart, stay as far apart as possible.

Avoid people who may be ill. Try to avoid touching things that a lot of other people have touched (like door handles and elevator buttons). Wash your hands often with soap and water. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you can’t wash, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Can I go for a walk outside and be safe from the virus?

Yes. Activity is good for your body, mind, and mood. Experts say you can walk or hike, or do other activity outside—as long as you can stay 6 feet away from other people. You can wave at neighbors or shout a hello. You can stop for a quick chat, if you are 6 feet or more away from them.

What should I do if I come in close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

If you know that you have been exposed to someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, isolate yourself for 14 days. This means don’t go to work, to school, or to any social events. Only go out if you need medical care (after you have called your doctor’s office to get instructions). Stay in a separate room at home if at all possible. This will help protect people in your household. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, or shortness of breath), call your doctor. Tell them your symptoms. They will let you know if you need care or testing.

I’m pregnant and concerned about COVID-19. How can it affect my baby or me?
Because COVID-19 is new, experts don’t have enough information to say if and how the virus will affect a pregnancy. They also don’t know whether the virus can be passed to the baby (fetus).

The immune system can change during pregnancy. Experience with similar viruses has shown that there might be a higher risk for serious illness during pregnancy.

It’s important to do what you can to be as healthy as possible. This includes taking steps to prevent infection, such as washing your hands often and staying at least 6 feet away from people. Keep having regular prenatal visits. Stay in touch with your health care team.

How should I wash towels, linens, and other laundry of a person who has COVID-19?

You can wash an ill person’s items along with other people’s clothing. Just take care when handling the person’s dirty laundry.

  • Wear disposable gloves. If you don’t have disposable gloves, wash your hands after handling the laundry of a person infected with the virus.
  • Don’t shake out the laundry before you wash it. This can prevent releasing the virus into the air.
  • Wash the clothes in the warmest temperature that is allowed for the type of fabric.
  • Make sure the clothes are completely dry.
  • Use a separate basket to hold the person’s dirty laundry. Line it with a disposable or washable liner to keep the basket clean.
How do you disinfect your phone?

You can clean and disinfect your phone. But be careful not to spray liquid on it. Moisture could get in the phone and damage it.

  • Unplug the phone from charging or any devices or cables.
  • Spray a non-abrasive disinfectant or 70% isopropyl alcohol on a soft, lint-free cloth. (Don’t use paper towels or anything else that is abrasive.)
  • Gently clean the phone (and phone case if you use one) with the cloth.
  • Don’t use bleach to clean the phone.

You can do a few other things to help keep your phone clean—and help keep you safe:

  • Text or email photos to others instead of handing people your phone.
  • Avoid putting your phone on surfaces that you haven’t disinfected.
  • Use Bluetooth or a headset when possible. That way the phone isn’t touching your face.
What should I do if I return home from an area with an outbreak?

According to the CDC, people coming back into the United States from an area with a widespread outbreak are being asked to stay at home for 14 days. That means you shouldn’t go to work or school outside the home.

You’ll also be asked to take your temperature twice a day (to look for fever) and watch for other symptoms. Call your doctor if you have a fever, a cough, or trouble breathing.

Although the CDC doesn’t usually give guidance about travel in the U.S., it does suggest that you think about how widespread the virus is in the area that you are traveling to. Will you be in close contact with other people? Are you at high risk for the disease (people who older or already have a health problem)? Are you prepared to spend 14 days at home in self-isolation if, during your trip, you come in close contact with someone who has the virus?

Can I socialize with my neighbors and friends if we’re all healthy?

You can chat or say hello if you can do it from 6 feet or more away from someone. It’s important to keep your distance to help stop the spread of the virus. You may think you’re healthy, but you could carry the virus and spread it even if you feel fine. And so could your friends. So no parties, handshakes, hugs, or high-fives.

You can do things like chat with a neighbor over the fence. You can always call friends and family or see each other on Skype, FaceTime, or another type of video call.

We’re always told to wash our hands. How does soap work against COVID-19?

Soap does the not-so-dirty work of destroying the virus by breaking it apart. This coronavirus, like many other viruses, has an outer, fatty layer. It’s believed to help protect the virus from the defenses of the host that it’s invading.

A soap molecule has a head that likes water and a tail that doesn’t. When you wash your hands with soap and water, the tail tries to get away from the water by getting into the fatty layer of the virus. It breaks through the fat layer, and the virus falls apart, or “dies.” (It really becomes inactive, since viruses aren’t really alive.) Scrubbing your hands while washing also helps wash away the virus.

Any soap will work. Washing your hands with soap and water is best. But if soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizers that have at least 60% alcohol also will disable the virus. You need to use enough sanitizer to cover all areas of your hands.

COVID-19 Basics

What can I do to help health care workers during this pandemic?

It’s important to show thanks for the many hours of hard work that health care workers are putting in to take care of us. They are risking their own lives to help others. And they are worried about exposing their own families. Here are some things you can do to help those providers and all of us.

  • Practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. This will help all of us stay healthier, which reduces the burden on hospitals and health care workers. Stay at home as much as you can.
  • Keep washing your hands. This also will help reduce the spread of the virus and the stress on the health care system.
  • Don’t buy N95 face masks. These masks are in short supply. Health care workers need the masks to protect themselves when they care for people who are sick.
  • Call ahead to your doctor’s office or urgent care if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19. These include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Calling ahead allows a provider to tell you if you need to be seen and to prepare before you come in. Follow their instructions. They may ask you to stay home if you have mild symptoms that can be treated at home.
  • Be kind to health care workers. They have a lot of people to care for at a stressful time. So be patient and follow their instructions at the clinic or hospital. The rules are in place for everyone’s protection.
How is the virus that causes COVID-19 different from other coronaviruses?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus in people. That’s why it’s called a novel virus. Because it’s new, people have little or no immune protection from it. This makes it spread quickly and widely.

There are many types of coronaviruses. The most common type causes the common cold. But unlike the common cold—which almost everyone gets over without problems—COVID-19 can cause serious illness and death. Some coronaviruses affect humans, and some affect animals. Sometimes, a coronavirus that affects an animal changes a little and is then able to infect humans. That’s how COVID-19 is believed to have started.

Can I donate blood safely during the COVID-19 outbreak?

If you are well and meet the donor guidelines, you can donate blood. This is true even if you live in an area with a shelter-in-place order, according to the American Red Cross.

Blood donations help save lives. The need is especially urgent because many blood drives have been canceled over fears about COVID-19.

Donation sites are taking extra steps to keep you safe. For example, they’re doing extra disinfecting of equipment and spacing chairs at least 6 feet apart. They also are checking temperatures and the overall health of donors and the staff members who draw the blood.

The Red Cross advises you to postpone blood donations if you are sick or in isolation or if you have traveled to certain areas where COVID-19 is widespread. If you have questions, call your local blood donation center or see the Red Cross website: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/coronavirus–covid-19–and-blood-donation.html

    What is a pandemic?
    A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads to many areas around the world. The World Health Organization has called COVID-19 a pandemic because the disease has traveled worldwide.

    An epidemic is an outbreak of infectious disease (or sometimes another health problem) that is happening much more than usual in an area. When COVID-19 first appeared in China, it was called an epidemic because of the rapid rise in the number of infections there.

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