What should you do if you get covid or are exposed to it?

I had my second bout of Covid last week. Thankfully, my case was mild and I just had a sore throat and congestion. I did have several friends reach out to share that their recent experiences were flu-like symptoms that lasted several days. The person who gave it to me caught it for their very first time, and 12 days after his positive test, he is still not feeling 100%. Be careful out there, friends, because you still never know how it’s going to affect you. Stay safe, take precautions!

I knew the guidelines had changed in recent months, but wasn’t quite sure what they are now, so I had to do some research on what to do. For anyone else who may not be totally up to speed, Yahoo has a compilation of what to do if you have Covid or are exposed to it, based on the CDC guidelines.

What to do if you test positive: While protocols have changed slightly since the pandemic began, there are still recommendations in place around testing positive for COVID-19. If you do test positive, you should stay home for at least five days and isolate from others in your home, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When to start the timeline: Day zero is the first day you develop symptoms, the CDC points out. If you had no symptoms but tested positive, day zero is the day you took the test — but you revert back to day zero if you later develop symptoms.

Isolate: The CDC recommends that you stay home and try to stay away from others as much as possible, even using a separate bathroom if you can. It’s also a good idea to avoid sharing personal items like cups, towels and utensils; if you need to be around others, wear a high-quality mask.

Seriously, stay home: While some people will dismiss their symptoms as a cold, it’s best to stay home from work, school and any of your other usual activities, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “You should recuse yourself,” he says. “You really don’t want to expose other people. You don’t know if your co-workers have diabetes or other high-risk conditions, or if they have someone at home who is in a high-risk group. Just shelter at home.”

When to leave isolation You can leave isolation after day five if you’ve had no symptoms or if you had symptoms but have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, the CDC says. But if your symptoms haven’t gotten better by day five, the CDC recommends continuing to isolate until you’re fever-free for 24 hours without medication or your symptoms start to get better. From there, it’s recommended that you wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask indoors until at least day 11 and that you avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. “Don’t go visiting your grandparents during this time,” Schaffner says.

If you need to leave isolation during the five-day period (which, again, isn’t recommended), Schaffner says it’s important to wear a high-quality mask and to try to avoid others as much as possible. “If you need to get groceries and no one else can get them for you, wear that mask and go at a time when there are fewer people at the store — early morning or late in the evening,” he says.

What to do if you’re high-risk: If you’re in a high-risk category (the CDC has a full breakdown of medical conditions that would classify you that way), it’s a good idea to call your doctor about getting on an antiviral medication like Paxlovid, infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life. “Paxlovid should be prescribed to high-risk persons within five days of symptom onset,” he says. “If Paxlovid is unable to be given, molnupiravir [antiviral medications] should be prescribed.”

Schaffner suggests testing more often if you’re in a high-risk group. “If you’re exposed and you’re high-risk, I recommend testing yourself starting from about day three after the exposure and testing on days four, five and six, if you can,” he says. If you get a positive test result, isolate and call your doctor about taking an antiviral medication.

What to do if you’ve been exposed: The CDC recommends that you start taking precautions immediately. That includes wearing a high-quality mask any time you’re around others inside your home or indoors in public and avoiding places where you can’t wear a mask indoors. You’ll also want to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 like fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. If you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and get tested for the virus. The CDC recommends testing yourself on day six if you didn’t develop symptoms, but continuing to wear a mask for 10 days, even if the results are negative.

If someone you know has tested positive: Your friend should be isolating if they tested positive for COVID-19, Schaffner says, and you don’t want to risk exposing yourself and getting sick. If you want to help them by bringing them groceries or food, he says that’s not a problem — just leave it outside their door instead of going into their home.

Get vaccinated: “Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to lower your risk of serious complications if you happen to get infected,” he says.

[From Yahoo]

So there you have it. After three-and-a-half-years, a lot of this is common sense at this point. The CDC just approved a new booster, which I was going to get during my yearly physical next week, but I guess now I’ll wait until I’m eligible again. Although a lot of people seem to not be taking Covid seriously anymore, I do appreciate how most of us barely bat an eye nowadays when we see people wearing masks in everyday life. I’ve been wearing a mask while leaving the house for the past few days and never once felt out of place or uncomfortable.

I have experienced a brand new symptom that I did not have before: I’ve lost my sense of smell. It’s been weird, especially because when I cleaned my bathroom with bleach on Monday so my husband could use it again, his first reaction was to gag at how powerful it was. I never smelt it at all! I thought he was messing with me until I realized on Tuesday morning that I couldn’t smell my coffee. It’s so weird because I can still generally taste things! Anyone else having lingering symptoms this time around? Ah, Covid is crazy.

photos credit: Anna Shvets, Edward Jenner and Cottonbro on Pexels

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35 Responses to “What should you do if you get covid or are exposed to it?”

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  1. manda says:

    I still have not got covid, that I know of, and it’s really starting to bug me out again. I figure, statistically, it just gets more and more likely that I will get it (I think? I’m not a statistician) and I know you just can’t count on it not being a bad case. I thought I also heard that they want you to wait a little bit to take the newest vaccine, which I know they say to delay for flu sometimes so it’s like the right mix, or whatever, to fight what’s out there. I’ll have to ask my doctor. Hope you get your sense of smell back soon, I can’t imagine how discombobulating that must be

    • BeanieBean says:

      Well, the new one is available now, so I have an appointment for next week for flu/covid/rsv vaccines. I’ve not had covid (yet) so far & am hoping I don’t ever. I’ve now reached the magic ‘elderly’ status (ugh, do not like that word), so I’m paying closer attention to this stuff.

    • Katie says:

      Your risk goes up when there is more covid in the area and/or you take on riskier behaviors. Just because you haven’t yet had covid does not increase your risk of getting it. Flipping a heads on a coin does not increase the chance that the next flip will be a tails.

  2. Jeannine Pope says:

    I work as a hospital chaplain. I had two Covid deaths of very senior adults recently. Additionally, our numbers of hospitalized infected have gone up, esp. of the elderly an at-risk populations. I am one of those because of medical conditions. So, I asked one of the docs what I should do and he said to mask all the time while rounding. Additionally, our guidelines say medical staff can come back to work after 5 days. However, the general population should isolate for 10 and those who are having difficulty ridding themselves of the virus should take 20 days. The best test is the antigen test, BTW. I had COVID only once, but I tested positive on the antigen test for 6 weeks because I have poor immunity. It took me a long time to mount a response to the infection and then a long time for my immune system to calm down. Then, I had acute, chronic COVID after that (esp. pulmonary symptoms, fatigue, memory fog poss.) I can’t say if it is long COVID because I have seen people who are much worse and I started out with Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, plus a crap load of other stuff. Yay, me!

    If you are feeling unwell. Test yourself. I say get the anti-virals if you feeling toward the flu-ish end of things. If you feel just inconvenienced , just Isolate and separate from your family. You don’t need to bring 7 people to the ER like someone did here. Don’t pass that mess around!
    If you have a M.D. call them, they WILL believe you and call in anti-virals.

    Absolutely, do not go out thinking, “Hey I feel great!” If you tested and you are positive, but feel well. Guess what! You are positive! It is really Best not to risk it. I feel for you if you are a singleton or single parent, but we have a whole economy of people ready to deliver stuff to us because of this. Why leave your house if you don’t have two? In the church they things called care communities that help assist families in times of crisis when funds are low. You may not be churchy, but can you call on friends to bring food or groceries? Can you check with the United Way for volunteers to assist you? Can you check with churches to see if they have volunteers to assist? Senior Organizations also have folks to help. Meals on Wheels is not age related, but they are need related. Are you friends with neighbors who can do a few short errands for you? Is your family in your life to help? Are you in a club or meet-up with folks that might be able to do the same?

    I hope that helps with ideas to keep you and your community safe and lower the incidence of COVID in your community. Each time I put on full PPE to see a Patient, my I get butterflies in my stomach, but this is my calling. I do it willingly. You can help. Lower the COVID transmission rate in you community with education and good PPE practices. Mask up! Help yourself and others.

  3. SarahCS says:

    Sorry to hear about your sense of smell Rosie, how are you finding eating and the effect on taste?

    A friend of mine had Covid right at the start (March 2020) and it made certain things smell weird, like she couldn’t get clean laundry out of the machine because it smelt so strongly like petrol and she could only handle eating white chocolate.

    • LadyMTL says:

      If you’re curious, I got Covid in August 2022 and completely lost my sense of taste / smell but it didn’t happen right away…I think it was on day 4, maybe? It lasted for 5-6 days and I couldn’t smell or taste anything at all. When it finally did come back it was gradual, and I could only taste salty, sweet, spicy, and not the entire ‘flavour spectrum’ (for lack of a better expression) for a few days.

      TBH I’m kind of glad I didn’t have to deal with what your friend went through, that really sounds rough. I didn’t enjoy eating very much because it was all so blah, but thankfully nothing smelled weird once it did come back.

    • Rosie says:

      I didn’t notice my taste changing too much, although I put hot sauce on everything last week and it was more tolerable than usual haha. I did find I had a weird taste in my mouth that I couldn’t quite place what it was.

      Over the last day or so, I have started to have my smell come back. I can smell things up close, like eggs when they’re in front of me or coffee when I stick my nose in to smell it. I also smelled the Clean Shower rinse (the one I mention in this week’s Amazon post) after I sprayed it yesterday. I think by the end of the weekend, I’ll be back to normal.

  4. Pat Gaddess says:

    I also had COVID and it was much more dramatic. We are not sure if it was circumstantial but I was hospitalized the first time with a very high fever and all kinds of strange symptoms. My heart rate went very low. I was sent home with a very high tech heart monitor that sends the info to a reporting center and 4 days later I had a pacemaker. Be very careful. I am lucky. I live very close to a major medical center and I got very high tech care. I was told there is research in France that this strain is causing heart damage and hearing loss.’I am on my way to recovery but it is not easy

  5. Jeannine Pope says:

    Thank you, Rosie, for such an excellent post, BTW.

  6. Southern Fried says:

    Thanks for the updates. I started wearing masks again exactly a week ago. I’m kind of mad about it since this time of year my area has lots of fundraisers including registering people to vote at community events. I just don’t want to be around large groups of people again. I already cancelled 2 of my favorite volunteer activities. Also a few days ago we tried to buy test kits at our local pharmacies but ended up having to order online, so be aware.

  7. Christine says:

    I’m a 2nd grade special ed teacher. I have 5 kids in my classroom, and we went back to school less than a month ago. I’ve already had 2 kids out with Covid, and I’m sure more are coming.

  8. Tulipworthy says:

    Thanks for the information Rosie. It is very helpful.

  9. TessaS says:

    I had Paxlovid as I’m in a high-risk category and, immediately after starting the course of medication, I started feeling better. Took about a week to recover.

    Long-term effects are some tastes being muted and others tasting extremely salty (unrelated to actual salt content! Lemon merengue pie was inedible.) and severe pain in the right elbow which, seven months later, is slowly subsiding. I can now lift a cup of coffee and just barely feel sore.

    Who gets long-term effects and who comes out just fine seems to be such a random thing.

  10. Carmen says:

    I got it last month, probably on a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles where I was sitting in the middle seat in coach, everyone unmasked. Two days of chills and fever, mild congestion, no breathing problems, no loss of taste or smell thank God, and an overall weakness so intense it knocked me out. The best medicine, besides Paxlovid, is lots and lots of rest. It lasted about a week. Six weeks after I got sick, my energy is back to about 90% of what it was.

    It’s not a pandemic any more, it’s endemic, and it’s going to be around for a very long time. We might as well get used to it and learn the most effective ways of dealing with it. Just like the flu.

  11. Shelly Bean says:

    I caught covid for the first time about a month ago. I was really sick for 2 weeks. My nose was completely blocked. I mean COMPLETELY. I had never experienced such bad nasal congestion before in my entire life, I couldn’t even blow it out. And I was coughing up the weirdest, most disgusting tasting phlegm that was like a weird grey colour. I also lost my sense of smell for a few days once the congestion subsided. Thankfully I have my smell back now, but it was really disturbing not being able to smell food or perfumes. My 90 year old nana lives with us and she caught it too but we were testing her everyday and as soon as she tested positive we took her to the ER and got her the antiviral and she didn’t even have any symptoms, she was perfectly fine.
    We didn’t get the booster shot this year but we will be getting it every year from now on. I have never experienced an illness like that before in my entire life, it was horrendous.

    • Cee says:

      I got the blocked nose too. I was out of my mind trying to function because my throat was very congested too. Thankfully that lasted 1 night and was able to breathe a bit better by next morning. It definitely was something I’ve never experienced before and I always develop sinusitis when I catch a cold.

  12. salmonpuff says:

    My husband is a teacher and at least half of his colleagues have had it since school started, less than a month ago. Several of my son’s friends had it, too, and my son was sick this week, but never tested positive. I’ve been running our air purifier 24/7!

    We had it for the first time last March, and I am just now back to full athletic strength and endurance. (Everything else popped back to normal right away, but I wasn’t able to work out at full capacity for a looong time.) I don’t want it again.

    I flew across country two weeks ago and masked the whole time and seem to have come out fine. But I’m definitely being much more vigilant right now. I can’t wait to get the new booster!

  13. M.D. says:

    I want to reiterate that it is completely incorrect to say COVID is just like the flu.
    Even mild cases carry a significantly higher risk of post infection diabetes and heart attack. This is true even for young adults with no preexisting medical conditions.
    If you want to look up research on this, Cedars has plenty and a lot of it is open access.

  14. Trillion says:

    Two of my colleagues. recently tested positive after, while highly symptomatic tested negative multiple times. When they did a laryngeal swab, rather than a nasal one, they test positive. Last month, I was very sick for a couple of weeks and strongly suspected COVID, although I continued to test negative. I am pretty convinced I actually did have it, because my lungs were on fire and I was extremely fatigued. Next time, I’m going to do a pharyngeal test. We are definitely seeing a spike here in SF. (I’m a community health nurse)

  15. Julia says:

    I have never had covid, but I mask 100% of the time around other people (and continue to minimize any unnecessary interactions). I honestly can’t believe how casual most of us have become about the idea of infecting other people with a virus that can cause such a wild variety of outcomes, many of them severe! I have never thought of myself as a particularly nice person (because I’m not), but I’d feel terrible passing along a virus like this.

    Please remember that “mild” depends SO MUCH on what your circumstances are, both medical and personal: my very healthy, fit friend caught covid for the first time this summer (from a friend who insisted that she had “allergies”, despite the fact that she knew there was a covid outbreak in her office). My friend is in her 50s and fully vaxxed and recently boosted, but she runs a housecleaning company with a lot of elderly, vulnerable clients. Her Kaiser doctor refused to give her a prescription for Paxlovid (he said she “didn’t need it”), and so she was moderately-to-unpleasantly sick for a full week, and mildly ill and testing positive for another full week. Setting aside the risk of Long Covid—which is a big thing to set aside! 10% of infections lead to some form of LC!–that was TWO WEEKS of work she is never going to get back, and there is absolutely no outside financial support for a self-employed person in her position. This has been a huge financial blow for her, and one that our leaders aren’t even acknowledging is a risk for many, many people.

  16. Bad Janet says:

    I just learned that the home tests really aren’t reliably picking up the antigens anymore, at least not in people with a lot of exposure (such full vax, frequent infections). I just realized a few days into it that I had it again. I kept testing and kept getting negatives, but when I started getting short of breath from walking, I knew. All the other symptoms clicked at that point – things I chalked up to allergies, and remembering that I had been forgetting a ton of stuff, getting muscle cramps, having a hard time sleeping, all classic COVID stuff for me.

    Just something to be aware of!

    • Dara says:

      This last time, I had symptoms for almost a week before I finally tested positive. The only reason I knew it was COVID was because I knew I had close exposure to a confirmed case. I was masking and isolating from the beginning, but if I hadn’t I would have infected countless people before the test confirmed I was infected.

    • Kebbie says:

      I’m fully vaxxed and boosted (except for the very newest one) and this is my third go around with covid. I didn’t test positive until a few hours before I developed a fever of 101 (and it was a very faint line.) I had a sore throat developing for about two days prior to that. My fever only lasted for a couple of hours and then I had a couple days of congestion, but I’ve continued to test positive for 5 days.

      To me it seems like the tests work, but only once you’re deep into symptoms and have probably been contagious for days. Maybe they don’t work if you’re not developing sinus symptoms though?

      I’m with you on the inability to sleep. I finally got 9 hours last night and it felt like a miracle.

  17. Dara says:

    I’ve had it twice, I’m vaccinated and boosted so thankfully I had “mild” symptoms both times. Still took about ten days each time for the symptoms to clear, and two or three weeks before I got my energy back.

    I lost taste and smell the first time, about 5 days in. It was wild, I’ve never had it completely gone like that before, and I’ve had sinus problems my entire life. Completely randomly, I had an allergy attack one morning and took OTC Benadryl and noticed my sense of smell (and therefore taste) came back in a minor way. I didn’t make the connection at first, I just assumed I was finally recovering, only to have the Benadryl wear off and my nose immediately stop working again. Tried Benadryl again, and sure enough I could taste and smell again. Turns out I’m not the only one, and there are studies that suggest oral antihistamines might help some people get their sense of smell back.


  18. Scarlet Vixen says:

    I just had Covid for the second time (1st time was April 2021), and fortunately both cases were mild (knock on wood). When I had it 2 yrs ago I thought I had seasonal allergies, and only discovered it was Covid because I tested just in case. 2 of my 3 children also tested positive but remained asymptomatic.

    This bout of Covid I more than likely picked upon a flight/vacation. Again started as allergy symptoms so I tested immediately. The only additional symptoms I had this time were chills/fever for about 24hrs & then about 48hrs of diarrhea (super fun). I quarantined for 1 week, and then returned to work double masked and Cloroxing any communal areas. Interestingly, noone else who traveled with me (husband, 3 kids & my adult brother) tested positive. It feels like such a crap shoot who will get it, what symptoms will be, if they’ll be long term, etc.

  19. Cee says:

    I got COVID two weeks ago, for the first time. I have no idea where I caught it but it doesn’t matter because I stopped masking months ago and really let my guard down.
    Because it’s winter here, most people think they’ve caught a cold, so the virus is propagating fast.
    I had a high fever for almost 4 days and one night I couldn’t sleep because I literally couldn’t breathe through my nose. I lost all appetite and I am still exhausted.
    Now that most of you in the Northern Hemisphere are moving towards colder seasons, mask up! Most people will insist on the flu but it will definitely be COVID.

  20. Demona says:

    I caught covid at a very big fan convention during labor day weekend (dragoncon in atlanta) . I probably caught it Thursday when I was a very crowded and poorly ventilated room and realized I didn’t have a mask but I was in a line and didn’t want to leave and get back in line. Friday I had an inexplicable feeling of doom and malaise and ennui and almost wanted to go home from an event I’d waited all year for. Sunday morning around 5am I woke up and my nose was burning and my throat was itchy. By Sunday night no sore throat and I had a few sniffles and that was it. Monday I was very very sleepy. When I finally got home Tuesday I tested and was positive. I really didn’t think it was covid bc i had different symptoms from 2 years earlier and no fever. None of my hotel roommates or son caught it.

    Heres the TMI but for a possible medical reason- my partner was staying in a different hotel because hotel reservations are impossible to get. We had one night of child free fun times (sat night). Other than that, we had the same level of interactions as with the rest of our friends/roommates… going to dinner hanging out to talk etc. The difference was he is unvaccinated. He got it from me. He had mild covid before. This time he was BAD. So the vaccine seemed to really help everyone who had less direct exposure not catch it.

    • Demona says:

      I mean to add that on Sunday he also was feeling that same inexplicable depression/doom. It made me think that it could be an early symptom of your body reacting. Monday night he got the sniffles and sore throat

  21. Browniecakes says:

    My husband, adult daughter and I enjoyed Walt Disney World in Orlando over Labor Day for 5 days, flew through Atlanta. For a week now my daughter and I have been on the Covid coaster, my husband is asymptomatic. She had fever, body aches, coughing, and has passed out and thrown up. I had fever, congestion, sounded like I lost my voice and definitely lost my sense of smell. Both of us get winded easily and feel like we have a weighted blanket on our chests all the time. Allot of sleep has helped both of us. Sudafed helped a bit. Amazing how long Covid lasts compared to colds and flus. Thought when we didn’t get it in 2020 and were vacc’d 2x we were in the clear.

  22. I work in a hospital and my coworker gave me COVID. The week prior I kept telling her to go home, she was coughing and sneezing – she swore it was allergies.
    I kept reminding her I’m a born asthmatic. Her answer: I’m sensitive too!
    All I can say is that goodness for the boosters!!! I had fever and something similar to pneumonia. Didn’t need to be ventilated 🙂