You are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 if you are 50 years and older OR if you have some high-risk conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Protect yourself by creating a plan to prepare for unexpected illness.
Use this guide to help you prepare for unexpected illness. Talk with your doctor or other health care clinician about actions you need for your plan to protect yourself and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Check the CDC link here to make sure your vaccinations are up to date, and keep documentation of your COVID-19 vaccination status.
- Upgrade hygiene habits like washing your hands often.
- Consider social distancing when in public places, especially if rates of COVID-19 are high in your area. Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Wearing a protective mask (N95, KN95) in public may reduce your chance of catching the virus.
- Maintain a healthy routine such as regular physical activity, eating nutritious food, getting adequate sleep, and receiving other recommended vaccines.
- Follow medical guidance from your family physician or health care clinician to control any chronic conditions.
Manage Your Symptoms
If you have COVID-19 symptoms and are at elevated risk for the infection, follow these steps to manage your symptoms and work with your doctor.
- Monitor your symptoms and get tested at a test-to-treat site or use an at-home self-test (within 24 hours of symptom onset).
- Contact a healthcare provider immediately to discuss your positive test results, a care plan, and whether you qualify for treatment. Doctors are on call so if you have a positive test on a weekend, do not wait until Monday to call. Contact them right away as this positive test date is crucial for when and how to begin treatment.
- If you suspect that you have COVID-19 and you are 50 or older or have a high-risk medical condition, treatments are available that can lower your risk of developing severe disease.
- If you are eligible for treatment, starting it within the first few days of symptoms will reduce the severity of the disease. Two oral antiviral medicines are available for mild to moderate COVID-19. An intravenous medicine is more often used in hospital settings.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home for at least 5 days from the start of symptoms, with the first day of symptoms being day 0 and isolate from others in your home. You are most infectious during these first 5 days.
- Wear a high-quality mask (N95, KN95) around others at home and in public through day 10 (or until you have two negative home-tests, done at least 48 hours apart).
- Contact your doctor any time you have questions or concerns, if your symptoms are getting worse, or if you have other medical conditions that are not well-controlled.
- If you have symptoms that continue more than 4 weeks after your infection, you might have “Long COVID.” Symptoms of Long COVID vary from person-to-person and can last months or even years. Talk to your doctor if you think you could have Long COVID to discuss ways to reduce your symptoms and feel better.
If you have any of these symptoms or any other symptoms that are severe or worrisome to you, you should call 911 or seek immediate medical attention:
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Trouble breathing
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
How to talk to your doctor
Public health professionals value shared decision-making to discuss patient needs and uncertainties. With shared decision-making, you and your doctor discuss the best available evidence and your own preferences and values when coming to a decision about your health.
Your doctor can help answer your questions about COVID-19 or other medical concerns. Your doctor knows your medical history and can help you make good decisions about your health.
Online tools can be helpful sources of information, but they can be outdated and sometimes inaccurate. Use websites like the CDC, NIH, and familydoctor.org for reliable information.
Make sure to have an accurate medication list, including over-the-counter medications or supplements you take so you can present this list to your doctor when you are considering a new medication.
If you don’t understand, ask them to slow down and repeat the information to assure that you receive the medical advice you need. Taking notes could also be helpful to retain information.
This Personal Plan for COVID-19 is funded under an unrestricted grant from Pfizer Inc.
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.