FAQ: COVID-19 Positive
If you test positive for COVID-19, do not panic. For most people who test positive, COVID-19 produces mild symptoms, such as cough, fever and runny nose. Only a small number of patients get a severe illness.
If you have not already done so, please isolate yourself at home right away. You must stay in isolation even if you do not have any symptoms.
If you did not receive your diagnosis from a UCLA doctor because you went to an outside testing site or took a test at home, you should also contact your medical provider right away.
Please see our COVID-19 positive page for more information.
What to expect if you're diagnosed with COVID-19
What to expect after being discharged from the hospital following COVID-19 treatment
Instrucciones una vez dado de alta del hospital después del tratamiento para COVID-19 (Spanish)
To isolate, you must stay home.
- Do not leave your home, except to get medical care, until your health care provider says it is OK.
- Do not go to work, school or public areas.
- Do not use public transportation or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- As much as possible, stay in a room away from other people in your home.
- Avoid sharing household items. Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with anyone. After use, wash these items with dish soap and warm water.
- If possible, use a separate bathroom.
- Clean and sanitize all high touch surfaces after use, including surfaces in the bathroom.
- If you must be in the same room as other people, wear a face mask to protect others and others should wear a face mask if they must be in the same room as you.
Wash hands often.
- Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty. Rub your hands and fingers until they are dry.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you wash your hands first.
Yes. Please see the CDC quarantine and isolation webpage for the latest guidance on how long people in your household should quarantine after a known COVID-19 exposure.
People experience COVID-19 differently.
- No symptoms: Some people who test positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which means they never experience symptoms. Even if you do not have symptoms, you can still infect others and must isolate at home after you test positive. Because you do not have symptoms you must isolate for 14 days.
- Mild symptoms: Some people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. They may feel tired and have a runny or stuffy nose, congestion, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, low grade fever, diarrhea, and/or muscle aches.
- Moderate symptoms: Many people with moderate symptoms describe COVID-19 as the worst flu-like illness they have ever had. They may experience:
- High fever
- Muscle aches
- Severe fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or nasal congestion
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Brain fog or depression
- Loss of taste and smell
- High heart rate with minimal activity
- Chest pain or chest pressure
- Severe symptoms: A small number of people experience severe COVID-19 symptoms and are hospitalized during their illness. See below for symptoms that mean you should call 911.
If your symptoms get worse, mainly if you struggle to breathe, contact your medical provider right away.
Other worrisome symptoms that necessitate a call to your doctor, or if it feels like an emergency, 911, include:
- New rashes
- New pain or swelling in legs or arms
- Changes in your vision
- Phlegm in your cough or change in your coughing
- Feeling short of breath at rest
- New or worsening chest pain
- Not able to keep food or water down for any reason
- Any stroke symptoms such as loss of sensation in a particular area of your body, speech disturbances, facial droop
When you call your doctor, you should:
- Tell your provider's office that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19. This will help them ensure you get the best possible care and protect others.
- If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and tell them you have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Please note that every patient’s symptoms and disease progression are different. If you’re ever concerned, call your doctor to discuss.
Just like symptoms can differ, the progression of each person’s illness can also differ.
Many people recover fully from COVID-19 after about 14 days. If you have a mild illness, you will likely feel better after about a week, or you will feel roughly the same in your first and second week of illness.
Note that how you feel in the first week does not predict how you will feel in the second week. If you are going to develop more moderate symptoms, week one is often milder than week two, and significant shortness of breath often develops in the second week.
Many people who experience symptoms go through periods of feeling well, as if they are over the hump, only to feel unwell again a number of hours or days later.
Some people may experience “flares” of their illness after recovery. A flare is when someone’s initial COVID-19 symptoms reappear after they’ve recovered. If you experience a symptom flare, you should isolate and stay away from others when you have symptoms. Track your symptoms, and if they don’t go away, contact your doctor.
Some people may also experience symptoms for longer than one or two weeks, or develop what has been named “long COVID” or “post-COVID syndrome,” consisting of persistent mental and physical symptoms, often for months. Unfortunately, at this point, we don’t know how long these symptoms will last and how they will affect general health.
About one out of every three people who had coronavirus develops symptoms of long COVID, defined by the CDC as a group of symptoms that linger for weeks or months after a COVID-19 infection. These symptoms can cause problems in multiple organs and body systems at once. Even people who had a mild case of the virus can have persistent COVID symptoms that disrupt their daily life.
Please see our Long Haul COVID medical service page for more information on diagnostics, treatments and support.
Please talk to your primary doctor about your best treatment plan. There are several outpatient COVID-19 treatment options, such as antiviral pills and monoclonal antibody treatments for certain high-risk individuals.
There are also many things you can do to manage your COVID-19 symptoms at home. Unless you have been told by your medical provider to do differently, you can:
- Rest: Get lots of rest and save your energy (do not do any strenuous physical exercise).
- Drink lots of fluids: Drink water or water+ electrolytes (e.g., Pedialyte®, Gatorade®,).
- Warm drinks with or without honey can soothe sore throats and decrease phlegm (mucous/congestion).
- Fevers or body aches: It is generally safe to use Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) 500 – 1000mg (typically 1-2 extra strength tablets), 2-3 times per day as needed for fever or pain relief. Avoid if you have a history of severe liver disease or drink alcohol.
- Cough medicine: Dextromethorphan can curb cough symptoms. Curbing a cough is hard and some believe it is better to cough so you can get rid of excess mucus or infection.
- Nasal symptoms:
- Saline rinse or mist 1-2 times per day.
- Antihistamine with or without decongestant (e.g., loratadine + pseudoephedrine or fexofenadine + pseudoephedrine). If you have high blood pressure you might want to avoid a decongestant
Yes. UCLA Health offers a COVID-19 Care Companion Home Monitoring Program.
Patients must be referred by their primary care physician into this program. It is open to COVID-positive patients who transition from the hospital or emergency department to their home and patients who are never hospitalized but require close monitoring.
Home monitoring involves daily symptom tracking through a mobile app called Care Companion. Any reported “red flag” symptoms, such as shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, are sent to your physician as an alert.
If a patient cannot use the mobile app, monitoring can be conducted over the phone by a registered nurse, care coordinator or physician who monitors high-risk patients.
Call your primary care physician to learn more.
UCLA Health has a dedicated and multidisciplinary team of COVID-19 physicians who can follow patients in the outpatient setting. This team includes internists, pulmonologists and cardiologists, among others.
The following are specialty groups that follow COVID-19 positive patients who have symptoms that continue after their initial illness.
Pulmonary / Critical Care Clinic
The pulmonary / critical care team is available to help anyone who is recovering from COVID-19 and has ongoing oxygen dependence, breathlessness at rest, shortness of breath when walking, or cough.
They can order tests to further diagnose the cause of symptoms; prescribe medications to help alleviate symptoms; and design an individualized lung exercise and rehabilitation plan to target symptoms.
In addition, there is specialized post-ICU clinic dedicated to anyone who was hospitalized in the ICU and required mechanical ventilation (aka, a “breathing tube”). In addition to working with a pulmonary/critical care physician, patients will meet with a respiratory therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist and social worker. The goal of this multidisciplinary expert team is to help patients work through an individualized recovery process outside of the hospital, at home.
Talk to your primary care physician to learn more.
Cardiology – COVID Clinic
UCLA Health has cardiologists who specialize in treating effects of COVID-19 on the heart, which can linger after an initial COVID-19 diagnosis and illness. This impact on the heart can delay a patients’ return to their usual activities.
The following patients should reach out for this specialized care:
- Any patient who experienced arrhythmia, heart failure or cardiac injury during or after their hospitalization for COVID-19
- Any COVID-19 positive patient with cardiac symptoms that last for more than 14 days, including chest pain, heart palpitations, unexplained shortness of breath or fatigue.
A primary care physician or cardiology referral is required.
Neurology – Post-COVID clinic
The neurology team has a neuroinfectious disease specialist who offers consultative care to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing post-COVID related symptoms, including memory loss, persistent headaches, neuropathy, persistent muscle aches and balance disorders.
Talk to your primary care physician or neurologist for more information. A physician referral is required.
The UCLA Division of Infectious Diseases has clinics throughout Los Angeles County, including locations in Encino, Santa Monica, Westwood and Torrance. Infectious disease physicians see patients with COVID-19 who may have other infectious complications. Many faculty members are also leading COVID-19 clinical trials, investigating therapies for both hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients.
Please reach out to your primary care provider for a referral to either the infectious disease clinic or to be considered for a clinical trial