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I have COVID-19—now what?

A mature woman drinking coffee at home

This article was written during the Queensland response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the information available at the date of publication. Please check the Australian Department of Health COVID-19 webpage for updated information and current health advice regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations in Queensland.

COVID-19 is circulating widely in Queensland, and it is very likely that many of us will get it, or know or encounter someone who has it.

Being fully vaccinated and boosted will help protect you from severe disease. (There are very good reasons why relying on your immune system to beat COVID-19 isn’t a safe bet).

While the thought of getting COVID-19 can be scary, it’s important to remember that most people will have mild symptoms.

These mild symptoms can and should be managed while isolating at home to keep our ambulances, hospitals and hardworking healthcare staff available for those who develop more severe illness, as well for those who require hospital treatment for other serious conditions or injuries.

What to do as soon as you test positive

So, your test result is in and it’s positive. If you’ve tested positive on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), you should report your positive RAT result to Queensland Health. You don’t need to confirm your positive RAT result by taking a PCR test.

If you’ve tested positive on a PCR test you don’t need to report your positive PCR result to Queensland Health because the testing clinic where you got tested will do that for you.

If you have COVID-19 you should follow the steps below. These important steps protect yourself and others.

  • Immediately isolate for 7 days from the day the test was taken. (Day 1 commences 24 hours after the test was taken)
  • Tell the people that live with you that you have COVID-19. If they are close contacts, they must follow the steps for close contacts.
  • Manage your symptoms and health. If you’re unsure whether you need medical care for your symptoms, or you’re unsure what type of care you may need, you can use the COVID care self-checker or call the National Coronavirus Helpline 24/7 on 1800 020 080. Call the helpline if you need an interpreter or want to talk to a person about your health or the health of someone you care for.
  • Get the things you need delivered with no-contact deliveries—such as food, medicine, and other essentials. You’ll be in isolation for at least 7 days, so you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need for staying home.
  • Tell your social, work and education contacts to get tested if they have symptoms.

Get more detail on these steps.

Managing mild COVID-19 symptoms at home

Most people with COVID-19 will not get very sick and will experience mild symptoms such as a fever, cough, headaches, or a sore throat. You’ll probably feel unwell for a day or two and then start to feel better.

If you're unsure whether you need medical care for your symptoms, or you're unsure what type of care you may need, you can:

  • use our COVID care self-checker
  • call the National Coronavirus Helpline 24/7 on 1800 020 080. Call the helpline if you need an interpreter or want to talk to a person about your health or the health of someone you care for.

Call Triple Zero (000) or go to an emergency department if you have severe symptoms.

In most cases, families will be able to stay together if one or more members get COVID-19. If you need to go to hospital, you may need to organise temporary care for your children, even if they have COVID-19. Ask a trusted adult if they are willing to care for your children if they have COVID-19.

If you are already on prescription medications, continue to take them as usual. If you have concerns about this, talk to your prescribing doctor.

Try to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (water is best). Drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear.

Some people with COVID-19 report not feeling much like eating, but you should try to keep mealtimes and eat something healthy to keep your energy levels up.

If you feel uncomfortable—with a headache, chills, a sore throat, or other aches and pains—take paracetamol or ibuprofen and always follow the directions.

It’s a great idea to keep in contact with family and friends who can check on how you are doing (not face-to-face, but by phone, chat, or email, for example).

It can be very helpful to keep a COVID-19 symptom diary (PDF, 2 MB), so you can track if your symptoms are getting worse.

While you are staying home, use our tips on looking after your mental wellbeing and keeping healthy and active at home.

If you are worried about your mental health, read about when to seek help and the mental health services available to support you.

People with medical conditions

Some medical conditions increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Antiviral medicines for COVID-19

Oral antiviral medicines for COVID-19 are now available for people at high risk of developing severe illness. These medicines can reduce the need for you to go to hospital.

Treatment needs to start within five days of developing symptoms or testing positive to COVID-19. Talk with your medical team about what to do if you catch or have caught COVID-19. This can be your:

  • general practitioner (GP)
  • nurse practitioner
  • treating specialist.

These treatments are not a substitute for vaccination. We know that vaccination, and especially getting boosted, is still your best protection against severe COVID-19.

Severe symptoms and when to get medical care for you, a family member, or child

It’s possible that you or your family member or child might have start off with mild symptoms but become sicker over time.

You should seek medical advice if you or they are not improving after 2 or 3 days, are getting sicker, have a chronic health condition, or are pregnant.

Call Triple Zero (000) if you:

  • are so breathless you’re unable to say short sentences when resting
  • suddenly find it hard to breath or your breathing has gotten worse
  • cough up blood
  • feel cold and sweaty, with pale or blotchy skin
  • have a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin and doesn’t fade when you roll a glass over it
  • collapse or faint
  • feel agitated, confused or very drowsy
  • stop urinating or are urinating much less than usual.

In the case of a child there are some other possible symptoms to look out for—if the child:

  • has severe or worsening abdominal pain
  • has stopped urinating or is urinating much less than usual.
  • is drowsy or sleepy.

If you need to call Triple Zero (000) or go to a hospital, tell them that you (or your family member, or child) have COVID-19.

Leaving isolation to get medical care

If you are well enough, you can leave isolation and take yourself (or your family member) to a doctor or hospital for medical care using your own car, or if it’s close by, walking or using a scooter.

If you’re unable to drive yourself, you’ll have to see if someone you live with, a family member or a friend can take you. You should wear a mask at all times and sit in the back of the vehicle with the windows down. Anyone assisting you with transport should wear a mask. You should maintain physical distancing where possible, handle your own belongings and use hand sanitiser. The person who drives you should monitor themselves for symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop.

Call ahead to let the doctor or hospital know you’re coming and that you have COVID-19, so they can be ready for you and prevent others from getting it.

When you arrive, tell them again that you have COVID-19.

If you can’t travel in a private vehicle, you can use a taxi or ride share service and follow the same steps as above.

Isolating with a child with COVID-19

Being in isolation with a child or children with COVID-19 for a week can be challenging.

Use the opportunity to spend quality time with your child and give them plenty of positive attention.

Try to maintain a daily routine as much as possible to support family health and wellbeing.

Help your child to enjoy some activities, including physical activities each day. For ideas see the Getting active page on Healthier.Happier. which has links to Boredom busters, Apptivities—where you turn screen time into physical activity, creative play ideas, and more. The Fun with Birdie activity book also has some great ideas.

Encourage them to talk to you about COVID-19 and any concerns they have. If they are anxious or stressed, encourage them to take some time for mindfulness and relaxation. You can use the Relaxing with Birdie book and video.

Make some fun treats or meals for them or make them together. The Healthier.Happier. website is loaded with healthy and delicious recipes for fun kids’ food, such as ladybug cheese crackers, capsicum octopus with tzatziki, crunchy caterpillars and snails, and watermelon pizza.


Recovering from COVID-19

Most people who get COVID-19 will have symptoms for a short time and get well within a few weeks. The time it takes can differ for each person, how sick they were, and if they had other conditions along with COVID-19. There are some people who experience symptoms or long-term health problems that last for many weeks or months after they no longer have the virus. This is known as long COVID. Talk to your doctor if you think this may be happening to you.

Once you recover from COVID-19, you may get it again. Your body may have developed some resistance to the virus, but this will reduce over time, or you could be infected by a different strain or variant.

That’s why even if you’ve had COVID-19, you should still be vaccinated against it, if you aren’t already.

You are far less likely to get severe disease if you get COVID-19 again if you have been vaccinated (and you’ll benefit from extra protection if you get a third dose or booster).

If you’re not vaccinated or boosted, you can get vaccinated or receive your booster or third dose any time after you have recovered from COVID-19. Do it as soon as you can. Use the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder to find a clinic near you that suits your needs by answering some simple questions. (You can book for yourself, your children, or someone else).

Please don’t attend a vaccination appointment if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Even if you’ve had COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated and boosted, please continue to practice COVID-safe behaviours such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, checking in, and social distancing.

Those behaviours will help to protect you and the more vulnerable people in the community and help keep our hospitals from being overloaded.

We will soon be publishing another blog covering what to do after you have had COVID-19.

More information

Last updated: 25 February 2022