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COVID-19: How to Isolate at Home

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who test positive for it (even without symptoms) should stay home and away from others to prevent spreading the infection. This is known as isolation. Keeping your household ready can reduce stress in case your family needs to isolate.

Even people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines should isolate if they have symptoms or test positive.

Someone in isolation should:

  • Sleep in a bedroom not used by anyone else. If that's not possible, try to keep as much of a distance as possible between beds. If sharing a bed, even sleeping head to toe can help.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Use their own personal items (like cups, towels and toothpaste) and not share these with others.
  • Eat apart from the rest of the family.
  • Wear a mask if they must be around other people.

What Can Other Family Members Do When a Person Is in Isolation?

Even if the person in isolation does not have symptoms, all members of the household should:

  • Wear a mask if they need to be in the room with the person who is in isolation.
  • Make sure shared spaces in the home have good air flow. You can open a window or turn on an air filter or air conditioner.
  • Wash their hands well and often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

How Long Should Isolation Last?

A person who tests positive for COVID-19 should stay home for at least 5 days, which is the time during which they will be most contagious. If they have no symptoms, they can end isolation after 5 days (but continue to wear a mask when around other people through day 10). If they have symptoms, they should isolate until they are fever-free and the symptoms are improving. Some people might need to isolate for 10 days if their symptoms were more severe. Your doctor can help you decide how long is best to isolate.

For more information about how to isolate, check the CDC’s guidelines.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your doctor if someone in isolation has new symptoms or seems to be getting sicker.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Oct 1, 2023

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