What You Need to Know About Recovering From COVID-19

As you probably know, there are currently more than 600,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and an unknown number of Americans who have this illness who have not been diagnosed. While all non-essential workers are self-isolating at this time, those who have COVID-19 are taking even stricter measures to ensure they prevent transmitting this illness to others. But what does life look like after recovery, and how should you integrate back into life after quarantine?

If You Have Been Diagnosed With COVID-19

For people who have been tested and diagnosed with this virus, there is a clear set of guidelines from health officials for being considered recovered. If you have been symptom-free for three days — without the use of fever-reducing medication — and it’s been more than seven days after initial symptoms appeared, you are generally considered recovered.

For those who can be tested again, the CDC recommends considering a patient fully recovered if the above criteria are met and they have two negative COVID-19 tests in a row, 24 hours apart.

Because almost everyone is currently self-isolating, “re-integrating” back into life still means staying at home, however. Being recovered, though, does mean you can make a trip to the grocery store and to get other essential supplies. The CDC advises wearing a mask in public whenever possible, even for healthy individuals.

If You Have Symptoms but Have Not Been Tested

Because the symptoms of COVID-19 can be mild for some individuals, it’s difficult to know the exact number of affected people in total. This virus is very contagious, so it’s smart to consider yourself affected even if you do not have access to a test. Just like those who are officially diagnosed, you can consider yourself recovered if you meet these guidelines from the CDC:

  • Three full days without fever and without the use of fever-reducing medication
  • Other symptom improvement, for example, a cough going away
  • Seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared

If you believe you have COVID-19, isolate yourself from other individuals in your home and avoid sharing personal household items. Once you are fully recovered, you should still self-isolate, but you can return to a more normal lifestyle at home.

Antibody Response and Testing

When people have COVID-19 and their illness does not progress, they are able to self-cure because their body develops antibodies. This generally occurs around 10-14 days after initial infection and effectively renders these people immune to getting COVID-19 in the future. According to the CDC, people who have recovered from this virus and been released from isolation are not a threat for spreading the virus.

Many people are interested in measuring antibodies in people who have recovered. By understanding how many people have been exposed to the virus, we can better understand how it spread and why certain people got sicker than others. In the future, scientists may be able to use this information to develop a treatment for people who are ill with the virus. Several organizations, including the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the CDC, are developing this kind of test. However, the FDA has currently only authorized one version officially.

If you believe you have COVID-19, contact your primary care physician immediately. They can ask about your symptoms and advise if you should be tested and what additional steps you should take. Follow their advice regarding quarantine and leaving isolation. If you need to speak to a doctor but don’t want to leave your home, you can schedule a virtual visit with your St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network physician.

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