Home isolation and COVID-19
How to Isolate from Other People
Learn when to isolate at home and when it is safe to be around other people.
You should isolate yourself at home if:
- You have symptoms of COVID-19, even if you don’t know if you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19
- You have no symptoms, but tested positive for COVID-19
You should isolate yourself in either case, even if you have been vaccinated.
While in home isolation, you should separate yourself and stay away from other people to help prevent spreading COVID-19.
- As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from others in your home. Use a separate bathroom if you can. Do not leave your home except to get medical care. Wash your hands often.
- Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, taking over-the-counter medicines for specific symptoms, and staying hydrated.
- Keep track of your symptoms (such as fever >100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or >38 degrees Celsius, cough, shortness of breath) and stay in touch with your doctor. You may receive instructions on how to check and report your symptoms.
- If you have severe symptoms, call 911 or the local emergency number.
- Tell your close contacts that you may have been infected with COVID-19. Close contacts are people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting 2 days before symptoms appear (or before a positive test) until the person is isolated.
- Use a well-fitting face mask or respirator that fits well over your nose and mouth without gaps when you see your health care provider and anytime other people are in the same room with you. If you can't wear a mask, for example, due to breathing problems, people in your home should wear a mask if they need to be in the same room with you.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Throw out the tissue after use.
- Wash your hands many times a day with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not easily available, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Do not share personal items such as cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding. Wash anything you have used in soap and water.
- Clean all "high-touch" areas in the home, such as doorknobs, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, toilets, phones, tablets, counters, and other surfaces. Use a household cleaning spray and follow instructions for use.
- Take steps to improve ventilation in your home. You can do this by turning on exhaust fans in your bathrooms and kitchen, using a portable air cleaner, and setting the fan on your furnace or air conditioning to "on" if you have central heating and cooling in your home.
When to End Home Isolation
These are the recommendations from the CDC for when it is safe to be around other people.
If you think or know you had COVID-19, and you had symptoms.
It is safe to be around others if ALL of the following are true:
- It has been at least 5 full days since your symptoms first appeared (day 0 is the day symptoms appeared, and day 1 is the day after symptoms appeared) AND
- You have gone at least 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine AND
- Your other symptoms are improving. You may end home isolation even if you continue to have symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, which may linger for weeks or months.
You should continue to wear a well-fitting mask for at least 5 more days while you are around other people both in your home and out in public. Do not go to restaurants or other places where you cannot wear a mask or eat or drink around other people for these 5 days.
If you still have a fever after 5 days, continue to isolate until you are fever-free without medicine for 24 hours.
If you tested positive for COVID-19, but did not have symptoms.
You can end home isolation if ALL of the following are true:
- You have continued to have no symptoms of COVID-19 AND
- It has been 5 days since you tested positive
You should continue to wear a well-fitting mask for at least 5 more days while you are around other people both in your home and out in public. Do not go to restaurants or eat around other people for these 5 days.
If you develop symptoms, you need to start your 5-day isolation period over. Day 0 is the day your symptoms developed and day 1 is the day after symptoms appeared.
If you have one available, you can use an at-home COVID-19 self-test at the end of 5 days, as long as you don't have a fever. If the test is positive, continue isolation until day 10. If your test is negative, you can end isolation, but you should continue to wear a mask when around others for 5 more days.
People with weak immune systems due to a health condition or medicine may need to be tested before being around others. People who have severe COVID-19 and those with a weak immune system need to stay in home isolation for at least 10 to 20 days. Talk with your health care provider to find out when it's safe to be around others.
When to Call the Doctor
You should contact your health care provider:
- If you have symptoms and think you may have been exposed to COVID-19
- If you have COVID-19 and your symptoms are getting worse
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain or pressure
- Confusion or inability to wake up
- Blue lips or face
- Any other symptoms that are severe or concern you
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Quarantine and Isolation.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: What we know about quarantine and isolation.
Last reviewed on: 3/13/2022
Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.