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HealthInfo Canterbury

Caring for yourself at home with COVID-19

Te manaaki i a koe anō i te kāinga me te mate korona

This page has links to information in other languages.


If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19, it's understandable to feel worried about yourself and your whānau (family).

Fortunately, most people who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms.

If you've received a positive COVID-19 test result, you'll be sent health information and advice about what to do. This could be by text, email or phone call.

Your own general practice team will usually look after you.

If you're advised to stay home, you'll need to self-isolate.

There's support available to help you and your family if you can stay at home.

If you're pregnant, see this detailed advice.

It's important to monitor your symptoms and talk with your contact person if you have any concerns.


Call 111 if you:

Monitoring your symptoms

Being monitored at home simply means you record your own results and how you're feeling (your symptoms). This video explains how to do this.

How often your contact person checks in with you depends on your risk and how severe your symptoms are.

It's important to keep track of your symptoms and write them down even when you're feeling okay. Your contact person will discuss your symptoms with you when they call, so it's important to write this information down accurately.

Things you'll need to record may include:

You can use this COVID-19 health and symptom diary to help you with your recordings.

Call your general practice team (after hours, call the COVID-19 Healthline on 0800-358-5453) if:

Keep monitoring your symptoms so you notice any changes. You may experience very mild or no symptoms.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Most people will have mild COVID-19 symptoms for up to two weeks. Symptoms tend to appear around two to five days after you're infected but can take up to 14 days to show.

Days one to three

Early symptoms of COVID-19 vary widely.

It can start with a tickle in your throat, a cough, a fever or a headache. You may also feel short of breath or that you have a little pressure on your chest. Sometimes it begins with a bout of diarrhoea (runny poo).

You may feel tired, or you may lose your sense of taste and smell.

You may have some or none of these symptoms.

Even if you have a mild COVID-19 infection, avoid running, workouts, weights and high-impact activities until you've been cleared by your contact person.

Days four to six

These are important days to be more aware of your symptoms. This is when lung (respiratory) symptoms may start to get worse, especially for older people and people who have other conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or being a very unhealthy weight.

You may start to feel worse and may have aches, chills and cough and not be able to get comfortable.

Some younger people may develop rashes, including itchy red patches, swelling or blistering on their toes or fingers.

Days seven to eight

For people with mild symptoms, the worst is generally over after a week.

Some people may get worse at this point or start to feel better briefly then take a turn for the worse.

If you start to feel worse, contact your contact person.

Days eight to 12 (week two)

Keep monitoring your symptoms and record them in your diaries. If you start to feel worse, contact your contact person.

You may feel better sleeping on your front or side (see the diagram below).

Days 13 to 14

Most people will feel better by now. Some people feel more tired than usual. Your contact person will advise you to return to activity slowly.

If you have ongoing severe symptoms, your contact person will advise you what to do.

Treating COVID-19

The treatment for COVID-19 is aimed at easing your symptoms and reducing the risk of you getting seriously unwell.

If you have a higher risk of needing to go to hospital because of your age (anyone aged 65 or older and Māori or Pasifika people aged 50 or older) or long-term conditions, you may be eligible for specific COVID-19 medicines. Contact your general practice team or check on Healthpoint for a pharmacy near you that can give you COVID-19 medicine without a prescription.

It's important to rest at home and drink plenty of water. It's important to avoid running, strenuous exercise and high impact activities. This video has advice for helping yourself.

Your contact person may suggest the following medicines to ease your symptoms and will help arrange delivery if needed.

When you have COVID-19, the physical symptoms of the illness may be obvious and are important to monitor but taking care of your mental health and wellbeing is also important. Read more about taking care of your mental wellbeing if you're COVID-19 positive.

Ways to help your breathing

COVID-19 research from other countries has shown that changing your body position when resting can help ease your breathing. This increases the flow of oxygen to your lungs and improves your comfort.

Rather than only lying on your back, try resting on your stomach and on your side.

Sitting upright in a chair is also useful and may be more comfortable after drinking or eating.

Change position every 30 minutes to two hours, rotating as shown in the diagram.

Recovering from COVID-19

Even if you had a mild COVID-19 infection, avoid running, strenuous exercise and high impact activities until you've been cleared by your contact person. Healthcare professionals advise a slow, gradual return to activity. People with severe symptoms and people who needed extra treatment due to low oxygen levels may still feel unwell and tired. It may take some time to recover.

Everyone will have a different experience in their recovery from COVID-19. Some people may recover in days, some in weeks. For others, it could be months. But although each case is unique, people recovering from more severe symptoms are likely to face a longer recovery period. Learn about Long COVID.

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On the next page: Eating and drinking when recovering from COVID-19

Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Last reviewed February 2022. Last updated September 2022.


See also:

Caring for your child at home with COVID-19

Page reference: 740274

Review key: HICOV-710714