I’ve got COVID-19. What should I do?
Lots of people are unsure about how they should act if they become infected with the coronavirus. This section lists the various symptoms, what you need to do if you test positive, the procedure to follow for self-isolation at home and the point at which you are officially classed as recovered.
A positive test result can bring up a whole range of questions. What should I do? Will I get really sick? How can I protect those around me?
Not everyone who becomes infected with the coronavirus becomes ill. Many cases are mild or show no symptoms at all. However, around ten percent of cases are so severe that they require hospitalisation. With a COVID-19 vaccination you have a good chance of preventing a serious case of infection. Read on to find out what you should do if you suddenly develop symptoms and/or receive a positive test result.
If you suspect you have become infected, call your doctor to clarify your symptoms
A COVID-19 infection can cause similar symptoms to the flu or a common cold. The most frequent are a dry cough, a runny nose and fever. There are other symptoms such as shortness of breath, loss of the sense of taste and smell, aching muscles and joints, a sore throat and a headache. This makes it difficult to assess if someone has a coronavirus infection. The only way to be sure is to have a correctly administered, certified rapid antigen test and – if absolutely necessary – a subsequent PCR test.
If you have any symptoms that are typical of a common cold, please stay at home and avoid contact with others. This also applies if you have a positive test result after a using a self-test kit or having a rapid antigen test done, irrespective of whether you have signs of illness, have been vaccinated or have recovered from an earlier COVID-19 infection.
Rather than going straight to a medical practice, it’s best to call and ask how you should proceed. Outside normal opening hours, you can call the toll-free medical hotline at 116 117 from anywhere in Germany or otherwise contact your local health authority for advice. To find the health authority office for your area, you can use the search feature on the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) website. It’s important that you stay at home and avoid contact with others.
Good to know
People who have been vaccinated can still become infected with the coronavirus. That’s why it’s important for everyone – vaccinated and unvaccinated – to take the necessary precautions if they suspect they are infected (have COVID-19 symptoms or had contact with an infected person) and to get tested and adhere to the prevailing distancing and hygiene measures.
Infection confirmed: After receiving a positive result following a rapid antigen test, rest and recover in isolation and follow medical advice
If your rapid antigen test proves positive, you must self-isolate without delay. You must assume that you have a COVID-19 infection and are highly contagious. It’s best to call your doctor and discuss the measures you need to take.
Your local health authority will probably contact you and explain the procedure you need to follow. Please inform others in your household as well as people you have been in contact with that you have become infected and use the Corona Warn app so that others can be warned that they are at risk.
Isolating at home: Rest and recuperate alone
If you have only mild symptoms, you can rest and recuperate at home. It’s important to have as little contact with those you live with, for example by staying in a separate room. Where possible, have your meals separately from other members of the household. Have someone shop for you and ask them to leave the shopping at your front door. Ventilate your room(s) often and wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose. If you have more severe symptoms and if they become worse (e.g. you develop difficulty breathing or a high temperature) you should seek medical advice (speak to your doctor or call 116 117). In case of emergency (acute respiratory distress) call 112.
The isolation period is usually five days. The RKI recommends testing repeatedly after the fifth day. Only once a test proves negative can the isolation period end. Testing can be done using a self-test kit or you can have a rapid antigen test done.
The five-day rule also applies for employees in healthcare institutes, senior citizens’ and residential care homes, mobile care services and rehabilitation centres. To be able to return to work, these groups of persons must have been symptom-free for a full 48 hours in addition to receiving a negative test result on the fifth day. The test must be either a rapid antigen test or a PCR test. More about coming out of isolation.
Using the Corona Warn app to inform others
If you enter your positive test result in the Corona Warn app, people who have been in close contact with you can be informed that they are at risk. The app supports the work performed by the local health authority in that it identifies contacts who should perhaps go into quarantine or isolate. This helps in determining infection chains faster, thereby relieving the burden on the healthcare system and helping to control the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Monitoring general health post-recovery
Once you have recovered, keep an eye on your general health and watch out for potential long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. If some considerable time after you have recovered, you develop symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty concentrating, you should contact your doctor for advice.
- Anyone who has been infected with SARS-CoV-2 while unvaccinated and has tested positive with a PCR test is considered recovered from day 29 to day 90.
- After approximately three months, recovered individuals are advised to get a single COVID-19 vaccination with one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.
- Anyone who becomes infected after having had a COVID-19 vaccination (regardless of the number of vaccine doses received) should have a booster vaccination three months after the infection.
- Those who became infected before their first vaccination and then received a vaccine dose should have a booster three months from the date of the initial vaccination.