I have COVID. When should I go to the hospital?
Most people who get COVID will have a flu-like illness and can recover at home safely. However, shortness of breath and chest pain might require urgent assessment and treatment. You should talk to your doctor when you are diagnosed with COVID about specific symptoms to watch out for based on your medical history.
However, there are some general principles to keep in mind. Because COVID primarily affects the lungs, how well you’re breathing is an important indicator of how sick you are. This means that if you feel short of breath at all, you should contact your doctor.
Shortness of breath is different from feeling tired. It can feel like you are breathing heavily like you are working out even when you aren’t. Or you might notice that you have to stop and rest when walking to the bathroom or around the house. If you feel like either of these, or have any symptoms you are concerned about, you should contact your doctor immediately.
If the symptoms are severe, or you feel like you cannot catch your breath, you should call 911 and tell them you have COVID (or think you do) and are having trouble breathing. This helps make sure that first responders wear appropriate gear and take you to the right hospital to treat your condition.
People with COVID-19 can have increased risk of blood clots and heart problems related to the virus. Chest pain that gets worse when you move around; is accompanied by sweating, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath; or that travels to your left arm or jaw, can be a sign of a heart attack. If you have chest pain, you should call 911 and tell them you have COVID (or think you do) and are having chest pain.
Last update: August 18, 2020, 12:23 pm ET
Science review: ERS, JAB