Coronavirus Recovery

About 8 in 10 people who get COVID-19, the disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, will have only mild illness. But what exactly does that mean?

Mild COVID-19 cases still can make you feel lousy. But you should be able to rest at home and recover fully without a trip to the hospital. Here’s what to expect and how to take care of yourself.

Coronavirus Recovery Rates

Scientists and researchers are constantly tracking infections and recoveries. But they have data only on confirmed cases, so they can’t count people who don’t get COVID-19 tests. Experts also don’t have information about the outcome of every infection. However, early estimates predict that the overall COVID-19 recovery rate is between 97% and 99.75%.

How You Might Feel While Recovering

Not everyone who catches SARS-CoV-2 will notice symptoms. If you do get them, they may show up 2 to 14 days after your infection. And those symptoms can vary from one person to the next.

The most common sign is a fever, which for most adults is 100.4 F or higher. Nearly 9 in 10 people who test positive for the disease have a high temperature. It’s a sign that your body is trying to fight off an invader.

About 70% of people who become ill have a dry cough. That’s the kind that doesn’t bring up any mucus or phlegm. But about a third have a cough with mucus.

You also might feel very tired. Less commonly, your throat may be sore and your head might ache. Your muscles and joints could hurt, and you might get chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Some people who had COVID-19 said they had trouble taking deep breaths and felt like they had a tight band wrapped around their chest. Others have likened the illness to a bad cold. Still others said it was the sickest they’ve ever felt.

Loss of smell and taste have been reported in some cases. But researchers aren’t yet sure about the link to COVID-19.

You might feel short of breath, as if you’d just run to grab a ringing phone. If so, call your doctor to ask about what you should do.

Continued

What’s the Recovery Time for Coronavirus?

It may take 2 weeks for your body to get over the illness. That’s the average recovery time for mild cases, according to the World Health Organization. For those with severe or critical cases, recovery can take up to 6 weeks.

CDC guidelines say that if you’ve been sick, you should isolate yourself at home until all of these things are true:

  • You haven’t had a fever for 72 hours (3 days) without using a fever-reducing medicine
  • Your symptoms are better, though they might not be totally gone
  • It’s been at least 7 days since your symptoms started OR you’ve had two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart

Recovery After Severe Illness With COVID-19

About 14% of people who have the new coronavirus need to stay in the hospital to get help breathing. This might last 2 weeks or more.

Some people who have severe COVID-19 get a complication called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can damage your lungs and make it very hard to breathe.

If you’re severely ill, you might need treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU). Many patients who spend time in the ICU lose weight and strength. You may also have memory problems afterward.

Your medical team will work with you to treat or manage these symptoms, including exercises to boost your strength.

Recovery Outlook

Scientists are still looking at how a person’s immune system responds to COVID-19 and whether you can catch the virus again after you recover. One early study on monkeys found that they didn’t get infected a second time. But you might have the virus in your body for weeks, so it’s a good idea to keep following official advice on washing your hands, keeping surfaces clean, and staying home when possible.

How to Feel Better

There’s no treatment for COVID-19. Some of the things you can do to speed your healing are similar to how you might take care of the flu or a bad cold.

Eat healthy foods. If you feel like eating, fuel your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get better. Limit sugary or highly processed foods like cookies and sodas. If you don’t have an appetite, you don’t need to try to force food down.

Drinks lots of fluids. Do this even if you don’t feel like eating. Water is always a good pick.

Lower your fever. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you have a temperature or body aches. Be careful not to take more than a total of 3,000 milligrams every 24 hours. That includes acetaminophen alone as well as in medications like cold and flu pills and syrups.

Rest. Know that you’ll probably feel better eventually. If your symptoms do get worse, call your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 09, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

J. Randall Curtis, MD, A. Bruce Montgomery, American Lung Association Endowed Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle.

World Health Organization: “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report -- 41,” “Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” “WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 -- 24 February 2020.”

UpToDate: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

National Health Service (UK): “Cough.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Coronavirus Resource Center.”

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine: “COVID-19 Map.”

Our World in Data: “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research.”

Emerging Infectious Diseases: “Case-Fatality Risk Estimates for COVID-19 Calculated by Using a Lag Time for Fatality.”

CDC: “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Caring for someone at home.”

Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials: “Here’s the Damage Coronavirus (COVID-19) Does to Your Lungs.”

World Health Organization: “Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) when COVID-19 disease is suspected.”

UpToDate: “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Critical care issues.”

BMJ: “Recovery from intensive care.”

The Lancet: “Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study.”

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