A COVID-19 testing site is set up at a Brooklyn...

A COVID-19 testing site is set up at a Brooklyn street corner in April. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The Long Island COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate is nearly 11% and rising, so if you haven’t recently tested positive for the virus, chances are you know someone who has.

With Nassau and Suffolk Counties both rated high-risk for the virus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now would be a good time to brush up on the latest guidelines for self-care and isolation. Here is what you should know if you test positive for COVID-19.

What should I do after a positive test result?

Like many illnesses, the best course of action for a mild case of the virus calls for rest, hydration and over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed.

“We recommend the same treatment as we do for any other viral infection,” said Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Dr. David Hirschwerk, medical director at North Shore University Hospital, said you might want to consider eating separately from others in your home. Opening the windows for fresh air helps, too, he said.

How long should I isolate?

The CDC says you should stay home for five days and isolate from others in your home.

Day 0 is you first day of symptoms or the day you test positive, according to the CDC. Day 1 is the following day.

You can end isolation after five days if you are fever free for 24 hours and your symptoms are improving. If you became very sick, you should extend isolation at least until day 10 and consult with your doctor.

If you have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and recovered, the CDC says you do not need to be tested unless you develop new symptoms.

Avoid travel and wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days after you test positive. During this time, it is best to avoid those more likely to get very sick from the virus, such as the elderly, the very young and those who are unvaccinated.

What symptoms should I look for?

Possible COVID-19 symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC.

“Most people, when they are symptomatic, experience somewhere between a bad cold or an influenza-like experience,” Hirschwerk said.

When should I seek emergency care?

Emergency warning signs include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, an inability to wake or stay awake and pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nails. If someone is experiencing these symptoms call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.

What treatment is available?

Other than sports drinks, old-fashioned chicken soup and fever reducers, there are some FDA-approved treatments available through your doctor for COVID-19. 

There are two prescription oral antiviral pills available, Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, with Paxlovid being more commonly prescribed, Handel said. The regimen calls for three pills twice a day for five days.

When taken early during infection, the pills can prevent you from getting sicker.

You must meet certain high-risk criteria to get a prescription and be over 12 years old. The pills are readily accessible in New York and on Long Island, but only at certain pharmacies, Handel said.

Monoclonal antibodies, which are human-made antibodies, are also available. Treatment requires going to a hospital or infusion center, Handel said.

What if I test positive while I am caring for a baby?

If you can, have someone who is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and not at risk for severe illness care for your newborn.

If you are well enough, you can care for your child if a healthy care giver is unavailable, the CDC says. Wash your hands thoroughly and wear a mask around the baby. Others in the home should avoid caring for the newborn as much as possible.

Current evidence suggests COVID-19 is unlikely to be passed through breast milk.

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