Managing COVID-19 at home

Managing COVID-19 at home

People who have COVID-19 may be advised to manage their illness at home if their symptoms are mild. This page has tips for caring for yourself or someone with COVID-19 at home, including hand hygiene, coughs and sneezes, fever, hydration, food, and preventing the spread of the disease.

COVID-19 symptoms

If you have COVID-19 you might have a sore throat, cough or fever. If you are feeling sick and think it is COVID-19 please stay at home. Call Healthline 0800 358 5453 or your GP clinic and they will tell you what to do. Don’t go to your GP clinic or hospital – you could make other people sick.

People who are pregnant or have had a baby in the past 10 days, are very overweight or have other health problems such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes or a suppressed immune system, should contact Healthline 0800 358 5453 or their general practice early if they become sick. Don’t wait for it to get worse.

Managing COVID-19 at home

Avoid close contact

People who are sick need to avoid close contact with other people. If you can, have the sick person sleeping in their own bedroom.

Don’t share cups or food, and don’t hongi, hariru, shake hands or kiss.

Caring for the sick

Wash your hands regularly after any contact with a sick person. If caring for a sick person and they are in a room with others, ensure they wear a surgical mask at all times to prevent or minimise the spread of the virus when coughing or sneezing. Replace the mask if it becomes wet or damaged.

Dispose of any used tissues or masks into the rubbish. Wash your hands straight after taking off the mask.

Keep a record of the sick person’s progress. Write down their temperature, fluid intake and any other change in their health, such as difficulty in breathing.

Contact your general practice or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 immediately if the sick person gets worse.

Hand hygiene

Everyone needs to wash and dry their hands a lot to stop germs from spreading, particularly after going to the toilet, before eating and after being around a sick person.

Use liquid soap and water to wash your hands. Wash them for at least 20 seconds (sing tūtira mai nga iwi, or the happy birthday song twice) and then dry thoroughly (especially between your fingers). Use a paper towel if possible, then throw it away.

You can also use an alcohol-based hand rub (at least 60 per cent alcohol). Apply enough to keep your hands moist for a minimum of 20 seconds (about ½ teaspoon). DO NOT dry with a towel.

Coughs and sneezes

People who are coughing or sneezing need to avoid close contact with others.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissue into the rubbish bin. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow NOT your hands.

Don’t spit. Also, cover your mouth and nose when clearing your throat or nose.

Always wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.


A normal temperature is 36-37 degrees Celsius.

Having a fever is uncomfortable and may prevent the sick person from eating, drinking or sleeping normally.

The best medicine to treat fever, aches and pains is paracetamol (Panadol). Adults should take one to two 500mg tablets every 4-6 hours. The maximum adult dose is eight tablets in any 24-hour period.

For children, check the correct dose of liquid paracetamol on the back of the bottle, or contact your general practice or pharmacy for advice.

Do not wrap up or warm someone who has a fever, is shaking or has ‘the chills’. A cool (not cold) wet facecloth to the forehead will help lower their temperature.

Stay hydrated

Sick people need to keep drinking liquids. They need up to two litres (eight cups) of fluid a day, even if they don’t feel thirsty.

Water is fine, but the best drinks are cold drinks that contain a little sugar and salt (electrolytes). Oral rehydration sachets and isotonic drinks are helpful. You can also dilute soft drinks and fruit juice by adding plenty of cold water – a cup of juice to six cups of water is about right. Stay away from fruit juice with too much pulp in it, or milk drinks.

Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine – encourage the sick person to choose a non- alcoholic drink that they can manage.

Vomiting and/or diarrhoea make dehydration worse, so ensure they keep taking fluids, even if just small sips often.

Signs people aren’t getting enough to drink include weakness and lethargy, dizziness, headache, a dry mouth and dark-coloured urine. If you cannot assess the hydration state of your family member, or have concerns, phone your general practice or Healthline on 0800 358 5453.


People with COVID-19 may not feel like eating. Don’t try to get them to eat – it’s more important to make sure they are having enough fluids.

When they begin to feel better, offer different fluids like diluted fruit juice, clear or strained soups, sweetened tea or jelly.

Slowly introduce plain solid food, like dry white toast, water crackers or pasta. Avoid anything that contains fats or oils. Add canned fruit and thicker soups (like chicken soup) to the range of foods and, lastly, introduce milk and other milk products together with fruit, vegetables, breads and cereals.

Prevent the spread of disease

COVID-19 can live on unwashed surfaces for up to nine days, so it is important to clean surfaces and objects that have been touched by the sick person every day.
  • Wipe things that are touched a lot with detergent and water solution on a disposable cloth. This includes phones, door handles, benchtops, tables, taps, toilet and bathroom areas, tablets and computers.
  • Once dry, wipe the area with disinfectant or diluted bleach solution.
One of the most effective and cheapest disinfecting solutions to clean these surfaces is a solution of two teaspoons (10mls) of bleach (such as Janola) to 500ml of water.

Do not share items like eating utensils or drink bottles with other members of the family and ensure dishes are washed using hot water either by hand or the dishwasher.

Wash the sick person’s clothes and linen separately in a washing machine and, if possible, hang to dry on a clothesline in the sun. If linen is stained or contaminated with secretions, then soak in a stain-removing product or bleach and wash separately.

For more information

For more information visit, or for more information for whānau and iwi from Māori health experts.