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How to speed up COVID recovery?

Eight steps to help with safe home-based recovery for COVID-19

Several countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region are reporting rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in early 2022, with most driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant.

COVID-19 remains a serious disease, and unfortunately some people will develop severe or critical illness, and some will die. However, for the majority of people who are infected – especially if they are fully vaccinated – illness is typically mild, or they may have no symptoms at all. For these people, it is safe to self-monitor and recover at home.

If you are infected with COVID-19 and have been asked to isolate and recover at home, or if you are caring for someone who has COVID-19 at home, how can you keep everyone safe? When should you seek help? This page describes eight steps for a safe home-based recovery.

Who can stay at home to recover from COVID-19?
Home-based recovery is suitable when people test positive for COVID-19 and:
• they do not have any symptoms or have only mild symptoms, and

• they are not in a high-risk category (for example, older people or people with underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular or chronic lung disease)

Most of these people can safely recover at home once they have contacted their health-care provider for advice.

The decision to recover at home or seek care in a facility needs to be taken under the supervision of a health-care provider according to the COVID-19 protocols in your country or area. The protocols should include when and how to end home isolation.

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8 steps for home-based recovery and safe care for a household member with COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is an evolving situation, but the evidence we have now underlines the importance of taking these eight key steps when someone with COVID-19 is recovering at home to avoid spreading the infection, keep everyone safe and know what to do if the person’s condition changes.

1 Isolate the person with COVID-19 and maintain distance

The person with COVID-19 should stay in a separate room. If this is not possible, they must sleep in a separate bed. They should use a separate bathroom/toilet. If this is not possible, their movements around the home should be limited to essential purposes only (such as using the bathroom). Also, they should keep at least 1 metre away from anyone else.

2 Open windows to bring in fresh air

It is critical to have good ventilation in the room of the person with COVID-19 and any shared spaces. This means having fresh, clean air coming through as much as possible by opening windows where it is safe to do so. Learn more about COVID-19 and ventilation.

3 Designate caregivers

There should be one or two people dedicated as caregivers for the person with COVID-19, and they should have no underlying health conditions that put them at risk for severe disease.

4 Wear masks and maintain hygiene

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Whenever the person with COVID-19 is in the same room as someone else, they should both wear disposable medical masks (also known as surgical masks). When caregivers leave the room of the infected person, they need to remove their mask and be sure to wash their hands. The infected person should have designated dishes, towels (including a towel for drying hands after washing them) and bedlinen – and these should not be shared with anyone else. Any surfaces that are frequently touched by the infected person must be disinfected every day. The room of the person with COVID-19 should be cleaned and disinfected regularly and thoroughly at the end of their isolation period. Any waste generated by the infected person (such as used tissues) should be considered infectious and disposed of safely.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from COVID-19.
5 Treat any symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 may only last a few days with the most common being fever, dry cough and fatigue. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis (also known as red eyes), sore throat, headache, muscle or joint pain, different types of skin rash, nausea or vomiting, diarrhoea, and chills or dizziness.

Follow the advice of the health-care provider about what medication to take. This may include medications to manage headache or fever. Home-based care may also require use of a pulse oximeter, which may be used to determine the need for hospitalization.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will not respond to antibiotics. However, some people who become ill with COVID-19 can also develop a bacterial infection as a complication. In this case, antibiotics may be recommended by a health-care provider.

Learn more about COVID-19 and antibiotics.
6 Support mental health

Testing positive for COVID-19 can bring up complex emotions for the infected person as well as their household members. It is understandable to feel scared or anxious.

There are many ways to take care of mental health and well-being during this time, including talking to someone you trust and taking part in safe activities.

Learn more about protecting your mental health during the pandemic.
7 No visitors
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, no visitors can be allowed during home-based recovery.
8 Know the red flags and seek help early

When someone is recovering from COVID-19 at home, their condition should be monitored at least once a day. Signs that may indicate a worsening condition depend on the age of the person infected:

• For adults, they include light-headedness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain, or dehydration.

• Children can also appear suddenly confused, uninterested in food, or have blue lips or a blue face.

• Infants and babies can have an inability to breastfeed.
In any of these cases, seek urgent care.
Safe home-based recovery

Home-based recovery can play a vital role in making best use of the health system and ensuring facility-based care is available to people who really need it. By following these steps, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 but have mild or no symptoms and are otherwise healthy can safely recover at home, and their family members can safely support their recovery at home.

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Exercise while recovering from COVID-19

It’s normal to feel tired, weak or short of breath when you are recovering from COVID-19. But being active can help your recovery if you take your time and set small goals.

Do not worry if you feel more tired and have less energy than usual. This is normal after viral infections like COVID-19.

Many people feel better in a few days or weeks after a COVID-19 infection has gone. Most people recover within 12 weeks. But some people have fatigue for longer. We’re still learning about the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Symptoms that may affect your exercise plans

Common COVID-19 health problems may affect how well you can exercise.

  • shortness of breath
  • clearing phlegm — this can depend on how you were affected by the virus
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue) and a lack of energy
  • muscle weakness and joint stiffness

Start slowly

Regular physical activity is good for you but it may take you time to get back to your normal activities.

Over the first few weeks:

  • start slowly and introduce new activities gradually
  • set yourself realistic targets each week
  • rest when you feel tired
  • go at your own pace — do not compare yourself to others

Slow down if you notice you are very tired and cannot do other everyday things in the day or 2 after physical activity.

Only increase your activity when you:

  • can maintain a level of activity without your symptoms getting worse
  • feel you can do a bit more

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if:

  • you have any concerns about starting exercise again
  • you still find it hard to exercise 8 to 12 weeks after your recovery
  • your symptoms get worse in the day or 2 after exercise

They may refer you to a physiotherapist.

If you feel short of breath

It is important to monitor your breathing when you exercise. You should exercise at a level where you can talk and not feel out of breath.


Walking is one of the easiest but best ways to begin to regain your strength and fitness.

Set short realistic goals at first, such as walking for 5 to 10 minutes. If you are very weak, your goal might be to walk to the toilet.

Try to plan your walk so there is somewhere to take a break if you feel tired or short of breath. This might be a bench or a wall.

Slowly increase the time you spend walking. For example, you could walk for 5 minutes a day during week 1 and 10 minutes a day during week 2. But go at your own pace.

Exercises if you cannot leave your home

You may be in hospital or unable to leave your home. But you can still include some physical activity in your daily routine.

Being active and avoiding long periods of bed-rest is important. It can help you to recover more quickly — both physically and mentally.

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Exercises to start with

You can do the following exercises in your chair, at home or in hospital.

For some of the exercises you’ll need a chair with armrests.

Seated march

A woman sitting up straight on a chair. Her arms are on the armrests. One foot is on the floor, she is lifting the other foot off the floor.

  1. Sit up straight in the chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift 1 knee so your foot is off the floor.
  3. Lower your foot to the floor.
  4. Repeat the exercise 20 times on each leg.

Seated leg lift

A woman sitting up straight on a chair. Her arms are on the armrests. One foot is on the floor. She is lifting one leg in parallel with the floor.

  1. Sit up straight in the chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your foot out in front of you until your leg is straight.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Lower your foot back to the floor.
  5. Repeat the exercise 10 times on each leg.

Sit to stand

A woman standing up from a chair with her hands on the armrests.

  1. Sit up straight in the chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on the armrests.
  2. Push down on your hands and stand up.
  3. Lower yourself back into the chair slowly.
  4. Repeat the exercise 10 times.

Rowing arms

A woman sitting up straight on a chair. Her feet are on the floor. She is holding her arms out in front of her in parallel with the floor.

  1. Sit up straight in the chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your arms so that your hands are at your shoulders.
  3. Push your arms straight out in front of you — your arms should be parallel with the floor.
  4. Bring your arms back to your shoulders.
  5. Repeat the exercise 10 times.

Toe lifts

A woman sitting up straight on a chair. Her arms are on the armrests. Her heels are on floor and her toes are raised off the floor.

  1. Sit up straight in the chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keeping your heels on the floor, lift your toes up of the floor.
  3. Lower your toes to the floor.
  4. Repeat the exercise 20 times.

Side legs

A woman standing and holding a bar on the wall, one leg is lifted out to the side of her body.

  1. Stand up straight with your hands against a wall or holding the back of a chair.
  2. Keeping your leg straight, lift your leg out to the side.
  3. Lower your leg back to the standing position.
  4. Repeat the exercise 15 times on each leg.

Standing exercises

If you have been in hospital, your physiotherapist will tell you if you’re ready for the following advanced exercises.

Leg back

A woman standing holding a bar on the wall. She is lifted one leg out behind her body.

  1. Stand up straight with your hands holding a bar or the back of a chair.
  2. Keeping your leg straight, lift your leg out behind you.
  3. Lower your leg back to the standing position.
  4. Repeat the exercise 15 times on each leg.

Knee raise

A woman standing holding a bar on the wall. She is lifting one knee so her thigh is parallel to the floor.

  1. Stand up straight with your hands holding a bar or the back of a chair.
  2. Stretch your arms out so there is as much space as possible between you and the wall or chair.
  3. Lift 1 knee up in front of you as high as you can.
  4. Lower your knee back to the standing position.
  5. Repeat the exercise 15 times on each leg.

Heel raises

A woman standing on the tips of her toes and holding a bar on the wall.

  1. Stand up straight with your hands holding a bar or the back of a chair.
  2. Lift your heels so that you are standing on the tips of your toes.
  3. Lower your heels back to the standing position.
  4. Repeat the exercise 20 times.

More exercises

When you work up to it, you can include more exercises in your daily routine.

Find more exercises that you can do indoors involving:

After your recovery, keep being active. Try to walk at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Check with your local gym or sports club for activities that may interest you. For example, a local walking group.

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Exercises and photographs kindly provided by Clontarf hospital physiotherapy department.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) affects people in different ways. This information gives practical advice to help you recover from COVID-19. You can use it as a self-management guide.

Our understanding of COVID-19 and how to recover from it is changing all the time. Recovery is different for everyone.

Some people recover quickly and fully, but others have a difficult or long recovery. This can include physical difficulties and emotional symptoms.

Work through this information, section by section, and try to use some of the suggestions in your own personal recovery plan. Focus on the symptoms that affect you the most.

After you test positive for COVID-19

Most people get better from COVID-19 within 3 weeks. Some people get worse again after they first start to feel a bit better. This usually happens about 7 to 10 days after their symptoms started.

You might have mild symptoms and feel unwell for a short time before slowly starting to feel better. To help you recover, you need to:

  • rest as much as you can
  • drink regular fluids

You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen (unless a healthcare professional tells you not to do this). Read the instructions and leaflet that comes with the medicine carefully to make sure that you take the correct dose (amount).

Do not take any other products that contain paracetamol or ibuprofen at the same time.

COVID-19 can leave some people feeling unwell for a long time. This is called long COVID. The NHS website has more information on long COVID .

If you were in hospital

It is important that you return to the hospital if your condition gets worse, especially if you feel more breathless.

At this time, is best to avoid using public transport. If you come to the hospital, this does not always mean that you will need to stay overnight. We do checks to make sure that it is still safe for you to recover at home.

When to get help

Try to stay at home and avoid contact with others if you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 . A positive result means that it’s likely you had COVID-19 when the test was done.

Contact NHS 111 or a GP if you:

  • feel short of breath, especially when standing up or moving
  • have severe muscle aches, general weakness or tiredness
  • have shakes or shivers
  • have lost your appetite
  • are peeing less than usual
  • cannot take care of yourself (such as washing, dressing or making food)

Go to A&E or call 999 now if:

  • you cannot complete short sentences when at rest because of breathlessness
  • your breathing gets worse suddenly
  • you cough up blood
  • you feel cold and sweaty, with pale or blotchy skin (when your skin has patches that are uneven in colour and shape)
  • you collapse or faint
  • you have a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
  • you become agitated, confused or very sleepy (drowsy)
  • you are not peeing or are peeing less than usual
  • your blood oxygen level is less than 92% (you can measure this with a small device called a pulse oximeter that clips onto your fingertip)
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These symptoms need urgent medical attention. You should tell the phone operator or healthcare professional you speak to that you might have COVID-19.

Information and support

Peer support for people who have been in the intensive care unit (ICU)

There are 2 peer support groups in our local area for people who have been in an intensive care unit (ICU). These are friendly and welcoming groups. Former patients and families can meet each other, share their experiences and help to make sense of life after critical illness.

  • If were a patient at King’s College Hospital ICU and want to find out more about their group, email: [email protected]
  • If you were a patient at St Thomas’s Hospital ICU and want to find out more about their group, email: [email protected]

There are also online support groups for COVID-19 survivors. We cannot recommend any one of these groups individually. However, you can look in your local area and online to see if there is a group that you find helpful.

Finances and other social needs

COVID-19 does not just affect people’s body and emotions. For many people, it affects if they can work and their finances.

There is a lot of support available through your local council. This includes advice on how to get benefits and support with food and care needs.

Your GP surgery might have a social prescriber. This is a professional who can put you in touch with support services. Call your GP to find out more.

You can also contact your local Citizens Advice , who can similarly help you to get in touch with support services.

Information about recovery from COVID-19

It is important to get good quality information about COVID-19 and your recovery. We recommend the following high quality online information to help you learn more.

  • An online course about COVID-19 recovery , including a module on managing low mood, relaxing and improving your personal coping skills.
  • An online course about the emotional (psychological) impact of COVID-19 .
  • The national COVID-19 recovery website has information on diet, sleep and exercise to help you recover. It also includes advice on coping with anxiety, mood disturbance and memory problems.

Resource number: 5122/VER1
Last reviewed: January 2021
Next review date: December 2023

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about your coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery, please speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you. Your discharge letter (the letter that you get when you leave hospital) should have their contact details.

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