What to do if you test positive for COVID-19

So you got tested for COVID and it came back positive — now what? When something big like this happens it can feel overwhelming. You might feel afraid about what will happen to you or the people you care about. Or you might feel hopeless and like nothing matters now so might as well just do whatever you want. Here’s how to get back to your baseline so you can think clearly about what to do next.

As a younger person, if you are overall healthy, the odds are in your favor for a full recovery. While anyone can have serious complications or die from COVID-19, in general, the older you are the greater the risk of hospitalization or death. For example, according to the CDC if you’re between the ages of 5-17 years old, your risk of hospitalization is 9 times lower than someone 18-29 years old, and your risk of death is 16 times lower.

Everyone who has COVID-19 should keep a watchful eye for serious signs and symptoms. Symptoms include: trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake up or stay awake, or bluish lips or face. In addition to following your doctor’s advice for recovery, your focus should be on keeping other people in your life (who may be older and at more risk of serious consequences) as safe as possible.

When you got your positive test results, medical staff should have given you instructions on how to help yourself recover and how to help others stay safe. The basic idea is to isolate yourself as much as possible. That means staying in a separate room from others in your house and minimizing contact. If you have to share areas with others (like the bathroom) wear a mask anytime you are in a shared space and clean the surfaces you touch with cleaning supplies strong enough to kill Coronavirus, for example,use bleach wipes to clean the sink, faucet, toilet seat, and door knob. 

You should not leave your home or invite visitors over. The CDC says you can be around others after you meet all of the following criteria: 1) It’s been 10 days since symptoms first appeared, 2) it’s been more than 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and 3) other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.

When you recover, remember that having had COVID-19 does not mean you are immune from catching it again. You will still need to follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask, and practice frequent hand washing.

It can be stressful to separate from others and you might have strong emotional reactions during this time of isolation, even after you’ve fully recovered. You might find yourself worrying about your health and the health of your loved ones. You might feel stressed out from monitoring yourself, or from being monitored by others. You might feel sad, angry or frustrated because friends or loved ones are worried about getting sick. And you might feel a mixture of these feelings and emotions, including relief.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you’re feeling scared, need help dealing with having a positive COVID-19 test result, or need support during or after isolation, talk to a trusted adult such as your parent, family member,  or a favorite teacher. This can be a good place to start. If you are not sure where to turn, you can call or text the California Youth Crisis Line, available 24/7 at 1-800-843-5200. You can also chat with someone online at https://calyouth.org/cycl/at-a-glance/. Whoever you contact, someone will be there to listen and support you. These help-lines can assist you with finding other types of resources (access to food, housing, substance use treatment and more) if you need it. Translation services are also available if you need them.

To find other ideas and resources to stay mentally healthy while healing, check out more articles on Crushing the Curve:

Where To Go When You Need Someone To Talk To

How To Manage Anxiety

What To Do If You Feel Like Hurting Yourself

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