COVID-19: Know When to Go

Communities across the country are fighting outbreaks of COVID-19, and while staying home as much as possible is the best way to slow the spread, if you’re having a medical emergency, the emergency department is still the best place to care.

Whether you think you’ve contracted the virus or need to see a doctor for another urgent medical need, it’s important to always know when to go to the emergency department.

Download the official American College of Emergency Physicians COVID-19 Know When to Go flyer in English and Spanish.

What should you do if you think you are sick with COVID-19?

Consider your symptoms.

Call your doctor if you’ve been in contact with someone who already has COVID-19 or has traveled to an affected region and with 14 days you develop the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

A runny nose rarely occurs with COVID-19, and sneezing is still not a symptom of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is allowing anyone to get tested for COVID-19 with a physician’s referral. However, it will take time for the health care system to ramp up its testing capabilities and locations. Tests should be reserved for those who meet the criteria for COVID-19 risk.

Emergency departments do not have a cure for COVID-19. If you are experiencing fever that responds to acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen and a cough, and you are young and otherwise healthy, treat yourself as you would for a bad cold or flu. If you have shortness of breath that is new for you, call your doctor.

If your symptoms are mild, contact your primary care physician to discuss your best options for care.

While you do not need to call ahead for the emergency department, it is important to know when to go.

Call 911 or visit your closest emergency department if:

  • You’re experiencing a medical emergency,
  • You’re sick enough that you need to go to the hospital, especially if you recently started experiencing shortness of breath, or
  • You’re sick and you are a high-risk individual, such as an older patient or a person with an already weakened immune system.

Read more about COVID-19

Read more Know When to Go

COVID-19 Infections & Infectious Diseases Know When to Go Public Education Public Health