But people do get better ― in fact, more than 1 million people around the globe (and counting!) are considered recovered from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
But how long does it take to reach that point? And what are some signs that you’re healthy again? Here’s what we know:
Those who get ‘mild’ cases can expect to start to recover after about 14 days
If you get a case of coronavirus where you’re able to stay home and not need emergency medical care, this is considered “mild.” Symptoms typically include a fever, some shortness of breath and a cough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also added a loss of taste and smell, chills, headaches and a sore throat to their list of possible symptoms.
If this is the worst you get (and we don’t mean that in a minimizing way, those symptoms are hell), you can expect to start to recover from the disease after about 14 days, according to initial data from China published in a report by the World Health Organization.
However, it can take longer to completely get rid of your symptoms. The data only notes that the two-week recovery time is an average, not a guarantee. Some reports also suggest that issues like a cough may linger.
An important note: This is the time frame from the onset of your symptoms, the day when you first start to feel sick. You could have been infected or contagious before that, as experts estimate it takes two to 14 days for symptoms to appear.
That ― along with the fact that some symptoms can last for weeks, even if you generally feel better ― is why it’s so important to isolate yourself when you’re sick and keep in touch with your doctor. It’s crucial that you follow a physician’s advice and minimize the spread of the virus as much as possible.
For those with a more severe case of COVID-19, recovery could take a few weeks to over a month
For those who are “severe or critical,” the average recovery time was about three to six weeks, according to the World Health Organization report. However, it’s also been reported that it could take as many as eight weeks to months to feel somewhat normal again, depending on how harsh your symptoms were during the illness.
COVID-19 cases in this category usually get worse about a week to 10 days after the onset of symptoms, and typically occur because of the “backfiring” of your immune system. In its effort to fight off the virus, your immune response may cause collateral damage to the body. People who experience this may have trouble breathing or get pneumonia or lung-related problems. Some may need hospitalization because of breathing troubles, where they might receive oxygen therapy.
Then there are the even more severe cases. According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that globally about 1 in 20 people infected with coronavirus may require intensive care. This may include being put on a ventilator to assist with breathing if it’s too difficult to do on your own.
In recovery situations like this, it may take up to 12 to 18 months before you’re able to feel back to normal, the BBC reported. You may need assistance with rebuilding muscle and could experience other problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder, which will require help and attention.
Symptoms like fatigue may linger long after you’ve been discharged or are considered recovered, according to the BBC. If you were in an intensive care unit, you may also experience trouble breathing for a while.
Some signs that you’re recovered from COVID-19
The disease is unpredictable, so recovery signs can be confusing or different for everyone. Sometimes you may even start to feel better only to feel worse a few days later, which usually happens around week two of symptoms.
The CDC defines recovery as three days with “no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.”
For those who may not have had symptoms but tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC said you can discontinue self-isolation after waiting 10 days following your first positive test to make sure you don’t develop symptoms.
However, it’s best to remain vigilant and act like you’re still contagious if you do need to leave the house. According to the CDC, “because symptoms cannot be used to gauge where these individuals are in the course of their illness, it is possible that the duration of viral shedding could be longer or shorter than 10 days after their first positive test.”
If you’re somehow able to get tested again for COVID-19 and your results are negative, you can assume that you’ve recovered and can discontinue isolation.
All that said, everyone’s recovery timeline and experience is slightly different. Make sure you check in with your doctor regularly for the best guidance on your condition.
And once you do recover, keep practicing social distancing and other protective measures ― for yourself and others. While many experts believe you may get some temporary immunity after you’ve had COVID-19, it’s unclear how long it lasts and they can’t say you’re safe from reinfection.
Experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The information in this story is what was known or available as of press time, but its guidance on COVID-19 could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
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