What To Do If You Feel Sick

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Did you know there are treatments for COVID-19? Research shows treatments can lower your risk of going to the hospital and dying—but you have to get them in time. Treatment may even reduce your risk of Long COVID. Treatments are available for people who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Nearly two thirds of people in North Carolina are high risk, so don’t rule yourself out.

As soon as you feel sick, it’s time to get tested and treated. That’s because treatments work best if you start them soon after you notice symptoms of COVID-19. Remember, your first symptoms may be a cough, headache, or sore throat—and they may even be mild. The key is: don’t wait.

Don’t wait to see if your symptoms get worse. If you feel sick, even a little, take steps to get tested and treated now.

If You Feel Sick


Step 1: Stay away from other people, and get tested

You may be contagious, so it’s important to stay away from other people as much as possible–except to get medical care. How long do you need to stay away from others? Follow the CDC's Respiratory Virus Guidance.

Take a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. Most doctor's offices, health centers, and some pharmacies offer testing.

If you want to test at home, you may be able to pick up free tests in your community. Or, buy home tests from a pharmacy or retail store. 

More Testing Options


Step 2: Talk to a medical professional

Talk to a medical professional within 5 days of feeling symptoms, even if your symptoms are mild. A medical professional will determine if you are eligible to receive treatment. All COVID-19 treatments require a prescription.

If you have trouble breathing or notice any of these warning signs, seek medical care right away.

Here are two ways to get evaluated for treatment:

Need help finding where to get your prescription filled?

Search for a location near you that has COVID-19 medications available. All COVID-19 medications require a prescription from a healthcare provider.

Don’t have a prescription? Search the map for a Test to Treat site, where you can get tested, assessed by a provider and treated in one visit.

Please note: The map may not include all locations that have COVID-19 treatment. 

About Treatments

The following options are available to treat people who are likely to get very sick from COVID-19:

  • Antivirals (e.g. Paxlovid and Lagevrio) are pills you can take. You'll need a prescription to get them, and you have to start taking them within five days of your first symptoms.
  • Other options may be available to treat symptoms shortly after they begin. If you have symptoms, don’t wait—seek testing right away and talk to a health care provider.

Treatments are not a substitute for vaccination. Vaccines offer the best protection against COVID-19.

Learn more about treatments. Please check back often as information is updated.

COVID-19 Rebound

Some people may feel better then have a return of symptoms or a new positive test three to seven days later. COVID-19 rebound symptoms are typically mild. Rebound can happen regardless of whether you’ve gotten treatment.

The benefits of treatment outweigh the risk of rebound if you are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Research shows no increased risk of severe COVID-19 in people who experience rebound after treatment. Learn more about COVID-19 Rebound.

Know Your Rights

All health care providers must:

  • follow ADA accessibility requirements.
  • treat you even if you don't have government-issued ID.
  • treat you even if you don't have insurance.

What should you do if you don’t have medical insurance or a doctor?

  • Find a community health center near you. Health centers provide care to patients regardless of ability to pay.
  • If you have Medicaid or Medicare, or don't have insurance, you may be able to get help covering treatment cost:
    • The PAXCESS Patient Support Program offers free Paxlovid to eligible patients. Find out if you are eligible online or call 1-877-219-7225.
    • The Merck Patient Assistance Program offers free Lagevrio to eligible patients. Find out if you are eligible at MerckHelps.

More people can get NC Medicaid as of Dec. 1, 2023. Learn more at medicaid.ncdhhs.gov.

Will your insurance cover treatment costs?

Medicare and Medicaid cover the cost of Paxlovid through the PAXCESS Patient Support Program.

If you have private insurance, check with your plan provider about treatment costs. You may pay as little as $0 for your Paxlovid prescription through the PAXCESS Co-Pay Savings Program. Check your eligibility online or call 1-877-219-7225.