Coronavirus Questions

We're all dealing with seemingly endless questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19. Here are some common ones, with answers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AHA's volunteer medical experts and scientific leaders, and other trustworthy sources. If you have a question, send it to editor@heart.org.

Questions We All Have

Where can I find reliable information and timely updates about COVID-19?

This is a rapidly changing situation, so the CDC provides regular updates and guidance. Related information about heart disease, health, well-being and other issues also can be found at heart.org

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and, in some people, difficulty breathing. These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Who’s at highest risk of getting the virus and becoming seriously ill?

Despite the rapid spread, overall risk remains low for most people in the United States. But the risk is higher for some groups.

  • Older adults with heart disease appear to be at higher risk of getting COVID-19.
  • People of any age with serious underlying medical conditions — such as diabetes, cancer or kidney failure — may face a higher risk of complications if they do get infected.
  • Stroke survivors may also face a higher risk of complications.

People at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness should take special precautions.

What are the easiest ways to avoid the coronavirus and keep it from spreading? Washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water or using hand sanitizer is best. Also, don’t touch your face, don’t touch surfaces in public and keep your distance from people. If you cough or sneeze, do it in a tissue and throw that tissue away. Learn all about prevention on the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself page.

How should I clean and disinfect my home?

There are a variety of things you can do. Focus cleaning on high-touch surfaces first: countertops, doorknobs, cabinets, the refrigerator. The CDC breaks down the details.

Can the virus be spread through food?

There’s currently no evidence it can be. Coronaviruses are generally spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Before preparing or eating food, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer. 

Can the virus spread through drinking water?

It hasn’t been detected in drinking water. Most water treatment methods should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

Will warm weather stop the COVID-19 outbreak?

We don’t know yet. Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold-weather months, but you can still get them during other months. 

My stress is through the roof. What are some tips to help me cope?

It’s normal to be stressed in these uncertain times. Take a deep breath. Repeat. We’re all in this together. And check out our top 10 emergency stress-stoppers and other tips to help you get through the stress.

Will a mask keep me safe from the virus?

If you’re sick and around others, wear one. If you aren’t sick, don’t. The virus or other troublesome particles could get on the mask and turn you from healthy to not healthy. Also, rushing to buy masks could limit the supply for health care providers, who critically need them.

If You're Still Out and About

Is it safe to go to restaurants?

Some cities and states have shut down dine-in options, so you may not have a choice. The general advice is to get carryout or delivery if you want restaurant food. Be sure to wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds before and after eating. (And any other time you realize you just haven’t washed your hands in a while.) You might consider washing the food containers.

I have all kinds of questions about whether it’s safe to travel. Where do I start?

You’re not alone. From cruise safety to airport worries, the CDC breaks down the guidance. In general, avoid discretionary or non-urgent travel.

What about routine medical, dental or vision appointments if I’m not sick?

Some clinics and offices aren’t taking appointments. If they are open, contact your health care provider, talk it over, and weigh your health needs against the risks. If the office is in a major medical facility, remember that some facilities are overwhelmed with patients and that crowds are discouraged. It may be harder to get in, you may be at more risk, and you could unknowingly put others at risk.

Is it safe to go to the grocery store?

If you’re healthy and follow all the precautions, you should be able to go to the store. Just be extra careful and bear in mind there are a whole lot of surfaces and potential coughers and sneezers. Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet from others. Some stores have closed for longer times to deep clean and replenish their stock. Some stores have set special hours for people at risk. You can always try to arrange for delivery, order online or ask for help from a friend, neighbor or caregiver.  

Should I let my child go on a playdate or have a sleepover?

No. We know it’s tough to make kids understand why they can’t see their friends, but social visits are generally discouraged. We’ll keep you updated as the guidance changes. Encourage other ways of connecting, like virtual playdates.

I like to walk and run outside. Is it still safe to go outside?

Yes, it’s still safe and advisable to go outside if you practice healthy social distancing. Given the physical and mental health benefits, please get out there and keep moving!

The gym is closed. Help! What are some other ways to fit in fitness?

Start by using the time to set your fitness goals. Work out in your home office, practice balance exercises in your living room or your yard (if you have one) and get out for a walk (just be sure to practice social distancing). Learn more.

I feel fine. What can I do to help others?

First, you can accept the AHA’s thanks. We are all in this together and we should help others when we can. Remember, though, that you can feel fine and still carry the virus. So staying away from others may be the best help you can offer. But there are many virtual opportunities to help and other ways to stay connected. Here are some ideas. You can also check with your local charities, governments and other groups. And if you know a neighbor is homebound or older or doesn’t have family in the area, reach out and see what you can do.

If You're Hunkering Down

When should I self-quarantine?

You may not have a choice. Several states and cities already have ordered residents to stay home except for necessities. If you don’t live in one of those areas and if you are sick, at risk or older, now would be a good time to self-quarantine, if you haven’t already. If you are not sick, it’s a personal choice based on many factors. As you consider this choice, please remember that by not quarantining yourself, you may be putting others at risk.

I’m healthy and self-quarantining as a precaution. Should I go so far as to avoid drive-throughs and curbside pickup?

If you are healthy, you should be able to if you wash your hands after contact with any workers and after handling the items you picked up. (But if you’re going out to load up on sugary drinks and unhealthy foods, then the AHA’s official answer is no, don’t go!)

I worry about emergencies at home. Is there an easy way to learn CPR?

Yes! It’s extremely easy. And, yes, it’s always a great idea to learn CPR, pandemic or not. Here’s how you can learn. You’ll find a comprehensive list of resources, including how to learn at home.

What are some healthy, affordable staple foods I can stock up on?

We have plenty of suggestions (even when you’re not hunkering down), but here are some common staples:

  • Canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables
  • Canned fish and meats like light tuna or white-meat chicken packed in water
  • Frozen chicken breasts 
  • Dried or canned beans and other legumes
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice and quinoa 
  • Dried herbs and spices

Where can I find healthy recipes to try out while I’m stuck at home?

Glad you thought of it. We have some heart-healthy recipes here.

If You're a Patient

I have coronavirus symptoms. What should I do?

If you think you have the virus (or if you know you do), make sure appropriate caregivers are available at home, and ensure there’s a separate bedroom or space where you can recover without sharing immediate space with others. More tips.

Should heart and stroke patients continue rehabilitation?

First, call to see if your rehabilitation center is still operational. If it’s closed, here are some exercises you can try at home

If my high blood pressure or diabetes is under control, are my COVID-19 risks the same as someone with out-of-control blood pressure or diabetes?

It’s a great question, but the answer isn’t known. Your overall medical condition is much better, though, if your blood pressure and diabetes are optimally controlled. Keep up the good work. Get plenty of sleep too.

If I only have plaque buildup, does my mild heart disease put me at the same level of risk as people with more severe heart disease?

No. So remember to continue your cholesterol medications and get a good form of exercise each day.

What should children and adults with congenital heart defects, or those caring for them, be doing?

They should be doing the same as everyone else in terms of prevention and precautions. In addition, continue your regular medications and call your physician if there are any new symptoms or problems.

Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

Yes. That’s why the CDC recommends that these patients be isolated in the hospital or at home until they’re better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. The length of time can vary case by case.

I heard a rumor that my medication could put me at risk. Is that true?

The first thing you should do if you hear a rumor about your medication is contact your health care provider or pharmacist. There recently was misinformation going around about COVID-19 risks for patients who were already prescribed medications for high blood pressure, heart failure and other heart disease. The AHA, Heart Failure Society of America and American College of Cardiology jointly published a new statement debunking that rumor.

Should I avoid contact with pets if I’m sick with COVID-19?

Yes. Although there are no reports of animals getting the virus, those who have it should limit contact until we know more about the disease.


HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.