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Paxlovid: How to handle rebound symptoms

A woman sits on a couch holding a mug.

June 9, 2022—Paxlovid is a medication that is sometimes used to treat COVID-19. It can help people avoid getting very sick from the virus. Some people who have taken Paxlovid have experienced something called rebound symptoms—symptoms that come back after a person stops taking the drug. Here's what you need to know about Paxlovid and rebound symptoms.

What is Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is a combination of two drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. It comes in the form of pills that you can take at home. It can help certain people with COVID-19 avoid serious symptoms. In fact, it is nearly 90% effective at helping people with COVID-19 stay out of the hospital.

Paxlovid is for people who:

  • Are at higher risk of getting very sick if they catch COVID-19.
  • Have tested positive for COVID-19 and have mild to moderate symptoms.

Paxlovid can be lifesaving for people at high risk for serious COVID-19. That includes older adults and people with certain health conditions. But early treatment is key. Paxlovid must be taken within five days of the start of symptoms. So remember to take a COVID-19 test as soon as you have any symptoms at all. This way, you can seek treatment quickly and recover faster.

What are rebound symptoms?

Most people take Paxlovid for five days. Usually, they start to feel better quickly. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some patients experience a rebound between two and eight days after they finish their treatment. That might be a return of COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever. Some people who tested negative for the virus might test positive again.

Only some people who take Paxlovid experience rebound symptoms. If it happens to you, don't worry. CDC reports that rebound symptoms do not mean you caught COVID-19 again or that the virus is resistant to Paxlovid.

What should I do if I experience rebound symptoms?

The CDC has released some simple guidelines on what to do.

If your COVID-19 symptoms return after you finish Paxlovid, you should isolate yourself again for at least five days.

After five days, if you have gone a full day without any signs of a fever, you can leave isolation. However, you should still wear a mask for 10 days after your symptoms started again.

There is no need to start a new course of Paxlovid. If your symptoms don't go away in 10 days, call your doctor.

Thankfully, CDC says there have been no cases of severe rebound symptoms so far.

Want to know more about COVID-19 treatments? Visit our Coronavirus topic center.

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