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Preventing COVID-19 and Monitoring Health


There are no medications that can prevent you from getting COVID-19. Like influenza, it is caused by an easily transmitted virus from close contact with someone with the disease. In addition, there are many patients who either do not develop symptoms to know that they have COVID-19 or are so early in the disease that they have not developed symptoms yet.

The only way to prevent COVID-19 is:

  • Maintain social distancing by staying away from crowds and ideally at least 6 feet away from others-about the length of your bed.
  • Being very careful in washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after encounters with other people or objects outside of your usual environment.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes or other parts of your face, especially your nose and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm (not your hands).
  • Clean and disinfect “high-tough” surfaces (cell phones, door knobs, light switches).
  • Wear a face mask. Wearing a face mask is believed to reduce the likelihood that you will transmit the virus to others and may help remind you not to touch your face. With cloth face masks, there may be a low level amount of protection from getting the virus, as well.


When Should Someone be Tested

If you are without symptoms and able to socially isolate, as opposed to working in a job or living in a setting such as a care home where you interact with a lot of people, you do not need testing for COVID-19. For those who have symptoms, who work or live in a more crowded environment, or who are obese, elderly, or have other medical conditions, their physicians may order testing.

Getting Tested

Right now, the common forms of testing involve a nasal swab (q-tip into the nose) or saliva (spit) sample to detect the presence of the virus or a blood test to detect whether you may have had COVID-19 and recovered. The tests for the presence of the virus only tell you that you have the virus or not; they do not say whether you are immune from the disease. The blood test to detect whether you had COVID-19 can say whether you were exposed to the virus in the past, but cannot tell you whether you are immune from the disease. Therefore, any test result will still require social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly, and avoiding touching your face as much as possible.

Next Steps for COVID-19

Scientists are constantly studying COVID-19 as a new and serious disease. But we are far away from having specific treatments or ways to prevent the disease through vaccination. We also do not know if the virus that causes COVID-19 will go away with warm weather like influenza does.

Vaccines and Treatments

Scientists are very early in the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. All of these need to be tested for safety and effectiveness. If vaccines or treatments reach the stage of widespread use, they will have gone through extensive testing and will be safe with manageable side effects. As with other recommended vaccines, there will be no relationship between their use and the symptoms or development of autism spectrum disorder. But all of these will require care by a physician to counsel patients and their loved ones about which of these are appropriate for you.

Alternative, non-prescribed treatments at this time are neither tested nor effective and may cause harm to those who try them.

Continue Safe Practices

  • Practice Social Distancing
  • Avoid Large Crowds
  • Wear a Mask
  • Carefully Wash Our Hands
  • Avoid Touching Our Face

We know that COVID-19 is a new illness caused by a novel virus. The type of virus that causes COVID-19 is called a coronavirus. Coronaviruses can cause illnesses as varied as the common cold to more serious illnesses like SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19. Because COVID-19 is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus, there is no natural immunity among humans, meaning that many people can get the illness and a small percentage will get severely ill. This resource provides information on how this virus is transmitted, the symptoms to look for, and how to monitor the physical health status of individuals and caregivers.

How is Coronavirus Transmitted?

COVID-19 is transmitted by respiratory droplets, which we all can produce when coughing, sneezing, or even speaking. These droplets can also stay for short periods of time on surfaces. This means that being in the vicinity of someone who coughs, sneezes or accidentally spits or touching an object that has virus particles and then putting your hands on your eyes, nose, or mouth can result in getting the disease.

Symptoms of COVID-19

There are a wide range of symptoms seen in those with COVID-19. These symptoms can appear any where from 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

Among the most common symptoms are:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
  • Fever (generally greater than 100.4oF)
  • Chills
  • Muscle Aches and Pains
  • Sore Throat
  • New Loss of Taste and/or Smell
  • An emerging, but rare symptom of COVID-19 is changes in the color of toes, almost like someone has been out in the cold without proper foot covering, to a pink or purple color.

For Children: There is concern for a new, rare syndrome that may be related to COVID-19. If children develop all or some of these symptoms, you should immediately speak with the pediatrician or seek emergency care.

  • Fever for more than 36-48 hours and/or
  • Have red eyes
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Chest Pain
  • Lethargy (overly sleepy and cannot be woken up)
  • Problems Urinating
  • Skin rashes to the hands or arms
  • Pallor (turning pale in color)

When to Seek Medical Care

Thankfully, most people who get COVID-19 will recover as they would from other flu-like illnesses, with rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter medications for fever. But there is a small percentage of patients who get more sick. These individuals generally have other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, and conditions that suppress the immune system. Individuals with obesity or who are elderly also are at
higher risk for more serious illness.

You should immediately speak with your doctor or seek emergency care if you or your loved one has:

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Worsening ability to stay hydrated or eat food
  • Chest Pain
  • Alteration in mental status (not acting right)
  • Lethargy
  • Turning blue or pale

As this is a new disease, there is much that is not known about COVID-19. Ultimately, if you are concerned about your loved one, please discuss with your doctor the symptoms you are seeing and whether further medical care is needed. Emergency departments are well equipped and ready to care for any patient possibly with COVID-19.

Autism/ID and COVID-19

There is no evidence that those with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities will have
different symptoms, but, given their common impairments in communication, these individuals may not express the presence of these symptoms in the same way. Families and caregivers should consider how their loved ones have typically shown the above symptoms in the past as they commonly overlap with other upper respiratory illnesses like influenza.

Checklist for Monitoring Symptoms

Taking into consideration that the individual with autism and/or intellectual disabilities may have impairments in communication, these individuals may not express the presence of these symptoms in the same way. Therefore, it is important for families and caregivers to consider how the individual expresses illness and have a way to assess the health status of the individual. The following checklist can be used to monitor the health status of the individual and/or those family members and caregivers providing care.

Common Symptoms

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever (generally greater than 100.4)
  • Chills or repeated shaking
  • Muscle aches and pains (Headache)
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste and/or smell
  • Changes of toe color to pink/purple (like they’ve been out in the cold)
  • Chest Pain

Symptoms to Watch for in Children:

  • Fever for more than 36-48 hours
  • Have red eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Lethargy (overly sleep and cannot be woken up)
  • Problems urinating
  • Skin rashes to the hands or arms
  • Pallor (turning pale in color)

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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
Preventing COVID-19 Tips to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pdf Download file: Preventing COVID-19
Monitoring Physical Health Symptoms and physical health conditions to monitor for COVID-19 pdf Download file: Monitoring Physical Health

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.