The goal of this study was to test the role of message framing for effective communication of self-care behaviors in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, contrasting health and economic-focused messages . We presented 319 participants with an unforced choice task where they had to select the message that they believed was more effective to increase intentions toward self-care behaviors, motivate self-care behaviors in others, increase perceived risk and enhance perceived message strength . Results showed that gain-frame health messages increased intention to adopt self-care behaviors and were judged to be stronger . Loss-framed health messages increased risk perception . When judging effectiveness for others, participants believed other people would be more sensitive to messages with an economic focus . These results can be used by governments to guide communication for the prevention of COVID-19 contagion in the media and social networks, where time and space for communicating information are limited.