COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Advice on how to help reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 & what to do if you think you have symptoms

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which can cause disease in animals and humans. In humans, coronaviruses can cause mild respiratory infections, like the common cold, but can also lead to more serious illnesses, like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is an illness caused by a newly discovered coronavirus, that can affect your lungs and airways. COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. Some people may have only a few symptoms while some people may not have symptoms at all. COVID-19 (coronavirus) can make anyone seriously ill but, for some people, the risk is higher.


How is it spread?

The COVID-19 virus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It’s also possible to be infected by touching contaminated surfaces, which is why it’s very important to wash your hands regularly. Try not to touch your face, eyes or mouth with unwashed hands.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The main symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus) are:

• A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

• A new, continuous cough – this means coughing for a lot more than an hour. Usually three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you already have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

• A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Although not everyone with coronavirus experiences symptoms, most people have at least one of these symptoms. Commonly, symptoms start to appear around five to six days after coming into contact with the virus. For a few people though, this can be as long as up to 14 days after.


What should I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19:

• Get a test to check if you have COVID-19 as soon as possible

• You and anyone you live with must stay at home and self-isolate until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test

• Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home and self-isolate if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started

If your test result is positive you must self-isolate immediately. Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble (if you’ve been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before) must also self-isolate. Find out more about how long to self-isolate for here. You can also find more information on what your test results means here.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if you’re worried about your symptoms or you’re not sure what to do. Call 111 if you can’t get help online. Don’t go to places like a GP surgery, hospital or pharmacy.


How can I help to avoid catching or spreading germs?

Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading. Remember even if you don’t have symptoms, you can still spread the virus. You can help prevent the spread of infection and avoid being exposed to coronavirus by doing the following:

• Try to stay at least two metres (three steps) away from anyone you don’t live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)

• Wash your hands with soap and water often – for at least 20 seconds each time

• Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

• Wash your hands as soon as you get home

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

• Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

Wear a face covering when out in public. It should cover your nose and mouth and fit securely and comfortably against the side of your face


What if I'm at high risk?

Although COVID-19 can make anyone seriously ill, the risk is higher in some people, like those with weakened immune systems, older people and those with long-term conditions (like diabetes or asthma).

If you’re at high risk find out more about the things you can do to help protect yourself and others.


Is there a COVID-19 vaccination?

Yes, there are COVID-19 vaccinations approved for use in the UK. You can find out more here.


What are the treatment options?

There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus, but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.

Treating a high temperature

• Get lots of rest

• Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration

• Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable and if these are suitable for you. Always read the patient information leaflet first and follow the instructions

There have been some suggestions that ibuprofen might make COVID-19 symptoms worse or make you more prone to catching the virus. However, an Expert Working Group has now concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to establish this link.

Treating a cough

• Get lots of rest

• Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration

• Try hot lemon and honey (not suitable for babies under one year old)

• You may also want to try cough syrups or cough sweets. These will not stop your cough but may help you cough less

If you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms, you must all stay at home. Don’t go to your pharmacy. Try calling or contacting the pharmacy online instead. Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if you’re worried about your symptoms or you’re not sure what to do.


Where can I get more information on COVID-19?

Click here for the latest government information on coronavirus.

For advice on travelling abroad, check out the latest government foreign travel advice.


Information correct at time of publication (12.01am 26/01/2021)

Help protect yourself & others