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

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is an illness 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 can make anyone ill but some people are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill.

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?

COVID-19 symptoms can include:

• A high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means 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 a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours

• A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

• Shortness of breath

• Feeling tired or exhausted

• An aching body

• A headache

• A sore throat

• A blocked or runny nose

• Loss of appetite

• Diarrhoea

• Feeling sick or being sick

Although not everyone with coronavirus experiences symptoms, most people have at least one of these symptoms. 

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

Many people will be able to look after themselves at home if they have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19.

If you or child has a high temperature or you feel too unwell to go to work, school or do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. You should return to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature. If your child has mild symptoms (like a runny nose, sore throat or mild cough) and does not have a high temperature and they feel well enough, they can go to school or childcare.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

You no longer have to do a COVID-19 lateral flow test if you have symptoms, but if you or your child has tested positive for COVID-19 you should:

• Aim to stay at home and avoid contact with others for three days after you took the test if you are under 18 years old

• Aim to stay and home and avoid contact with others for five days after you took the test if you are 18 years old or over

• Avoid meeting people who are more likely to get seriously ill from viruses, such as people with a weakened immune system, for 10 days after you took the test

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:

• 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

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

Where can I get more information on COVID-19?

Click here for the latest advice on coronavirus.

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


COVID-19 testing

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Information correct at time of publication (12.01am 17/03/2022)