Coronavirus Helpline

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Overview

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan city, China. It can cause a cough and/or a fever/high temperature.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

This is a rapidly changing situation which is being monitored carefully.

People at higher risk of severe illness

Some people are at higher risk of developing severe illness with COVID-19. These people should strictly follow social distancing measures.

Their household and other contacts should also strictly follow social distancing advice.

Higher risk groups

This group includes people who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition, including anyone given the flu vaccination each year on medical grounds
  • pregnant

Underlying health conditions include:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)

People at extremely high risk of severe illness

Some groups of people are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with COVID-19. These people should should strictly follow shielding measures.

Their household and other contacts should strictly follow social distancing measures in order to protect them.

Extremely high risk groups

This group includes people who:

  • have had solid organ transplants
  • have cancer and are receiving active chemotherapy
  • have lung cancer and are either receiving or previously received radical radiotherapy
  • have cancers of the blood or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • are receiving immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • are receiving other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • have severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma and severe COPD
  • have rare diseases, including all forms of interstitial lung disease/sarcoidosis, and inborn errors of metabolism (such as SCID and homozygous sickle cell) that significantly increase the risk of infections
  • re receiving immunosuppression therapies that significantly increase risk of infection
  • are pregnant with significant heart disease (congenital or acquired)

I'm not sure if I fall into one of the more vulnerable groups. What should I do?

If you have an underlying health condition or take medicines regularly but you're not sure whether or not you fall into one of the more vulnerable groups, you should call your GP practice and say you want advice about your underlying condition or your medicines.

People who are considered to be extremely vulnerable to severe illness will receive a letter giving them further advice, but if you remain unsure, contact your GP.

Symptoms of a COVID-19 infection

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a new continuous cough and/or a fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater).

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  • are coughing more than usual

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

Some people will have more serious symptoms, including pneumonia or difficulty breathing, which might require admission to hospital.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

If you’ve developed a new continuous cough and/or a fever/high temperature in the last 7 days, stay at home for 7 days from the start of your symptoms even if you think your symptoms are mild. Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital. Read our stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

You should phone 111 if:

  • your symptoms worsen during home isolation, especially if you’re in a high or extremely high risk group
  • breathlessness develops or worsens, particularly if you’re in a high or extremely high risk group
  • your symptoms haven’t improved in 7 days

If you have a medical emergency, phone 999 and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms.

Caring for a cough at home

Caring for a fever at home

Do the people I live with need to take any action?

If you live with other people and have symptoms, they'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the start of your symptoms even if they don’t have symptoms themselves.

If they develop symptoms within the 14 days, they need to stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms began. They should do this even if it takes them over the 14-day isolation period.

Your whole household should follow our stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Get an isolation note to give to your employer

You can send an isolation note to your employer as proof you need to stay off work because of COVID-19.

You don’t need to get a note from a GP.

Get an isolation note

Can't get an isolation note

You need to contact your employer if you require to shield from COVID-19 due to underlying conditions but are currently well. Please don't phone 111 or your GP.

Is there anything I can do to prepare?

You should start planning now for how you would manage a period of self-isolation just in case everyone in your household needs to stay at home.

Your plan might include:

  • talking to your neighbours and family and exchanging phone numbers of household contacts
  • making a plan for those in your home who are considered vulnerable.
  • creating a contact list with phone numbers of neighbours, schools, employer, pharmacist and your GP
  • setting up online shopping accounts if possible
  • ensuring adequate supplies of any regular medication, but do not over-order
  • talking to any children or young people in your household as they may be worried about COVID-19

Testing for COVID-19

Generally, you'll only be tested for COVID-19 if you have a serious illness that requires admission to hospital.

How COVID-19 is spread

Because it's a new illness, we don't know exactly how the virus spreads from person to person. Similar viruses spread by droplets in coughs and sneezes.

How to avoid catching COVID-19

You can reduce your risk of getting and spreading the infection by:

  • avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • avoiding direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoiding using their personal items such as their mobile phone
  • covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with disposable tissues and disposing of them in the nearest waste bin after use
  • following the stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection if someone in your household has symptoms
  • making sure everyone in your household follows the Government advice to stay at home as much as possible and to stay away from other people
  • following the stay at home advice if someone in your household has symptoms
  • making sure everyone in your household follows the social distancing advice, especially anyone in a vulnerable group
  • helping those at extremely high risk of severe illness with COVID-19 to follow the shielding advice

Wash your hands regularly

Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser before eating and drinking, and after coughing, sneezing and going to the toilet.

Treating COVID-19

Currently, there's no vaccine and no specific treatment for the virus.

Ibuprofen

There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (COVID-19) worse.

But until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.

If you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline

If you don't have symptoms and are looking for general information, phone our free helpline on 0800 028 2816.

The helpline is open from 8.00am to 10.00pm each day.

Other languages and formats

Our coronavirus (COVID-19) information is also available in British Sign Language (BSL) and Easy Read.

Further information

On other websites