Symptoms and self isolation
How to avoid spreading coronavirus to people you live with
If you are self-isolating because of coronavirus, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of spreading any infection to the people you live with.
Try to stay away from people you live with
If you have symptoms, you should stay away from other people you live with as much as possible.
If you can:
- Stay on your own in one room as much as possible and keep the door closed
- Avoid using shared spaces (such as the kitchen) at the same time as other people – eat your meals in your room
- Use a separate bathroom - otherwise, use the bathroom after everyone else and clean it each time you use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces you've touched
How to reduce the spread of infection in your home
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- 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
- Clean objects and surfaces you touch often (such as door handles, kettles and phones) using your regular cleaning products
- Consider wearing a face covering when in shared spaces
- Keep windows open in the room you're staying in and shared spaces as much as possible
- Do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels
If you live with someone at higher risk from coronavirus
- It's especially important to try to avoid spreading the infection to anyone who's at higher risk from coronavirus (such as people who are 70 or over, pregnant or have a weakened immune system).
- If you live with someone at higher risk, try to arrange for them to stay with friends or family while you're self-isolating.
- If you have to stay at home together, try to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other. If possible, try not to share a bed.
When to self-isolate
Do not leave home if you or someone you live with has any of the following:
- You have any symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
- You're waiting for a coronavirus test result
- You've tested positive for coronavirus – this means you have coronavirus
- You live with someone who has symptoms, is waiting for a test result or has tested positive
- Someone in your support bubble has symptoms, is waiting for a test result or has tested positive
- Do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can
- Do not go on public transport or use taxis
- Do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
- Do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care
- Do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one
How long to self-isolate if you have symptoms of coronavirus
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, self-isolate for at least 7 days from when your symptoms started.
You can stop self-isolating after 7 days if either:
- Your symptoms have gone
- You just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these symptoms can last for weeks after the infection has gone
Keep self-isolating if you still have any of these symptoms after 7 days:
- A high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
- A runny nose or sneezing
- Feeling or being sick
- Loss of appetite
Only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone.
If you have diarrhoea or you’re being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they've stopped.
You may be able to stop self-isolating earlier than 7 days if you get a negative test result (you do not have coronavirus).
Find out what your coronavirus test result means. (internal link to test and trace page)
How long to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus
Self-isolate for 14 days if:
- You live with someone who has symptoms, has tested positive or is waiting for a test result
- Someone in your support bubble has symptoms, has tested positive or is waiting for a test result
If you live with them, the 14 days starts from when the first person in your home started having symptoms.
If they are in your support bubble, the 14 days starts from the last time you saw the person who has symptoms.
This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.
You can stop self-isolating after 14 days if you do not get any symptoms.
If you get symptoms of coronavirus, self-isolate for at least 7 days from when they started and get a coronavirus test. This might mean you're self-isolating for longer than 14 days.
You may be able to stop earlier than 14 days if everyone with symptoms gets a negative test result.
How to treat coronavirus symptoms at home
- There is currently NO specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.
- If you're concerned about your symptoms and need medical advice, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
Treating a high temperature
If you have a high temperature, it can help to:
- Get lots of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration – drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable
Is it safe to take ibuprofen if I have symptoms of coronavirus?
- There have been some news reports of anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, making coronavirus worse.
- The Commission on Human Medicines has now confirmed there is no clear evidence that using ibuprofen to treat symptoms such as a high temperature makes coronavirus worse.
- You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat symptoms of coronavirus. Try paracetamol first if you can, as it has fewer side effects than ibuprofen and is the safer choice for most people.
- Always follow the instructions that come with your medicine.
Treating a cough
- If you have a cough, it's best to avoid lying on your back. Lie on your side or sit upright instead.
- To help ease a cough, try having a teaspoon of honey. But do not give honey to babies under 12 months.
- If this does not help, you could contact a pharmacist for advice about cough treatments.
- Do not go to a pharmacy in person. If you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms, you must all stay at home.
- Try calling or contacting the pharmacy online instead.
Things to try if you're feeling breathless
If you're feeling breathless, it can help to keep your room cool.
Try turning the heating down or opening a window. Do not use a fan as it may spread the virus.
You could also try:
- Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, with your lips together like you're gently blowing out a candle
- Sitting upright in a chair
- Relaxing your shoulders, so you're not hunched
- Leaning forward slightly – support yourself by putting your hands on your knees or on something stable like a chair
Try not to panic if you're feeling breathless. This can make it worse.
Feeling breathless can be a sign of a more serious coronavirus infection.
If you feel breathless and it's getting worse, get medical advice from the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
We produced a number of beautifully illustrated infographics about Covid, developed for our 'Life under Covid' campaign together with Healthy Brum.The infographics are available in Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Czech and Sloavak.