What to do if you feel unwell

The symptoms of COVID-19

The three key symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • A new, continuous cough – coughing a lot for over a hour, or 3 coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse)
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Other common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Body aches and feeling tired
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Headache
  • A sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Feeling sick, vomiting and diarrhoea

Try to stay home and avoid contact with other people if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and either:

  • A high temperature

  • You are feeling too unwell to go to work or do your usual activities

You can go back to your usual activities when you feel better and when you do not have a high temperature.

If you are being sick, or have loose or watery poos, continue to self-isolate for 48 hours after your symptoms have gone.

What should you do if you feel unwell

Most cases of COVID-19 can be managed at home with rest, drinking fluids and taking fever reducing medication if appropriate. When unwell it is very important to try to stay home so that you don’t spread the infection to others.

Watch our video on how to take care of yourself and others and when to call a doctor.

See our guide to self-isolation

Taking care of yourself and others if unwell with coronavirus

Watch the video

Will I get seriously ill?

Around 8 out of 10 people will get a mild form of the illness.1 A small number of people go on to develop difficulty breathing and need to go to hospital.

In those who develop breathlessness, this can happen in the second week of illness.2,3

The people most at risk of getting more serious symptoms are those with other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or long-term breathing problems, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Info for vulnerable individuals

When should I get medical help?

Seek medical attention immediately if you:

  • Feel increasingly breathless or feel short of breath when moving around
  • Feel very weak
  • Lose your appetite
  • Start shaking or shivering
  • Are unable to look after yourself at home due to your symptoms, such as washing yourself or preparing food

You can do this by:

  • Using the NHS 111 online service or calling 111 if you are unable to get help online
  • Getting same day advice from your GP

If you feel extremely unwell to not delay getting help, by calling 999 or going to your nearest A&E.

If you need medical help that is not related to COVID-19, contact your GP service by telephone for advice or check the GP surgery’s website.

Continue self isolating and do not go to A&E, visit your GP surgery or go to a pharmacy as you may spread the infection to others.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Most people with COVID-19 recover without a need for treatment.

The NHS is offering new antibody and antiviral treatments to some people with COVID-19 who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill. Please see the NHS website for the most up to date information about these treatments and who is eligible.

In rare and severe cases of COVID-19, treatment includes admission to hospital and care that’s focused on supporting the person through the illness, whilst their immune system works to clear it. Treatments are emerging for patients with severe forms of the disease requiring oxygen.


1. The Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Emergency Response Epidemiology Team. China CDC Weekly, 2020, 2(8): 113-122

2. Zhou F et al. The Lancet. Online first, March 11, 2020 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim clinical guidance for management of patients with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Updated March 7, 2010 www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html?deliveryName=USCDC_511-DM19049#foot02