What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is also known as CV-19 or Coronavirus and has been the cause of the global pandemic, which started early in 2020. It is a highly infectious airborne disease, meaning that is transported by air. It is part of a family of respiratory viruses that can cause well known illnesses such as the common cold and flu, but also more serious diseases such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). COVID-19 can affect many parts of the body, including the lungs, immune system, heart, brain, blood vessels, eyes, liver and kidneys.

What is Long COVID?

After having COVID-19, some people experience post-COVID or long COVID symptoms- the full list can be found on the NHS Your COVID Recovery website but it includes symptoms such as fatigue, memory and concentration problems and chest pain. Post-COVID symptoms should get better over time but can sometimes last for several days, weeks or months. There are many online resources to support people who have long COVID symptoms, such as Long COVID support and Long COVID Physio

Who does COVID-19 affect?

People of any age can become infected with, or ‘catch’, COVID-19. People who have a medical condition (such as COPD, diabetes, asthma or heart failure), or people who have immune systems which do not work as well as they should, are more likely to have more severe symptoms than people who are well. People with lung conditions may be especially vulnerable. Click here for a full list of conditions which might make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

What causes COVID-19?

COVID-19 is spread in a similar way to cold and flu viruses. It can spread from one person to another in tiny liquid droplets that are produced when an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs, sneezes, sings or laughs. If an uninfected person is standing too close, they may breathe in the infected droplets and become infected themselves. It can also be spread in small spaces with poor air flow, such as small rooms with closed windows. Infected droplets hang in the air, increasing the risk of someone else breathing them in. Infection can also be caused by touching an infected object or surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

Symptoms are different from person to person, but the main symptoms are listed below. COVID-19 tests are no longer free for most people, but you can buy COVID-19 tests from some pharmacies and retailers, in store or online. Tests are available for free for a small number of people, such as those with certain health conditions, for people going into hospital for surgery or a procedure, and for those working in the NHS or in adult social care. Find out more on the NHS website.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay at home, or ‘isolate’ until you receive your test result. This will reduce the risk of you possibly spreading COVID-19 to others.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Sore throat
  • New, continuous cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • High temperature, feeling hot or feverish 
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste 

Some people may experience none, one or only a few of these symptoms but still test positive for COVID-19. The NHS list of COVID-19 symptoms changes and the most up to date version can be found here.

What can I do to help myself?

Prevention is the first line of defence, by trying to avoid catching COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering when asked to do so and keep distance between yourself and others, where possible. This is known as ‘social distancing’. Some people are medically excused, or ‘exempt’ from wearing a face covering.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms or you have had a positive COVID-19 test, you should try to stay at home and avoid having contact with people for 5 days- although guidance states you should wait a total of 10 days before coming into contact with people at a higher risk from COVID-19. There is further guidance on what to do if you test positive on the NHS website and information on living with COVID-19 as a nation on the Government website.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Many people experience minor symptoms which may feel similar to a cold or mild flu. These symptoms can be managed at home with rest, sleep, plenty of water and over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol. Others may require prescribed medical treatments or hospital admission. Breathing support using medical oxygen, sometimes delivered by machine, can be provided in a hospital setting for those with the most severe symptoms.

It is very important that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Everyone over the age of 12 years can receive the vaccine. You can book a vaccination appointment by speaking with your GP or booking online here. If you have concerns about the vaccine, you can read more about them, including how they were developed and answers to frequently asked questions here.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

If you feel unwell and think you may have COVID-19, tell someone as soon as you can. If your medication does not help to relieve symptoms, contact your GP practice nurse. 24-hour NHS advice is available by dialling 111 or visiting Online NHS 111 information is available here. In an emergency situation dial 999 or go straight to your nearest accident and emergency department.

For up to date information on how to look after yourself at home with COVID-19, and advice on when to seek help, visit the NHS website.