How to look after yourself at home if you have coronavirus (COVID-19)
NHS advice about how to ease symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) at home, when to get medical help and what to do if you have a pulse oximetry device.
Most people with coronavirus (COVID-19) feel better within a few weeks. You may be able to look after yourself at home while you recover.
While you're ill, ask a friend, family member or neighbour to check up on you. Arrange a regular call or talk through a doorway (not face to face) so they can check how you're doing.
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 COVID-19?
There have been some news reports of anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, making COVID-19 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 COVID-19 worse.
You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat symptoms of COVID-19. 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
If you or someone you live with has COVID-19 symptoms, you must all stay at home.
Try calling or contacting the pharmacy online instead.
Get help while you're staying at home
NHS Volunteer Responders can help you while you have to stay at home (self-isolate).
They can help with things like collecting shopping and medicines.
Call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm, everyday) to arrange help from a volunteer.
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.
Babies and children
Call 111 if you're worried about a baby or child.
If they seem very unwell, are getting worse, or you think there's something seriously wrong, call 999.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.
Get more advice about COVID-19 symptoms in children.
If you're pregnant or have recently given birth, contact your midwife, GP or maternity team if you have any concerns or questions.
If you have a pulse oximeter
A pulse oximeter is a device that clips on your finger to check the level of oxygen in your blood.
Low levels of oxygen in your blood can be a sign you're getting worse. A pulse oximeter can help you spot this before you feel breathless or have any other symptoms, so you can get help quickly.
You may be asked by a GP or healthcare professional to monitor your oxygen levels if you're at a high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
If you're using a pulse oximeter at home, make sure it has a CE mark, UKCA mark or CE UKNI mark. This means that the device will work properly and is safe if used correctly.
If you've been given a pulse oximeter to use, watch an NHS YouTube video about how to use a pulse oximeter and when to get help.
It's helpful to write down your readings, so you know what your oxygen level is when you first use the pulse oximeter and can spot if your level is going down. This can also help if you need to speak to a healthcare professional.
Speak to a GP or healthcare professional before using your pulse oximeter and tell them if you have any questions or concerns.
If you have brown or black skin
Pulse oximeters work by shining light through your skin to measure the level of oxygen in your blood.
There have been some reports they may be less accurate if you have brown or black skin. They may show readings higher than the level of oxygen in your blood.
You should still use your pulse oximeter if you've been given one. The important thing is to check your blood oxygen level regularly to see if your readings are going down.
If you need to call for help, tell the person you speak to what your blood oxygen level is.
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