What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new disease that can affect your lungs and airways, in severe cases it can cause pneumonia. COVID-19 belongs to the family of viruses known as coronavirus. This includes viruses such as the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
When did COVID-19 start?
Discovered in 2019, this new virus stain had not been seen in humans before. The COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020 and remains an ongoing health crisis around the globe. While the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 won’t become seriously ill, the virus can occasionally cause life-threatening complications necessitating hospitalisation.
For this reason, it’s important that everybody takes precautions to avoid becoming infected. This is particularly important if you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
Do I need to worry about catching coronavirus?
You are at increased risk (clinically vulnerable) of coronavirus if you:
You are at most risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) from the coronavirus if you:
- have had an organ transplant
- are having certain types of cancer treatment
- have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia
- have a severe lung condition, such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
- have a condition or taking medicines that increase the chance of getting infections
- are pregnant and have a serious heart condition
This list may not include everyone who is at a high risk, and it may change. The UK government and NHS have more information and have also issued guidance on the risk to the public as well as how you can protect yourself.
How can I stop the spread?
As it’s a new disease, the exact nature of how it spreads from person-to-person isn’t fully understood, although similar viral infections are often spread through the droplets released when coughing.
To reduce your risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19) or spreading it to other people:
- Get vaccinated
- Wear a face covering in crowded areas
- Wash your hands regularly
- If you have symptoms get a test and stay at home
Testing for coronavirus
Lateral flow tests are considered to be one of the quickest and easiest ways to test for COVID-19. Lateral flow test kits can be ordered online and delivered to your home address, or can be collected from your local pharmacy.
Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms:
- high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell and taste different to normal.
You can treat symptoms at home by resting, drinking lots of water, and taking over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
What to do if you fall ill
The self-isolating guidance varies depending on your age, vaccination status and where you live. In England please follow the below advice:
- If you’re displaying symptoms you should complete a COVID-19 test as soon as possible and self-isolate until the test comes back.
- If your result is negative, you don’t need to self-isolate
- If the test is positive or unclear you should self-isolate for 10 days from the day of onset of the symptoms
- If you don’t have symptoms and test positive, you should continue to self-isolate for 10 days
- If you live with (or are in a support bubble with) someone who has tested positive or had an unclear result you should self-isolate unless you are fully vaccinated (having received the second vaccine dose at least 14 days previously), or under the age of 18 years and 6 months old
What can I do to protect myself against respiratory viral infections?
To look after your health, we recommend you follow these simple steps to protect yourself and those around you against respiratory viral infections:
Washing your hands
Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water regularly for at least 20 seconds throughout the day, especially after coughing, being on public transport, as soon as you get home or before/after handling food. Keep hand sanitiser with you at all times as it's easy-to-carry and cleanses without the need for rinsing, if soap and water are not available.
Throw tissues in the bin
When coughing or sneezing, it’s always best to cover your mouth with a tissue to stop virus-carrying droplets spreading to those around you. It’s important to throw your tissues in the bin straight away after each use and wash your hands.
Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth
Avoid touching your face wherever possible to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
Cover your face
You should wear a face mask or covering in crowded areas. The covering needs to cover both your mouth and nose.
Wash your clothes regularly
This is important if you're working with people outside of your household, as the virus can stay alive on fabric for several days.
Keep your home clean
This means wiping down communal surfaces such as counters, door handles, phones and keyboards. Take extra care keeping communal bathrooms clean.
In addition to all of the above, you should try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This will not prevent you from contracting the virus, but generally being in good health means you are less likely to become seriously ill.
Try to exercise regularly, get lots of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and avoid drinking too much alcohol. If you haven’t been able to get outside in the sun, you can take supplements containing vitamin D – the NHS recommends 10mcg a day if you’re indoors most of the time. Just remember that vitamins and supplements should never be treated as a replacement for a healthy balanced diet.
How can LloydsPharmacy help?
If you’re worried or have any more questions you can speak to a member of your healthcare team for more advice, find your local store now.
If you're showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating you must stay at home. Visit the NHS website or GOV.UK for more guidance.