When does coronavirus require a hospital visit? And tips on managing the infection at home

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 3:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 3:38 pm

While some cases of coronavirus will require a hospital visit, the majority (around 75 per cent) will be manageable at home.

Here's all you need to know about whether your symptoms require hospital attention.

How do I know if I have coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organisation, (WHO) the most common symptoms of coronavirus are a fever, tiredness and a new, continuous dry cough.

Some people may also experience a runny nose, shortness of breath, a sore throat, aches and pains, nasal congestion and diarrhoea.

Testing is not currently available to everyone in the UK. You will only be tested if you are in hospital or have been living in a residential or care setting where an outbreak has occurred such as a prison or long-term care facility.

As such, you may not be able to absolutely confirm by test whether you have coronavirus.

What do I do if I think I have coronavirus?

If you do suspect you have coronavirus, however, you can head to the NHS's 111 coronavirus online service, which will ask you a few questions to determine whether your symptoms match that of coronavirus and signpost you to any nearby services (if necessary).

You should only call 111 if you cannot get help using the online service.

If you suspect you have coronavirus - especially if you have either a high temperature or a new, continuous cough - you must immediately self-isolate, meaning you must not leave your home for any reason for at least seven days from when your symptoms began.

If after seven days you still have a high temperature, you must remain isolated until your temperature has returned to normal.

The NHS advises that if you still have a cough but no temperature after seven days, you do not need to remain isolated - a cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

If you're living with other people, the entire household must self-isolate for at least 14 days from the day the infected person's symptoms began.

If you get symptoms, you must self-isolate for seven days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you're self-isolating for longer than 14 days.

If you do not get symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 14 days.

How do I know if I need to go to a hospital?

The NHS 111 service will give you advice on what steps to take based on the symptoms you report to them. It is important that you follow the advice they give to keep yourself and others safe.

If your symptoms get worse, you feel you can no longer cope with them at home, or they last longer than seven days, you should call NHS 111 for further advice on what to do.

Do not go to a hospital, pharmacy or GP surgery.

If you are experiencing an emergency situation - i.e. an immediate threat to life - you should call 999 and let the operator know that you have, or suspect you have coronavirus.

How can I manage coronavirus at home?

If you live with other people, it is important to try and minimise cross-contamination. This means, if possible, the person who is ill sleeping in a separate, well-ventilated room.

If possible, they should use a separate bathroom and utensils. Communal areas, items and common touch points (such as door handles) should be regularly and thoroughly cleaned.

If possible, WHO recommends that the ill person and caregiver should wear masks to avoid transmission. These masks should be replaced regularly.

In terms of treating symptoms, you must make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your fluids up, and get plenty of rest.

You can also use over-the-counter cold and flu remedies - such as paracetamol - to treat aches and pains.

Though there is not yet a clear link, some experts have flagged up possible links between taking ibuprofen (and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as asprin) and the likelihood of catching coronavirus or having worse symptoms.

The current advice from the UK government is to err on the side of caution and take paracetamol as a painkiller if you're experiencing symptoms of coronavirus.

If you've been prescribed ibuprofen, however, you should continue taking it.

Cough medicines and throat sweets may also help to ease symptoms.