How can I reduce my risk of getting coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a virus that affects your lungs and airways. Find out about the symptoms of coronavirus and the steps to take to stop it spreading.  

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a virus that causes an illness called COVID-19. It affects your lungs and airways. For most people, it causes mild symptoms while for others it can be more serious and require hospital treatment.

It’s a new illness, so there’s a lot we don’t know for sure yet, but the Government is making lots of preparations to help contain coronavirus as much as possible.

There are simple, effective things we can all do to reduce our risk of catching COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to other people.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

he symptoms are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath.  

These symptoms are similar to lots of other illnesses, like common colds and flu. If someone has these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean they have coronavirus.

What should I do if I think I have symptoms?

Stay calm, avoid contact with other people, and use the NHS specialist online coronavirus service for advice. Or call NHS 111. You should do this if:

  • you think you might have symptoms of coronavirus
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus
  • you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days.

If you think you have might have coronavirus don’t go to your doctor’s surgery or hospital. If you need to speak to someone, call 111 and they will make arrangements directly for testing and treatment.

I’ve been abroad recently or am planning to go abroad. Should I be worried?

There are some countries and areas where there’s a higher chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus. The Government issues advice on where you should avoid travelling to. 

If you’ve been to a country where there’s a higher risk of coronavirus, there’s specific advice on what you should do.

How can I reduce my risk of getting coronavirus?

One of the most important things you can do to reduce the risk of infection for yourself and the people around you is to wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, with soap and hot water. You should wash your hands more often than you would normally.

You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or for two rounds of the song ‘Happy Birthday’, especially when you get home after going out, before eating or handling food, and after sneezing or blowing your nose.  

You should also make sure you catch coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve – not your hands – and put used tissues in the bin. Then wash your hands.

Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Should I stop going out or seeing people?

The Government hasn’t said we should stop going out or meeting up with other people. Most people can keep doing what they normally do as long as they don’t have symptoms and maintain good hygiene practices like washing their hands regularly. You only need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people (called ‘self-isolating’) if you’ve been advised to by NHS 111 or a medical professional.

If you or someone you know has a weakened immune system (for example, because of an existing health condition), it’s important to ensure you and those you’re in close contact with pay attention to the advice above.

I’m worried about someone. What should I do?

If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to use the NHS online coronavirus service or call 111.

If someone’s been advised to self-isolate, is very worried about going out or decides they’d prefer not to, there are still plenty of things you can do to help.

  • Stay in touch over the phone, by post, online or by popping over for a chat (assuming the person is allowed to have contact with others, and you take the precautions outlined above).
  • See if people need any shopping or help by running some errands.
  • Encourage people to stay active around the house and keep moving.

Content from Ageuk website (

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