What to do if you have Covid: Symptoms, tests and can you go to work or school?


A woman looks out her windowImage source, Getty Images

The latest Covid booster campaign is under way across the UK and those who qualify are urged to get jabbed as soon as possible.

No Covid restrictions are in place across the UK but guidance recommends people who catch the virus “should try to stay at home”.

What are the Covid symptoms?

  • high temperature, fever or chills
  • continuous cough
  • loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • aching body
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

Most people feel better within a few days or weeks – but for some, it can be more serious.

Those concerned their or their child’s symptoms are worsening should request an urgent GP appointment or help from NHS 111.

What about long Covid?

  • extreme tiredness
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • memory and concentration problems (“brain fog”)

Some people have developed long Covid after an initial mild infection.

Where can you get a Covid test?

Routine Covid testing is not recommended, and most people can’t get free tests via the NHS.

  • have a health condition that makes you eligible for treatment if you test positive
  • work in healthcare or a hospice

You can buy a test for about £2 from High Street and online chemists. But you cannot report these test results to the NHS.

Do you have to isolate after testing positive?

People are largely advised to treat Covid like any other respiratory disease. You no longer have to self-isolate after testing positive.

Image source, Getty Images

However, the government recommends trying to stay home for five days – or three for under-18s, as younger people tend to be infectious for a shorter period.

People at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid who have been told they are entitled to treatments if they catch it must report their test result so the NHS can contact them about their options.

How long are you contagious?

Some people are infectious for about five days but others may be contagious for up to 10.

Those who have a high temperature or still feel unwell after five days are advised to stay home if they can until they:

  • feel well enough for your normal activities
  • no longer have a high temperature

Can you go to work with Covid?

You don’t have to tell your employer you have Covid.

However, you are asked to avoid contact with others for five days, which means you should work from home if you can, especially if you have a high temperature.

The specific schemes offering financial support to those isolating during the pandemic have ended.

Image source, Thinkstock

Can children go to school with Covid?

Under-18s who test positive for Covid are advised to stay at home for three days.

Who can have a Covid jab?

For most people, vaccinations are now available only as part of a seasonal rollout. You cannot buy them privately in the UK.

The 2023 autumn booster campaign is targeting:

  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • over-65s
  • people aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • front-line health and social-care workers
  • 12-64-year-olds who are household contacts of people with weakened immune systems
  • 16-64-year-olds who are carers or work in care homes for older adults
  • pregnant women

The NHS is contacting eligible people. Those in England who qualify can also book their jabs through the NHS website, the NHS app or by calling 119.

How long after having Covid can you have a jab?

Wait at least four weeks after a positive test, even if you had no symptoms.

Do not have a jab if you have a severe illness or high fever.

The vaccines do not infect people with Covid and cannot cause positive test results.


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