Symptoms of respiratory infections including COVID-19
This page outlines guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19.
Symptoms of a respiratory infection
The symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections are very similar.
Respiratory infections can spread easily between people.
It is important to be aware of symptoms so you can take action to reduce the risk of spreading your infection to other people.
Vaccines are the best defence against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections such as flu.
Symptoms of respiratory infections including COVID-19:
- continuous cough
- high temperature, fever or chills
- loss of or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
- shortness of breath
- unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
- muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
- not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
- headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual
- sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
- feeling sick or being sick
If you may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments and you have any of these symptoms you should follow the guidance at:
What to do if you have symptoms
COVID-19 testing is no longer recommended for most people if they develop symptoms.
Testing is advised for some specific groups. Only people in these groups can order free lateral flow tests.
If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19 and have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people.
Do this until you no longer have a high temperature (if you had one) or until you feel better.
Work from home if you can. If you can't work from home, talk to your employer about your options.
Avoid close contact with anyone you know to be at higher risk, especially individuals with a weakened immune system.
If you've been invited to a medical or dental appointment in person, tell them about your symptoms before you go.
Do not visit others in a health or social care setting if you have symptoms.
You may wish to ask friends, family or neighbours to get food and other essentials for you.
You should tell people you have recently been in contact with that you're feeling unwell. This means they can be aware of signs or symptoms.
If you are concerned about your symptoms, they are worsening, or you can no longer manage at home, seek medical advice by contacting your GP. In an emergency dial 999.
You can reduce the chance of passing on your infection by:
- wearing a well-fitting face covering, completely covering your nose and mouth
- avoiding crowded places such as public transport, large social gatherings, or anywhere that is enclosed or poorly ventilated
- exercising outdoors in places where you will not have close contact with other people
- covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, and before you eat or handle food
- avoiding touching your face
If you test positive for COVID-19
If you test positive for COVID-19 you should follow the guidance available at:
Children and young people aged 18 and under with symptoms
Respiratory infections are common in children, particularly during the winter months.
Symptoms can be caused by several respiratory infections including the common cold, coronavirus and RespiratorySyncytial Virus (RSV).
It's not recommended that children and young people are tested for coronavirus unless advised to by a healthcare professional. However, children who do test and return a positive result should follow the guidance at:
Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can.
They can go back to school, college or childcare, and resume normal activities when they no longer have a high temperature and they're well enough.
Children and young people who usually go to school, college or childcare and who live with someone who has a positive coronavirus test result should continue to go as normal.
It can be difficult to know when to seek help if your child is unwell. If you are worried about your child, especially if they are under two years old, then you should seek medical help.
How to reduce the spread of respiratory infections
As we learn to live alongside COVID-19, there are actions we can all take to help reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and other respiratory infections and passing these on to others.
Further information is available at:
COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms but for other people it can be more serious and can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or ‘long COVID’.
Long COVID is a term used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after COVID‑19.
It includes both ongoing symptoms of COVID‑19 (four to 12 weeks) and post‑COVID‑19 syndrome (over 12 weeks).
Long COVID symptoms include:
- problems with memory or concentration (‘brain fog’)
- pins and needles
- palpitations or chest pain
- depression or anxiety
How long it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everybody. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer.
The chances of long-term symptoms do not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get COVID-19.
Further information about long COVID is available at the link below:
Getting support if you have long COVID
Consider contacting your GP if you are worried about symptoms four weeks or more after having COVID-19.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they’re having on your life.
They may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.
Your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need and offer advice about how to manage and monitor your symptoms at home.
If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a long COVID assessment or pulmonary rehabilitation service, or to a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.
These services can help manage your symptoms and help you recover. You can find more information to support your recovery at the links below: