How Covid-19 is spread
Covid-19 spreads very easily through close contact with people who have the virus.
When someone with Covid-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release small droplets containing the virus. You can catch it by breathing in these droplets or touching surfaces covered in them.
You are more likely to catch it indoors and in crowded places.
You can still catch or spread Covid-19 if you:
- do not have symptoms
- are fully vaccinated
- have had the virus before
Many people will no longer be infectious to others after five days, but you can be infectious for up to ten days.
Avoid catching and spreading Covid-19
- get vaccinated against Covid-19
- wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day, especially after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose, and before you eat or handle food
- cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and encourage children to do this
- regularly clean surfaces you touch often (such as door handles and remote controls) and in shared spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms
- think about wearing a face covering that fits snugly against your face and has more than 1 layer if you're in close contact with other people, or in crowded places
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
If you're at increased risk from Covid-19
If you or your child are at increased risk of getting ill from Covid-19, there are extra steps you might want to take to help reduce your chance of catching it.
Try to avoid contact with people who have symptoms of Covid-19 until they feel better, or until 10 days after they tested positive.
You may also want to:
- open windows and doors if you meet people inside, or meet them outside instead
- stay at least 2 metres away from people (particularly indoors or in crowded places)
- work from home if you can, or talk to your employer about how they can help reduce your risk at work
- wear a face covering when it's hard to stay away from other people
- think about asking people to wear a face covering or take a rapid lateral flow test if you're meeting them inside
You may be at increased risk of getting ill from Covid-19 if you're pregnant, aged 60 or over, or have a weakened immune system due to a health condition or because of a medical treatment. If you're not sure, speak to your GP or specialist.
How to look after yourself at home if you have Covid-19 or symptoms of Covid-19
Most people with Covid-19 will have mild symptoms and feel better within a few weeks.
You may be able to look after yourself at home while you recover.
People at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 may be eligible for treatments.
How to treat Covid-19 symptoms at home
Treating a high temperature
If you have a cough, it's best to avoid lying on your back. Lie on your side or sit upright instead.
To help ease a cough, try having a teaspoon of honey. But do not give honey to babies under 12 months.
If this does not help, you could contact a pharmacist for advice about cough treatments.
Things to try if you're feeling breathless
If you're feeling breathless, it can help to keep your room cool.
Try turning the heating down or opening a window. Do not use a fan as it may spread the virus.
You could also try:
- breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, with your lips together like you're gently blowing out a candle
- sitting upright in a chair
- relaxing your shoulders, so you're not hunched
- leaning forward slightly – support yourself by putting your hands on your knees or on something stable like a chair
Try not to panic if you're feeling breathless. This can make it worse.
How to avoid passing Covid-19 on to others
If you have symptoms of Covid-19 or have tested positive, there are things you can do to help you avoid passing it on to other people, including those you live with:
- try to work from home if you can – if you're unable to work from home, ask your employer about options available to you
- try to stay away from other people, including those you live with, until you feel better
- wear a face covering that fits snugly against your face and has more than 1 layer when you are in shared rooms, or if you need to leave your home
- keep windows open for at least 10 minutes after you have left shared rooms to let in fresh air
- do any exercise outdoors and where you will not be in close contact with other people
- let people who need to come into your home know that you’ve tested positive or have symptoms
- think about asking friends, family or neighbours to get food and other essentials for you
- avoid indoor or crowded places (including public transport or large social gatherings) or places where there is not much fresh air if you need to leave your home
- let any healthcare professionals know about your positive test result or symptoms if you’re asked to attend an appointment in person