Self-isolation means you shouldn’t leave your house because you have one or more of the following symptoms of COVID-19:
- New, continuous cough
- High temperature
- Loss or change to your smell or taste.
For people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions, COVID-19 can be serious and even fatal. Self-isolating helps stop the spread of the virus to these vulnerable populations, even if your symptoms are mild. If you think you have Covid, order a free PCR test as soon as possible.
If you’ve had one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you must still self-isolate. It’s possible to catch COVID-19 and spread it to others even if you are fully vaccinated.
How long should I self-isolate?
Your self-isolation period begins immediately when your symptoms start (or from the day you received your positive PCR or antigen test result if you are asymptomatic) and lasts for five full days. Cough and loss of smell and taste can last for up to several weeks after you’ve recovered from COVID-19, so if after five days you feel better and your lateral flow tests on day five and day six are negative, you can go back to your normal routine. If you still have a high fever, stay at home and call 111 or your GP for advice.
If you live with someone who has symptoms, take all precautionary measures and assume they have Covid until they take a test. If you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to self-isolate, but you should take lateral flow tests every day for seven days. If you’re not vaccinated, you should self-isolate for the full 10 days.
How to self-isolate?
Self-isolating means staying at home. The self-isolation rules indicate you should:
- Not go to work, school or public areas, including routine medical appointments
- Not use public transport or taxis
- Not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
- Not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone to drop them off at your home. Ask them to leave things outside your house to minimise contact
- Not go out to exercise – you can use your garden if you have one or exercise at home.
If you have symptoms and live with a vulnerable person
If you live with someone aged 70 or older, has a chronic condition, is pregnant, or has a weakened immune system, try to arrange for them to stay with friends or family for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, you should:
- Try to keep two metres (three steps) away from each other
- Avoid using shared spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms, at the same time
- Open windows in shared spaces, if possible
- Clean a shared bathroom each time you use it by wiping the surfaces you have touched
- Use a dishwasher if you have one – if you don’t have one, use washing-up liquid and warm water and dry everything thoroughly
- Not share a bed, if possible
- Not share towels, including hand and tea towels.
Reducing the spread of infection in your house
While you’re in self-isolation, you should:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- Clean objects and surfaces you touch often (like door handles, kettles and phones) using your regular cleaning products.
Looking after your health and wellbeing
To help yourself stay well while you’re self-isolating:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated – enough so your pee is pale and clear
- Take paracetamol to help ease your symptoms
- Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media to help you avoid feeling low or lonely
- Try to keep yourself busy – you could try cooking, reading, online learning and watching films
- If you feel well enough, do some light exercise.
You can read the NHS’s advice about mental health and wellbeing and see their page on easy exercises you can do at home.
What to do if you need medical help and you have to stay at home
If you notice symptoms not related to Coronavirus and need medical help:
- Don’t go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
- If it isn’t an emergency, use the NHS 111 online service or call 111. If it’s an emergency, call 999 and tell the call handler you might have Covid.
Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:
- You feel you can’t cope with your symptoms at home
- Your condition gets worse.
Use the online 111 coronavirus service – only call 111 if you can’t get help online.
St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is not a testing or treatment facility for Coronavirus. If you have symptoms of a cough and/or fever, please don’t visit – stay at home.
Our services remain open throughout the pandemic. For appointments with a GP or Consultant, please call us on 020 7806 4000.