What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

We explain what coronavirus (COVID-19) is, and what you should do if you have symptoms.

If you have any questions or worries about coronavirus and how this may affect you and your treatment, you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a type of virus called a coronavirus. It is a virus that affects your lungs and can cause long term damage to other organs as well. Long term damage is called long COVID. It is very infectious, which means it can spread quickly from one person to another.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual
  • a change to or loss of your normal sense of taste or smell
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness).

Other symptoms include:

  • blocked nose
  • conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pain
  • different types of skin rash
  • feeling and being sick
  • diarrhea (runny poo)
  • chills or dizziness.

Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms. But people with no symptoms can still infect others. So it is still very important to be careful.

Read more about the symptoms on the NHS and World Health Organisation websites.

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, stay at home (self-isolate). How long you need to isolate for varies slightly depending on where you live. Read more about this on the NHS, NHS Inform, Welsh government and nidirect websites.

Taking a test

Free tests are not available in England unless:

Tests are available in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and for some people in Wales

Read more about tests on the NHS website.

If the test result is positive this means you have coronavirus, and you should continue to self-isolate. Although this is no longer a legal requirement in England, it is still recommended. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you should self-isolate, and follow the guidance.

What if I’ve been in contact with someone with COVID?

If someone you have been in close contact with recently tests positive for coronavirus, there is slightly different guidance, depending on where you live:

Where to find more information about coronavirus

There is a lot of information available from the NHS and government about coronavirus.

Updated: 5 April 2022