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When to get medical help and hospital treatment

Last updated: 25 September 2020 at 4.10pm

If COVID-19 symptoms get worse

Phone your GP or out-or-hours GP immediately if symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus) get worse and you:

  • start feeling very unwell, particularly if your breathing changes, becomes difficult, or your cough gets worse
  • feel that you are getting increasinglyshort of breath

If you are very short of breath and cannot reach the GP service, call the emergency services on 112 or 999.

If you are at higher risk from COVID-19

Older people and people with underlying conditions are most at risk of their condition getting worse suddenly.

If you are caring for an older person, watch out for signs of confusion coming on quickly. This can be a sign their condition is getting worse.

If you are at higher risk from COVID-19, you should keep a close eye on your symptoms. Contact your GP straight away if they get worse.

Read about people at higher risk from COVID-19.

Find contact details for a GP in your area

High fever

Contact your GP if you have a very high fever (over 40 degrees Celsius) and you:

  • are still feverish after 3 days of home treatment or seem to be getting sicker
  • are shivering or shaking uncontrollably, or have chattering teeth, and it does not stop within an hour or so
  • have a severe headache that doesn’t get better after taking painkillers
  • are getting confused or are unusually drowsy

Read more about fever in adults


Contact your GP if you have been dehydrated and are now drinking regularly and/or are using oral rehydration sachets and you:

  • are feeling unusually tired
  • are confused and disorientated
  • have any dizziness when you stand and it does not go away
  • have not peed all day
  • have a weak or rapid pulse
  • have fits (seizures)

Read more about dehydration

If you are concerned about any of your symptoms phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Hospital treatment

Around 14% of people who catch COVID-19 will have a more severe illness.

If your symptoms get worse and you feel very unwell you may need to go to hospital.

You will not have to pay any charge if you go to a hospital or emergency department (ED) to be treated for COVID-19.

Treatment at hospital for COVID-19 may include:

  • medication to reduce a fever
  • oxygen therapy

People who have a hard time breathing on their own due to COVID-19 may need a respirator. Life support can be used in extreme cases.

Read more about Intensive Care Units (ICU)

Going home after hospital treatment

You may need to self-isolate when you go home after hospital treatment for COVID-19. Your nurse or doctor will tell you if you need to self-isolate and how many days you should do this.

Try to arrange for someone to care for you when you get home. This is especially important if you need to self-isolate. Your carer can check in on you and do shopping for you.

Read about self-isolation

Recovering after COVID-19

Blood clots

COVID-19 may increase your risk of a blood clot in your leg, lungs or both.

Blood clots are more common in people with COVID-19 who have more severe symptoms and who are being treated in hospital.

There is no evidence that blood clots are more common in other people with COVID-19.

Read more about symptoms of blood clots and how to prevent them

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker app