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When to get medical help and hospital treatment

Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 can be treated at home. But if you are concerned about any of your symptoms, phone your GP.

Urgent advice: Call a GP or out-of-hours GP immediately if

your symptoms of COVID-19 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 increasingly short of breath
  • are showing signs of dehydration

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 if:

  • you are very short of breath and cannot reach the GP service

If you are at higher risk from COVID-19

Older people and people with underlying conditions are most at risk of their conditions 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, keep a close eye on your symptoms. Contact your GP immediately if they get worse.

Read about people at higher risk from COVID-19

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 does not 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 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

Hospital treatment

Some 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.

Treatment at hospital for COVID-19 may include:

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

Intensive Care Units (ICU)

Going home after hospital treatment

After you leave the hospital, you may need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. Your nurse or doctor will tell you this.

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

Advice on recovering from symptoms of 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.

Symptoms of blood clots and how to prevent them

Page last reviewed: 18 April 2023