Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection

It’s very important that you stay at home if you have symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 or you live with someone that has symptoms. Household isolation will help to control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community and the most vulnerable.

Follow this advice if you:

  • have symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 but don’t need hospital treatment
  • live with someone who has symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19

If you live alone

If you live alone you should stay at home for 7 days from the day your symptoms started. This will reduce the risk of you infecting others.

If you live with others

If you live with others, the person who has symptoms should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms started. All other household members should isolate as a household for 14 days even if they don’t have symptoms themselves. The 14-day period starts from the first day the person had symptoms.

If others develop symptoms within the 14 days, they need to stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms started. They should do this even if it takes them over the 14-day isolation period.

If you have children, keep following the self-isolation advice where possible. You can find advice about staying at home with children through Parent Club.

Passing on the infection

It’s likely that people living within a household will infect each other or may already be infected. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the risk of the household passing the infection to others in the community.

Evidence suggests that people who develop symptoms are very unlikely to pose an infection risk to other people beyond the 7th day of illness, so these people can return to some of their normal activities at this point but must continue to abide by the advice for everyone to stay at home that has been issued by the Government to the entire population.

People they have been in close contact with (such as those living in the same household) may pick up the virus but not show any symptoms for up to 14 days. These people are asked to isolate for 14 days so that they are sure they are not going to get ill and pass the illness on to others outside the household.

What to consider

If you have to isolate as a household:

  • plan ahead and ask others for help to make sure you can stay at home successfully
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help you get the things you need to stay at home
  • stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people in your home whenever possible
  • sleep alone if possible
  • wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds regularly
  • stay away from the elderly and those with underlying health conditions as much as possible
  • consider whether older people and those with underlying health conditions can stay in another house while you need to stay at home
  • make sure that you keep in touch with friends and family by phone or through social media

What we mean by household isolation

Household isolation means you and all household members should remain at home and shouldn’t go to work, school, public areas or use public transport. You shouldn’t go out to buy food or other essentials.

Avoid close contact with others by:

  • not having visitors
  • not using taxis or public transport
  • asking a friend or neighbour to get your shopping or arranging for a delivery to be left at your door
  • not sharing towels, clothes, toothbrushes or razors

The 14-day period starts from the day the first person in your house became ill.

Make a plan for your household or family

The best thing you can do now is plan for how you can adapt your daily routine, and that of others in your household.

Your plan might include:

  • talking to your neighbours and family and exchanging phone numbers of household contacts
  • making a plan for those in your home who are considered vulnerable.
  • creating a contact list with phone numbers of neighbours, schools, employer, pharmacist and your GP
  • setting up online shopping accounts if possible
  • ensuring adequate supplies of any regular medication, but do not over-order.
  • Talking to any children or young people in your household as they may be worried about COVID-19

What you can do to help yourself get better

Drink water to keep yourself hydrated; you should drink enough during the day so your urine (pee) is a pale clear colour. You can use over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol, to help with some of your symptoms. Use these according to the instructions on the packet or label and do not exceed the recommended dose.

Wash your hands regularly

Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds regularly, this will help protect you and others around you from passing on any infection. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands aren’t visibly dirty.

Dry your hands using a separate towel from other people.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Cover your coughs and sneezes

Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into the crook of your elbow and not in your hand.

Dispose your tissues in a disposable rubbish bag and wash your hands immediately with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser.

Stay away from others

Separate yourself from other people in your home and keep the door closed. If you can’t stay in a separate room, try to stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from the other people.

Stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened. Try to keep the window open as much as possible to help with ventilation and air flow. This will help to keep clean air moving through your room.

Each person should:

  • sleep in a different bed where possible
  • use their own toothbrushes, towels, linen, cups, plates, bowls and cutlery
  • take meals to their own room to eat

Shared living spaces

Spend as little time as possible in your kitchen, bathrooms and sitting areas and keep these areas well ventilated. This is especially important for vulnerable family members.

If you can, use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. If you share a kitchen, avoid using it while others are present.

If you share a toilet and bathroom, wipe any surfaces you come in contact and clean it after every use with a household detergent that’s active against viruses and bacteria.

Use a dishwasher if you have one. If you don’t have a dishwasher, wash your plates and cutlery using washing up liquid and warm water, and dry them thoroughly with a separate tea towel.

Collecting shopping and prescriptions

If possible, ask a friend, family member or delivery services to run errands on your behalf.

Pharmacies can often arrange to deliver repeat prescriptions if you run out while you remain at home. Other people can collect a prescription on your behalf.

If you live with an older, vulnerable person

Vulnerable family members should spend as little time as possible in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas. You should keep these spaces well ventilated.

The vulnerable person should:

  • keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from you and others in your household
  • sleep in a different bed where possible
  • use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household
  • use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes
  • take their meals back to their room to eat if they can

The rest of the household should:

  • clean any shared toilets and bathrooms every time you use them, for example wiping surfaces you have come into contact with
  • consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with the vulnerable person using the facilities first
  • avoid using the kitchen while they are present.
  • use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery
  • wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water if you don’t have a dishwasher
  • dry all crockery and cutlery thoroughly, and use a separate tea towel if the vulnerable person is using their own utensils

Breastfeeding

There’s currently no evidence the virus can be spread through breast milk. However, you can still spread the infection by close contact with your baby.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of spreading the infection to your baby. This will be an individual decision and can be discussed with your midwife, health visitor or GP by phone.

If you or a family member are feeding with formula or expressed milk, you should sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You shouldn't share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.

Late stages of pregnancy

If you think you’re in labour, phone your maternity unit and tell them you think you’re in labour but have been staying at home because of symptoms of COVID-19 infection. They’ll be able to advise you what to do next.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has more detailed guidance about COVID-19 for people who are pregnant

Cleaning products

Clean all surfaces every day with a household cleaner that’s active against viruses and bacteria, this is important if you have an older or vulnerable person in your household. Pay special attention to frequently touched areas. Usual household products like detergents and bleach are effective.

Wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning surfaces and handling clothing and bedding.

Waste disposal

You can securely store personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths within disposable rubbish bags. These should be:

  • placed into another bag
  • tied securely
  • kept separate from other waste in your room
  • put aside for at least 72 hours before being putting in your usual external household waste bin

Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.

Laundry

Don’t shake dirty laundry as this can spread the virus through the air.

Wash laundry using the highest temperature setting indicated on the garment care label. Where possible, wash laundry separately from other people living in your household.

If you don’t have a washing machine, wait a further 3 days after your isolation period has ended to take your laundry to a launderette.

Medical or dental treatment

Everyone following household isolation advice should postpone any non-essential healthcare appointments including medical, dental or optician appointments.

If you’re concerned or have been asked to attend an appointment while you’ve to stay at home, discuss this with your GP, local hospital or outpatient service using the number they’ve provided.

Travel

As you have to stay at home you can’t travel. You can re-arrange your travel for a date after you've self-isolated.

If you have travel insurance, contact your insurer and explain that you’ll not be able to travel for health reasons.

Face masks

Face masks aren’t effective at preventing the spread of the infection.

They are important in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of their benefit outside these settings. However, if you have a carer you may be asked to wear a mask to minimise the risk to them.

Looking after your wellbeing

Staying at home for a prolonged period of time can be difficult. It can be frustrating and lonely for some people and you may feel low, particularly if you have limited room or access to outdoor space.

It’s important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if and when you need it. Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media.

Think about things you can do during your time at home, such as cooking, reading, online learning or watching films. If you feel well enough you can take part in light exercise within your home or garden.

When you are feeling better, remember that physical exercise can be good for your wellbeing. Look for online classes or courses that can help you take light exercise in your home.

After staying at home (self-isolating and household isolation)

If you stayed at home for 7 days because you had symptoms, you can return to work and your usual activities on the 8th day if you feel better and no longer have a high temperature. You must continue to abide by the advice for everyone to stay at home that has been issued by the Government to the entire population.

If you stayed at home for 14 days because you live with someone who had symptoms, you can return to your usual activities on the 15th day as long as you have no symptoms. You must continue to abide by the advice for everyone to stay at home that has been issued by Government to the entire population. If you become unwell within the 14 days you should isolate for 7 days from the day your symptoms started. You should do this even if it takes you over the 14-day isolation period.

If anyone in your household has symptoms that haven’t improved after 7 days, phone 111.

Further information