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 coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you’ve had a positive test result
  • someone you live with has symptoms
  • someone in your extended household has symptoms
  • you’ve been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive

Household isolation will help to control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community and the most vulnerable.

If you're a close contact and an approved critical worker, you may be eligible for exemption from self-isolation if you have no symptoms.

Read Coronavirus (COVID-19): Self-isolation exemption for approved critical workers

When and how long to self-isolate due to coronavirus

Use this guide to find out if you need to self-isolate and for how long. It also gives advice on what your household and extended household should do.

Self-help guide

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Household isolation infographic (PDF, 375 KB)

Testing for coronavirus 

There are test centres across Scotland for people with and without symptoms. Home testing kits may also be available.

How to access testing 

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 10 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 10th day of illness, so these people can return to some of their normal activities at this point but must continue to abide by the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

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
  • contact essential carers to tell them someone in your household has symptoms, so that they can follow the correct procedures to prevent spread of the infection
  • 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 or extended 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

If you are told to self-isolate by Test and Protect you may be eligible for a £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant.

What you can do to help yourself get better

Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. 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 of 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 or family member to run errands on your behalf, including buying groceries, picking up prescriptions or walking your dog.

You can also order your shopping online, but ask them to leave items outside or by your front door. The delivery driver should not come into your home.

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.

National Assistance Helpline

If your friends or family are not able to help, phone the National Assistance Helpline (0800 111 4000).

This helpline is for only for those who have to stay at home but can’t get the help they need through friends or family.

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

If you live with a vulnerable person and it’s not possible to physically distance from them, phone the National Assistance Helpline (0800 111 4000) to discuss your needs.


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.

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 self-isolating. They’ll be able to advise you what to do next.

We have more detailed coronavirus guidance 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 put in your usual external household waste bin

Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.


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 self-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.

If you have to visit a care home, adult hospital, GP practice or pharmacy you must wear a face covering.


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

If you have a carer who visits your home, they need to wear protective equipment to reduce the risk of catching the infection. You may be asked to wear a face mask too.

If necessary, your local carers centre can provide protective equipment to your carer.

Find a carer centre in your area

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.

Looking after your mental wellbeing during coronavirus

Keeping active during coronavirus

Eating well and staying healthy during coronavirus

Advice for supporting your child’s mental health during coronavirus

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

If you stayed at home for 10 days because you had symptoms, you can return to work and your usual activities on the 11th day if you feel better and no longer have a high temperature. You must continue to abide by the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

If you stayed at home for 10 days because you live with someone who had symptoms, you can return to your usual activities on the 11th day as long as you have had no symptoms, and have not had a positive test result. You must continue to abide by the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

Members of any extended household may end household-isolation after 10 days as long as they have had no symptoms, and have not had a positive test result. You must continue to abide by the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

For members of extended households who do not usually share the same home as the person with symptoms, the 10 day period starts from the most recent date of contact with this person during the infectious period.

You may still have a cough or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste for several weeks after the infection clears. You can return to work and your usual activities if you haven’t had a high temperature in 48 hours, without the need for medication to control fever.

If you or someone you live with develops symptoms while self-isolating

If you develop symptoms while self-isolating, you need to stay at home for 10 days from the day your symptoms started. You should do this even if it takes you over the original 10-day self-isolation period.

If someone you live with develops symptoms while self-isolating, they need to stay at home for 10 days from the day their symptoms started. They should do this even if it takes them over the original 10-day self-isolation period.

If your test results or symptoms change, you must use the self-isolation guide above again to reassess how long you need to self-isolate for.

Phone 111 if anyone in your household has symptoms that haven’t improved after 10 days.

Repeating self-isolation or household isolation

If you or anyone in your household or extended household develops new coronavirus symptoms at any point after ending a period of self-isolation then the same guidance on self-isolation and testing should be followed again.

Tested positive for coronavirus and have new symptoms

As this is a new disease, we don’t know how much immunity people develop after an episode of infection, or how long any immunity lasts. 

If you recover from a confirmed case of coronavirus and then go on later to develop new symptoms, follow our self-isolation and household isolation advice again. 

The test can stay positive for some time after you’ve had coronavirus. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re still infectious. If you have had a positive test result, you should only have another test if you develop new symptoms. So, if you are offered testing as part of an occupational testing programme or community mass testing for people without symptoms, you should not take part until 90 days after your last positive test.

Phone 111 if you’re concerned about new symptoms that could be coronavirus.

Further information