What to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19

If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, it’s important to self-isolate to avoid spreading the virus.

Written by spunout


Being able to recognise the symptoms of COVID-19 is important in helping to reduce the spread of the virus. If you experience any symptoms, you will need to self-isolate until 48 hours after your symptoms end.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person, but there are some symptoms that are more common than others. You may not experience all of these symptoms, or your symptoms might be very mild.

In this article:

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

It can take up to two weeks for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear. You may not experience all of the symptoms, or your symptoms could be very mild.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever (high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above)
  • Having the chills
  • A dry cough
  • Fatigue (feeling really tired)

Other symptoms can include:

  • A loss or change to your sense of taste or smell – either you can’t taste or smell anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sore throat
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chills or dizziness

COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath or difficult breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Pain or pressure in the chest

You may not have all of these symptoms, and they can take up to 14 days to appear. Symptoms may vary for different age groups or different variants of the virus.

If you are very short of breath and cannot complete a sentence, call 999 or 112.

What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

People under the age of 55 are no longer required to take a test if they develop symptoms of COVID-19, unless they fall into certain categories. However, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, it is important to self-isolate until 48 hours after your symptoms resolve. You should also wear a medical or respirator mask if you have to be around other people, but try to avoid all contact with others.

Who can book a PCR test for COVID-19?

Only the following groups are eligible for free PCR tests, if they are experiencing symptoms:

  • People over the age of 55 who have not been vaccinated or boosted
  • People with a high-risk medical condition
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • People who live in the same household as a person who is immunocompromised
  • People who provide care or support for person they know to be immunocompromised
  • People who are pregnant

Find out more about getting tested for COVID-19.

What to do if you test positive for COVID-19

There are a number of steps you will need to follow if you have tested positive for COVID-19:

Self-isolate for seven days

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you will need to continue to self-isolate, which means staying in your room and avoiding contact with other people.

You will need to start self-isolating as soon as you notice any symptoms of COVID-19 or when you get a positive COVID-19 test result if you have no symptoms. This is considered ‘day zero’ when counting your days in isolation.

You must self-isolate for seven days from ‘day zero’.

You can end self-isolation if your symptoms have fully resolved or if they are mostly gone after your seven-day isolation period.

Wear a medical or respirator mask

For a period of 10 days since ‘day zero’, you should wear a medical mask (these are usually blue and will have a ‘medical’ label on the box along with a CE mark), or a respirator mask, also known as an FFP2 or FFP3 mask.

The mask should fit snugly on your face with no gaps at the side.

Find out more about the different types of masks.

Limit close contacts after isolation

While isolating you should avoid all close contact with other people, and it is best to limit close contacts for up to 10 days after ‘day zero’. This means that after ending your seven day self-isolation period, you should continue to limit close contacts for three more days. You should especially limit contact with people who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

It is also recommended you take an antigen test before entering crowded spaces or come into close contact with others outside of your household within that time period following isolation. It is best if you work from home during this time if possible.

Can I get vaccinated if I have symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, do not attend your vaccination appointment if you have one scheduled. Instead, you will need to contact the service you booked your vaccine through to request a new appointment date. To request a new appointment, phone your GP, reply to your appointment text with the word ‘New’ or phone HSE Live on 1800 700 700.

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