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Coronavirus and COVID-19

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is short for COronaVIrus Disease 2019. It is a disease that affects the lungs and airways. The coronavirus infection can cause symptoms similar to flu:

  • a new continuous cough – you have started coughing repeatedly
  • high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • loss or change in your normal sense of smell, sometimes called anosmia - this can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked
  • feeling short of breath

For most people the symptoms are mild but some will develop severe breathing problems and other complications. The evidence so far shows that the risk of severe symptoms is higher in people with weakened immune systems, older people and people with long-term conditions, including long-term lung conditions.

Because of how the outbreak is spreading, it’s a good idea to read the latest guidance from the NHS and keep an eye on the updates on the websites for the UK governments and devolved administrations:

Am I at high risk?

You may be at particularly high risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus if you:

  • have a severe lung condition
  • have had a lung or other organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer, such as leukaemia
  • have another serious health condition

People at moderate risk include people who

  • are 70 or over
  • have a long-term lung condition that is not severe
  • take medication that can affect the immune system, such as low doses of steroids
  • are very obese (have a BMI of 40 or above)

Read more about what do if you have symptoms of coronavirus

Recovering from coronavirus?

If you have breathing difficulties after coronavirus, find information and dedicated support for your physical and mental health.

Visit the post-covid hub


What you can read next:

Last updated: Friday 3 July 2020


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We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Last medically reviewed: July 2021. Due for review: July 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.