Latest Guidance Updates
22 June 2023: NICE removed the recommendation on sarilumab, which was not included in this summary. The Guidelines team added several external links to guidance throughout the summary.
29 March 2023: updated recommendations on nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir and remdesivir, and added recommendations on sotrovimab and tocilizumab, in the section Therapeutics for COVID-19.
14 July 2022: added recommendation on vitamin D.
15 June 2022: updated recommendation on ivermectin.
This updated Guidelines summary covers the management of COVID-19 for children, young people, and adults. It brings together NICE's existing recommendations on managing COVID-19 so that healthcare staff and those planning and delivering services can find and use them more easily.
Although this guideline covers management in all care settings, this Guidelines summary only includes recommendations relevant to primary care settings, and therefore does not include recommendations on in-hospital assessment and management of COVID-19, or palliative care. For recommendations in these areas, refer to the full guideline.
Reflecting on your Learnings
Reflection is important for continuous learning and development, and a critical part of the revalidation process for UK healthcare professionals. Click here to access the Guidelines Reflection Record.
Communication and Shared Decision Making
- Communicate with people with COVID-19, and their families and carers, and support their mental wellbeing to help alleviate any anxiety and fear they may have. Signpost to charities and support groups (including NHS Volunteer Responders) to NHS every mind matters.
- Give people information in a way that they can use and understand, to help them take part in decisions about their care. Follow relevant national guidance on communication, providing information (including in different formats and languages) and shared decision making, for example, NICE's guideline on shared decision making and NICE's guideline on patient experience in adult NHS services.
- The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has produced information on COVID-19 and pregnancy for pregnant women and their families.
- Explain to people with COVID-19, and their families, carers and close contacts that they should follow the UK Health Security Agency's guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19.
- For carers of people with COVID-19 who should isolate but are unable to (for example, people with dementia), signpost to relevant support and resources. For example, the Alzheimer's Society has information on staying safe from coronavirus and reducing the risk of infection.
- When possible, discuss the risks, benefits and possible likely outcomes of the treatment options with people with COVID-19, and their families and carers. Use decision support tools (when available).
Assessment in the Community
Identifying Severe COVID-19
- Use the following signs and symptoms to help identify people with COVID-19 with the most severe illness:
- severe shortness of breath at rest or difficulty breathing
- reduced oxygen saturation levels measured by pulse oximetry (see the recommendation on pulse oximetry levels that indicate serious illness, below)
- coughing up blood
- blue lips or face
- feeling cold and clammy with pale or mottled skin
- collapse or fainting (syncope)
- new confusion
- becoming difficult to rouse
- reduced urine output.
- For signs and symptoms to help identify paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS) temporarily associated with COVID-19, see the guidance on PIMS from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
- When pulse oximetry is available in primary and community care settings, to assess the severity of illness and detect early deterioration, use:
- NHS England's guide to pulse oximetry in people 18 years and over with COVID-19
- oxygen saturation levels below 91% in room air at rest in children and young people (17 years and under) with COVID-19.
- Be aware that some pulse oximeters can underestimate or overestimate oxygen saturation levels, especially if the saturation level is borderline. Overestimation has been reported in people with dark skin. For more information about this, see NHS England's guide on how to look after yourself at home if you have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19.
- For more information on pulse oximetry at home, see NHS England's COVID Oximetry @ home service.
- Discuss with people with COVID-19, and their families and carers, the benefits and risks of hospital admission or other acute care delivery services (for example, virtual wards or hospital at home teams).
- Explain that people with COVID-19 may deteriorate rapidly. Discuss future care preferences at the first assessment to give people who do not have existing advance care plans an opportunity to express their preferences.
Management in the Community
- In the community, consider the risks and benefits of face-to-face and remote care for each person. Where the risks of face-to-face care outweigh the benefits, remote care can be optimised by:
- offering telephone or video consultations (see BMJ guidance on Covid-19: a remote assessment in primary care for a useful guide, including a visual summary for remote consultation)
- cutting non-essential face-to-face follow up
- using electronic prescriptions rather than paper
- using different methods to deliver medicines to people, for example, pharmacy deliveries, postal services and NHS volunteers, or introducing drive-through pick-up points for medicines.
- Put treatment escalation plans in place in the community after sensitively discussing treatment expectations and care goals with people with COVID-19, and their families and carers.
- People with COVID-19 may deteriorate rapidly. If it is agreed that the next step is a move to secondary care, ensure that they and their families understand how to access this with the urgency needed. If the next step is other community-based support (whether virtual wards, hospital at home services or palliative care), ensure that they and their families understand how to access these services, both in and out of hours.
- Encourage people with cough to avoid lying on their backs, if possible, because this may make coughing less effective.
- Be aware that older people or those with comorbidities, frailty, impaired immunity or a reduced ability to cough and clear secretions are more likely to develop severe pneumonia. This could lead to respiratory failure and death.
- Use simple measures first, including advising people over 1 year with cough to take honey.
- The dose is 1 teaspoon of honey.
- Consider short-term use of codeine linctus, codeine phosphate tablets or morphine sulfate oral solution in people 18 years and over to suppress coughing if it is distressing. Seek specialist advice for people under 18 years.
- Advise people with COVID-19 and fever to drink fluids regularly to avoid dehydration. Support their families and carers to help when appropriate. Communicate that fluid intake needs can be higher than usual because of fever.
- Advise people to take paracetamol or ibuprofen if they have fever and other symptoms that antipyretics would help treat. Tell them to continue only while both the symptoms of fever and the other symptoms are present.
- People can take paracetamol or ibuprofen when self-medicating for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever (see the Central Alerting System: novel coronavirus - anti-inflammatory medication for further details of ibuprofen including dosage).
- For people 18 years and over, the paracetamol dosage is 1 g orally every 4 to 6 hours (maximum 4 g per day). See the BNF and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency advice for appropriate use and dosage in specific adult populations.
- For children and young people over 1 month and under 18 years, see the dosing information on the pack or the BNF for children.
- Rectal paracetamol, if available, can be used as an alternative. For rectal dosage information, see the BNF and BNF for children.
- Identify and treat reversible causes of breathlessness, for example, pulmonary oedema, pulmonary embolism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and asthma.
- For further information on identifying and managing pulmonary embolism, see the NICE guideline on venous thromboembolic diseases: diagnosis, management and thrombophilia testing.
- When significant medical pathology has been excluded or further investigation is inappropriate, the following may help to manage breathlessness as part of supportive care:
- keeping the room cool
- encouraging relaxation and breathing techniques, and changing body positioning
- encouraging people who are self-isolating alone to improve air circulation by opening a window or door.
- If hypoxia is the likely cause of breathlessness:
- consider a trial of oxygen therapy
- discuss with the person, their family or carer possible transfer to and evaluation in secondary care.
Managing Anxiety, Delirium and Agitation
- Assess reversible causes of delirium. See the NICE guideline on delirium: prevention, diagnosis and management.
- Address reversible causes of anxiety by:
- exploring the person's concerns and anxieties
- explaining to people providing care how they can help.
- Consider trying a benzodiazepine to manage anxiety or agitation. See the practical info table in the full guideline for treatments for managing anxiety, delirium and agitation in people 18 years and over. Seek specialist advice for people under 18 years.
- When supporting people with symptoms of COVID-19 who are having care in the community delivered by social care, follow the NICE guideline on managing medicines for adults receiving social care in the community. This includes processes for ordering and supplying medicines, and transporting, storing and disposing of medicines.
- When prescribing, handling, administering and disposing of medicines in care homes and hospices follow the NICE guideline on managing medicines in care homes.
Therapeutics for COVID-19
For recommendations on the hospital use of casirivimab and imdevimab for COVID-19, refer to the full guideline.
Nirmatrelvir and Ritonavir
- Nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir is recommended as an option for treating COVID-19 in adults, only if they:
- do not need supplemental oxygen for COVID-19 and
- have an increased risk for progression to severe COVID-19, as defined in section 5 of NICE's technology appraisal guidance on casirivimab plus imdevimab, nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir, sotrovimab and tocilizumab.
- Consider a 3-day course of remdesivir for children and young people who weigh at least 40 kg and adults with COVID-19
- do not need supplemental oxygen for COVID-19, and
- are within 7 days of symptom onset, and
- are thought to be at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19. (NHS England's Interim Clinical Commissioning Policy provides a list of people who have been prioritised for treatment with antivirals).
- When assessing the person, take into account likely response to any vaccinations against COVID-19 they have already had, any comorbidities or risk factors, and whether their condition is deteriorating.
- Consider a course of remdesivir (up to 5 days) for people who:
- have COVID-19 pneumonia, and
- are in hospital and need low-flow supplemental oxygen.
- Consider a 5-day course of molnupiravir for adults with COVID-19 who:
- do not need supplemental oxygen for COVID-19, and
- are within 5 days of symptom onset, and
- are thought to be at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19. (NHS England's Interim Clinical Commissioning Policy provides a list of people at who have been prioritised for treatment with antivirals.)
- When assessing the person, take into account their likely response to any vaccinations already given, any comorbidities or risk factors, and whether their condition is deteriorating.
- Do not offer molnupiravir to children and young people aged under 18, or pregnant women.
- Sotrovimab is recommended as an option for treating COVID-19 in adults and young people aged 12 years and over and weighing at least 40 kg, only if:
- they do not need supplemental oxygen for COVID-19 and
- they have an increased risk for progression to severe COVID-19, as defined section 5 of NICE's technology appraisal guidance on casirivimab plus imdevimab, nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir, sotrovimab and tocilizumab and
commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care and
- nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir is contraindicated or unsuitable.
- Sotrovimab is only recommended if the company provides it according to the commercial arrangement.
- Offer dexamethasone, or either hydrocortisone or prednisolone when dexamethasone cannot be used or is unavailable, to people with COVID-19 who:
- need supplemental oxygen to meet their prescribed oxygen saturation levels or
- have a level of hypoxia that needs supplemental oxygen but who are unable to have or tolerate it.
- Continue corticosteroids for up to 10 days unless there is a clear indication to stop early, which includes discharge from hospital or a hospital-supervised virtual COVID ward.
- Being on a hospital-supervised virtual COVID ward is not classed as being discharged from hospital.
- Do not use corticosteroids to treat COVID-19 in people who do not need supplemental oxygen.
- People who need corticosteroids for another medical reason should still have them.
For recommendations on sarilumab, casirivimab, imdevimab, and baricitinib, refer to the full guideline.
- Tocilizumab is recommended, within its marketing authorisation, as an option for treating COVID-19 in adults who:
- are having systemic corticosteroids and
- need supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
- Tocilizumab is only recommended if the company provides it according to the commercial arrangement.
Low Molecular Weight HeparinsFor recommendations on the therapeutic use of low molecular weight heparins, see the section on venous thromboembolism (VTE) prophylaxis in the full guideline.
- Antibiotics should not be used for preventing or treating COVID-19 unless there is clinical suspicion of additional bacterial co-infection. See the sub-section on suspected or confirmed co-infection in the section, Preventing and managing acute complications.
- See also the recommendations on azithromycin and doxycycline in the section on therapeutics for COVID-19.
- Do not use azithromycin to treat COVID-19.
- Only use budesonide to treat COVID-19 as part of a clinical trial.
- People already on budesonide for conditions other than COVID-19 should continue treatment if they test positive for COVID-19.
- Do not use colchicine to treat COVID-19.
- Do not use doxycycline to treat COVID-19 in the community.
- Do not use ivermectin to treat COVID-19 except as part of an ongoing clinical trial.
- Do not use vitamin D to treat COVID-19 except as part of a clinical trial
- For existing UK guidance on taking vitamin D to maintain muscle and bone health, see NHS advice on vitamin D and NICE's COVID-19 rapid guideline on vitamin D.
Ongoing Review of Therapeutics for COVID-19NICE is currently reviewing new and existing therapeutics for treating COVID-19 as part of a living guidelines approach. New and updated recommendations will be published for this guideline as they become available (see Update information | COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing COVID-19 | Guidance | NICE).
Preventing and Managing Acute Complications
Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)
- In people with COVID-19, AKI:
- may be common, but prevalence is uncertain and depends on clinical setting (the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre's report on COVID-19 in critical care provides information on people in critical care who need renal replacement therapy for AKI)
- is associated with an increased risk of dying
- can develop at any time (before, during or after hospital admission)
- may be caused by volume depletion (hypovolaemia), haemodynamic changes, viral infection leading directly to kidney tubular injury, thrombotic vascular processes, glomerular pathology or rhabdomyolysis
- may be associated with haematuria, proteinuria and abnormal serum electrolyte levels (both increased and decreased serum sodium and potassium).
- In people with COVID-19:
- maintaining optimal fluid status (euvolaemia) is difficult but critical to reducing the incidence of AKI
- treatments for COVID-19 may increase the risk of AKI
- treatments for pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of AKI
- fever and increased respiratory rate increase insensible fluid loss.
Assessing and Managing AKI
- The potassium binders patiromer and sodium zirconium cyclosilicate can be used as options alongside standard care for the emergency management of acute life-threatening hyperkalaemia (see NICE's technology appraisal guidance on patiromer and sodium zirconium cyclosilicate for treating hyperkalaemia).
- Monitor people with chronic kidney disease for at least 2 years after AKI, in line with the NICE guideline on chronic kidney disease in adults: assessment and management.
- See guidance on care after hospital discharge in the Royal College of General Practitioners AKI toolkit.
Acute Myocardial InjuryFor recommendations on diagnosing acute myocardial injury, refer to the full guideline.
Managing Myocardial Injury
- For all people with COVID-19 and suspected or confirmed acute myocardial injury:
- monitor in a setting where cardiac or respiratory deterioration can be rapidly identified
- do continuous ECG monitoring
- monitor blood pressure, heart rate and fluid balance.
- For people with a clear diagnosis of myocardial injury:
- seek specialist cardiology advice on treatment, further tests and imaging
- follow local treatment protocols.
- For people with a high clinical suspicion of myocardial injury, but without a clear diagnosis:
- repeat high sensitivity troponin (hs-cTnI or hs-cTnT) measurements and ECG monitoring daily, because dynamic change may help to monitor the course of the illness and establish a clear diagnosis
- seek specialist cardiology advice on further investigations such as transthoracic echocardiography and their frequency.
Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) ProphylaxisFor in-hospital recommendations, refer to the full guideline.
In Hospital-led Acute Care in the Community
- For people with COVID-19 managed in hospital-led acute care in the community settings:
- assess the risks of VTE and bleeding
- consider pharmacological prophylaxis if the risk of VTE outweighs the risk of bleeding.
People with COVID-19 and Additional Risk Factors
- For women with COVID-19 who are pregnant or have given birth within the past 6 weeks, follow the advice on VTE prevention in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy.
Information and Support
- Give people with COVID-19, and their families or carers if appropriate, information about the benefits and risks of VTE prophylaxis.
- See the recommendations on giving information and planning for discharge in the NICE guideline on venous thromboembolism in over 16s, including information on alternatives to heparin for people who have concerns about using animal products.
- Offer people the opportunity to take part in ongoing clinical trials on COVID-19.
Identifying and Managing Co-infections
- Do not offer an antibiotic for preventing or treating pneumonia if SARS-CoV-2, another virus, or a fungal infection is likely to be the cause.
Antibiotic Treatment in the Community
- Do not offer an antibiotic for preventing secondary bacterial pneumonia in people with COVID-19.
- If a person has suspected or confirmed secondary bacterial pneumonia, start antibiotic treatment as soon as possible. Take into account any different methods needed to deliver medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic (see the recommendation on minimising face-to-face contact in communication and shared decision making in the section Communication and shared decision making).
- For antibiotic choices to treat community-acquired pneumonia caused by a secondary bacterial infection, see the recommendations on choice of antibiotic in the NICE antimicrobial prescribing guideline on community-acquired pneumonia.
- Advise people to seek medical help without delay if their symptoms do not improve as expected, or worsen rapidly or significantly, whether they are taking an antibiotic or not.
- On reassessment, reconsider whether the person has signs and symptoms of more severe illness (see the recommendation on signs and symptoms to help identify people with COVID-19 with the most severe illness in the section Communication and shared decision making) and whether to refer them to hospital, other acute community support services or palliative care services.
For recommendations on antibiotic treatment in hospital; COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis; discharge, follow up, and rehabilitation; identifying secondary bacterial pneumonia; and palliative care, refer to the full guideline.