Preparing to self-isolate

Dr Dominique Thompson

Dr Dominique Thompson is an award-winning former university GP, young people's mental health expert, TEDx speaker, author and educator, with two decades of clinical experience.She is a Clinical Advisor for NICE, RCGP and Student Minds.

Given the scale of the current pandemic, it’s possible that you’ll have to self-isolate during this academic year. While it’s natural that you may be concerned about this prospect, the following tips will help you to be prepared to make the best of this experience.

Having to self-isolate is obviously not ideal, but accepting the reality that you may have to self isolate, will help you to plan for it and feel better about it, if it does happen. Some simple preparation can really make a difference in how you experience self isolation. You may want to try some of the steps listed below.

7 Steps to prepare for self-isolation

  1. Your university should have a policy about self-isolation. Have it saved somewhere so that you can refer to it, if you need to self isolate. Make sure that you’re also up to date on government guidance. Remember it can change and vary from area to area, so if you do need to self-isolate, check the current guidelines where you are.
  2. Make sure that you’re registered at a university GP or a local GP. If you have moved away from home to go to university, you do need to move your registration to a GP near your university. Otherwise being able to access healthcare and testing will be more difficult, if you become ill or are in contact with someone who is ill.
  3. Save the contact details of university staff that you may need to inform that you are self isolating. This may include your tutor or academic department, and accommodation and wellbeing teams.
  4. Create a buddy network to keep yourself safe. If you need to self isolate, tell your family,friends and/or carers. You can plan when they will check on you. Don’t feel awkward asking, it’s all part of living in a university community in 2020! If you don’t feel you have anyone close to you, who can check up when you are ill, it may be worth trying to create a social media group, with fellow students, with a promise that you will all check in with each other, if needed.
  5. Try to make sure that you have all the things you’ll need if you have to self-isolate. This includes a 2 week supply of food, as well as over-the-counter and prescription medication. Keep a clean set of bedding, if possible and a supply of clean clothes, as you may not have access to laundry facilities.
  6. Think about how you’ll arrange for extra supplies that you might need during the self-isolation period. This might be through your buddy network, or your university may be able to help.
  7. If you start to feel unwell, let your buddy network know and contact the NHS 111 online service for advice about coronavirus, or contact your GP practice for all other health concerns.

When you should self-isolate

The symptoms which indicate possible coronavirus and require action are:

  • A new continuous cough
  • A high temperature
  • A loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste, or smell.

If you have any of these symptoms you will need to self-isolate immediately, and have a test for the virus.

Your university may be able to arrange a free test - otherwise, get a free NHS test.

Avoid contact with people who are clinically vulnerable or shielding.