FAQs

COVID-19

With so much information available about COVID-19, it can be confusing and difficult to understand. We've compiled our most frequently asked questions for people living with or caring for someone with a lung condition, and for the general community. This information is based on government and expert health advice.

About COVID-19

  • How does the COVID-19 virus spread?

    The COVID-19 virus spreads via small liquid particles from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, speak or breathe. Evidence suggests it spreads between people who are in close contact, which is why social distancing is important. The virus can also be spread in crowded indoor spaces and poorly ventilated spaces and via surfaces that have been touched and contaminated with liquid particles from an infected person. If you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose you can contract the virus, that’s why cleaning regularly touched surfaces and maintaining good hand hygiene is really important.

  • What can I do to protect myself and others?

    There are steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. These include:

    • Getting vaccinated
    • Practicing social distancing
    • Wearing a mask
    • Practicing good hand hygiene
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissue and sanitise or wash your hands after
    • Avoid frequently touched surfaces when in public.
  • What is a ‘vulnerable person’?

    There are a range of factors that can make you more ‘vulnerable’ to serious illness if you contract COVID-19. This includes age (particularly those over 70 years), those with a pre-existing health condition, people who are immunocompromised, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and pregnant women. If you are at increased risk of serious illness, speak to your healthcare team about developing an action plan to keep yourself safe and so you know what to do if you do contract the virus.

  • What is long COVID?

    While most people will recover completely within a few weeks after contracting COVID-19, some people will continue to experience symptoms. This is called ‘long COVID’ which can last for weeks and months. Symptoms of long COVID can include tiredness, difficulty breathing, a persistent cough, fever, headaches and chest pain. Many long-term effects from COVID-19 are still unknown, that’s why it’s important to do everything you can to protect yourself. If you’ve had COVID-19 and are experiencing persistent symptoms weeks or months after the initial infection, speak to your GP.

Vaccines

  • Why should I be vaccinated against COVID-19?

    The COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself and others, reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, slow the spread of the virus and protect those who can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons. All Australians aged 5 years and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Boosters are available to anyone who received their second dose of the vaccine at least 4 months ago.

    It’s important to talk to your healthcare team about getting vaccinated, particularly ahead of winter, so they can provide advice based on your personal circumstances and medical history. Read more about the vaccination program, including how and where you can make a booking, here.

  • How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

    Like many vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine trains your immune system to recognise a virus as dangerous and fight it – in this case the one that causes COVID-19. The vaccine works in the same way that other vaccines you may already receive do, such as influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia. There are several COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia. Some contain either inactive or weakened versions of the virus that causes the infection, while others teach our bodies how to make a protein that triggers an immune response in our bodies. However, they are all designed to allow your body to develop a supply of defensive white blood cells that will remember how to fight the virus. This process can take a few weeks, so it is still possible to become unwell if you are infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after receiving the vaccine. Read more about the current approved COVID-19 vaccines via the Department of Health website.

  • Do I need a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

    The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisations (ATAGI) recommend a 3rd primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Australians aged 18 and over. This is important ahead of winter, particularly for people with risk factors for severe disease, including people over 60, those with underlying medical conditions, people in aged/disability care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The 3rd dose is intended to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection, severe illness and death from COVID-19. ATAGI advises that there is strong evidence suggesting that booster doses may enhance protection against the Omicron variant. It is recommended that you receive a booster a certain time period after you receive the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about current eligibility criteria, here.

    As winter approaches, it’s important to ensure you’re protected against the COVID-19 virus, particularly if you’re at risk of severe illness from the virus. If you haven’t received an initial booster dose and are currently eligible, speak to your GP about getting vaccinated. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss vaccination against influenza, and pneumococcal pneumonia if indicated, ahead of winter.

    The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends an additional booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for groups who are greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-1i including:

    • Adults aged 65 years and older
    • Residents of aged care and disability care facilities
    • People aged 16+ who are severely immunocompromised including those receiving immunosuppressive therapies.

    The additional winter booster can be given 4 months or longer after receiving the first booster dose, or 4 months after contracting COVID-19 if you became infected after receiving the first COVID-19 booster dose. For more information, visit the Department of Health website here.

  • Can children be vaccinated against COVID-19?

    All Australians over the age of 5 can now be vaccinated against COVID-19. This is particularly important for household contacts of healthcare workers, quarantine and border workers and other at-risk occupational groups, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and those with underlying medical conditions. Talk to your GP if you have any specific questions or concerns about vaccinating your child.

Managing my lung condition

  • How can I help my family/friends understand what I need to feel safe during this time?

    It’s important you put your health first and this might mean talking to your friends and family about what you need from them during this time. While it’s important to maintain social connections for your overall health, you may choose to limit your outings and prefer not to have visitors in your home during this time. Talk to your loved ones about what they can do to make you feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Remember there are lots of ways you can stay connected from afar. Try to schedule a regular phone call or video chat with a family member or friend so you have something to look forward to. If people need to visit your home, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly on arriving, maintain physical distance from you and avoid touching anything unnecessarily.

    We’ve developed a poster that you can hang on your front door as a reminder to anyone who might be entering your home. Download now. 

  • Should I delay my regular appointments during this time?

    It’s important that you maintain your usual healthcare to manage your lung condition during this time. If you’re unable to attend a face-to-face appointment you should discuss with your GP or specialist having your appointments via telephone or video call.

    If you need to attend a health facility for a scan or to access treatment, you should discuss the best option with your treating healthcare team.

    Read more about managing your condition during this time, here.

  • Can I access home delivery services for my medication and treatment?

    The Home Medicines Service is a free delivery service available for people in home isolation and high-risk communities such as people with a chronic health condition or who are immunocompromised. Read more about the eligibility criteria and how you can access the service, here.

In the household

  • How can I keep my household safe?

    There are things you can do to reduce the risk of bringing the COVID-19 virus into your home. These include washing your hands thoroughly when arriving, reducing visitors to your home and ensuring you clean any items before bringing them into your home. It’s also important to regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops. For more information about reducing the spread in your home, visit our ‘Preventing the spread’ information, here.

  • Can I have visitors to my home?

    With rising case numbers across Australia, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and to feel safe during this time. Being extra cautious and risk adverse may increase feelings of isolation but taking steps to feel comfortable should be your highest priority. You may be required to have people in your home to provide services or care, or you may choose to have family or friends visit your home. Before doing so, you should check the latest local government advice and restrictions. Ensuring any visitor to your home practices good hand hygiene, social distancing and wears a mask can help to reduce potential risk of infection. Read more about keeping yourself safe at home, here.

    Download our free Door Poster as a gentle reminder to anyone visiting your home about the things they can do to help keep you safe.

  • What should I do if someone in my household tests positive?

    If someone in your household tests positive to COVID-19, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of the virus spreading to other household members. HealthDirect has great information and resources on preparing your home, how to isolate, support services and caring for others.

  • What should I do if I live with or care for someone who is at high-risk of a severe case of COVID-19?

    Living with or caring for someone who is at increased risk can heighten feelings of  fear and anxiety. Taking extra care to maintain COVID-safe practices, such as good hygiene, can help reduce the risk of infection within the home. Being prepared for someone in your household to test positive is going to help you to feel more comfortable and confident if it happens. Develop an action plan together that includes how the person who is positive will isolate within the home, who in your support network (such a family or neighbours) can check in and drop off supplies, what supplies you can ensure you have on-hand and some activities to keep you occupied if you need to isolate.

    If possible, you should opt to use different bathrooms, sleep in different bedrooms and avoid using common areas at the same time. Ensuring you thoroughly clean regularly used surfaces and items will help to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Testing

  • When should I get a test?

    Government recommendations and processes around testing are evolving as the situation in Australia changes – these also vary state-by-state. You should be tested for COVID-19 if you:

    • Have COVID-19 symptoms
    • Are a close contact of someone who has tested positive
    • Have been advised by a health professional.

    You are not required to get a COVID-19 test if you:

    • Don’t have symptoms
    • Are seeking treatment in a public hospital
    • Are travelling to the ACT, NSW, SA or VIC.
  • What type of test should I have?

    There are two types of tests that can detect COVID-19. A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

    Testing using a PCR is conducted at facilities across the country. You should attend a testing facility if you have symptoms or are a close contact.

    Alternatively, RATs can be used at home to self-test for the COVID-19 virus. These tests are now recommended in several states and territories and can be purchased from participating pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets. If you have a concession card, you are eligible to 10 free RATs from a pharmacy over a 3-month period. Read more about testing for COVID-19, here.

  • Where can I get a test?

    You can visit a testing facility or, if you have access to a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), you can complete this at home. It’s important that you do not go out to purchase a RAT if you are experiencing symptoms or suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19. If this is the case, you should visit a testing facility or ask someone to buy a RAT and deliver it to you. Home testing is available in some jurisdictions. You should visit your local government website for more information.

    Concession card holders are eligible to receive 10 free RATs over three months through the government’s Concessional Access Program. These are available through participating community pharmacies. You will only be able to access a maximum of 5 tests in any month of the program. Find out more about the program, here.

Contracting COVID-19

  • What should I do if I test positive to COVID-19?

    If you test positive for COVID-19 you must immediately isolate and let any close contacts know that you have COVID-19. If your symptoms are mild you can look after yourself at home with rest, hydration and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. You should monitor your symptoms using the Healthdirect symptom checker to know if you should seek medical help if they worsen.

    The Australian Government has worked with Healthdirect (1800 022 222) to develop a national assessment, triage and notification infrastructure. This will connect people who test positive with the appropriate level of care and advice based on guidelines developed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (soon to be available in multiple community languages).

    This service – which already provides the National Coronavirus Hotline, symptom checker and a range of online resources – will be the point of contact for anyone with a positive COVID-19 result to receive assessment, information on what to do and can connect you to appropriate care. If your symptoms worsen you should seek medical attention.

    If you tested positive at a testing facility your result will be recorded. If you took a Rapid Antigen Test and returned a positive result, you need to let health authorities know through the process outlined by your local government.

  • When should I seek medical attention?

    Most people will experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. If you develop severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in your chest, cold and clammy skin, fainting or collapsing, or coughing up blood, you should seek urgent medical attention. Use the HealthDirect symptom checker if you’re unsure when to seek medical attention.

  • What treatment options are available for COVID-19?

    If you have mild COVID-19 symptoms, you can manage these at home with rest, hydration and over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

    There are a number of treatment options for COVID-19 that have been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA is also currently evaluating a range of other treatment options. Read more via the Department of Health website, here.

  • Can I still go to the shops for essential supplies and access healthcare if I’ve tested positive?

    If you have tested positive for COVID-19 you must isolate. This means you cannot leave your home to attend work, school, shops, pharmacies or visit other households. You also cannot use public transport or ride-share services.

    If you have an appointment that you can’t miss (eg doctor, family violence service or police), you must advise them that you have COVID-19 before attending.

  • How can I access essential supplies if I’ve tested positive to COVID-19?

    If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 you must isolate. Where possible, you can access home delivery services for essentials like groceries and medication. You can check your eligibility for the free Home Medicines Service here. If possible, you should ask a family member, friend or neighbour to pick up supplies for you and deliver them safely.

  • Can I still work if I’ve tested positive?

    If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 you must isolate. If you’re able to work from home and you’re well enough, you can continue to work while isolating. If you’re unable to complete your work from home, you may be eligible for a one-off government support payment. Find out more about the eligibility criteria and how to apply, here.

  • What should I do if I care for someone (eg a child or person living with a lung condition) and I contract COVID-19?

    It’s important to discuss and create an action plan that covers what to do if a carer contracts COVID-19. Ensure that the relevant members of the person’s healthcare team, family members, friends and neighbours are involved in the planning process so they can help to provide support should you need it.

    If you contract COVID-19 and live with someone that you care for, you can remain in the same house but should stay separated from them where possible, such as using a separate bedroom and bathroom. Maintaining social distance, good hand hygiene and thorough cleaning of regularly touched objects and surfaces can help to stop the spread of the virus in your home.

    If you care for someone who you don’t live with, you will need to isolate for the period advised by government. Ensure that your action plan includes alternative care options for the person you care for in the event that you cannot be near them to provide care. Ask any providers/services that you or the person you care for use, to see if there are contingency plans should a carer become unwell.

  • How long will I experience symptoms?

    Most people who contract COVID-19 will experience symptoms for a short time and will recover within a few weeks. These can include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Tiredness
    • Loss of taste
    • Sore throat
    • Headache
    • Aches and pains

    If you experience serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, loss of speech or mobility, or chest pain, seek immediate medical attention.

  • How can I start exercising safely after having COVID-19?

    It’s important to allow your body time to rest and recover in the weeks after you contract COVID-19. Even people who are otherwise fit and healthy can experience fatigue and exhaustion after becoming infected. When resuming exercise, you should start slow with low or light intensity. If you have a pre-existing condition, like a lung disease, you should consult your healthcare team before starting or resuming exercise.

  • What if my symptoms don’t go away?

    Most people who contract COVID-19 will experience symptoms for a short time and will recover within a few weeks. For some people, it may take weeks or months to recover. If your symptoms persist, speak to your GP.

    We understand experiencing ongoing symptoms can be frightening. Our online COVID-19 Survivor and Support Group aims to connect people from right across the country to share their experiences to ensure no one feels alone on this journey. To find out more about the group, submit an expression of interest and our team will be in touch.

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