Staying safe and reducing your risk of catching COVID-19 (updated 17 June 2022)

Everyone is likely to feel differently about the risk of COVID-19. People who are immunosuppressed, or have specific other medical conditions, may have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases, including COVID-19. Ask your medical team about your risk and continue to follow any condition-specific advice you may have been given.

On this page we make suggestions about things you can do to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 and passing it on to others. We have based this on information from guidance for people whose immune systems mean they are at higher risk who live in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Irelandas well as from our webinar on living safely with COVID-19.

On this page

Reducing your risk

Meeting up with others and going out

Working

Foreign travel

Managing uncertainty

Helpful resources

Back view of a man and a woman walking a dog. They are standing apart from each other. There are trees in the background.

Reducing your risk

As we learn to live safely with COVID-19, there are things we can all do to help reduce our risk of catching COVID-19 and passing it on to others. These actions will also help to reduce the spread of other respiratory infections, like flu, which can spread easily and may cause serious illness in some people: 

  • Vaccines: The COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others. Research has shown the vaccines help to reduce your risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and protect against COVID-19 variants. If you have not yet had all of the vaccines you are eligible to receive please book an appointment today.
  • Hygiene: Using soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands. Hands touch many surfaces and can become contaminated with viruses and other germs that can be transferred to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the germs can enter your body and infect you. Wash your hands often using soap and water or use hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Clean surfaces in your home often, especially surfaces that are touched frequently like handles, light switches, work surfaces and remote controls.
  • Face masks: Although masks are not a legal requirement anymore, there may be some settings where you’re still asked to wear one, like at hospital. Consider continuing to wear a mask in crowded public spaces. If you meet up with people you don’t normally live with you can choose to wear a mask and you can also ask them to wear a mask. Medical masks and respirator masks can provide you with better protection from COVID-19 than cloth masks. N95/FFP2 type masks are designed to form a seal around your nose and mouth so you only breathe air that has been filtered. This tight fit simply can’t be achieved by cloth masks and standard surgical masks. You can purchase N95/FFP2 type masks from pharmacies or online. 
  • Space: Even though it’s no longer a legal requirement, you may want to socially distance from people if that feels right for you. The risk of catching COVID-19 is greatest when someone who is infected is physically close to you. Distance Aware is a recognised symbol across the UK for people who wish to have a safe distance maintained. Initially launched by NHS Wales in 2020, it is supported by the Department for Health and Social Care, the Scottish Government and the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. Our distance aware badge is free to order
  • Fresh air: Open windows or doors to let fresh air in when sharing a space with people who you don't live with. Even opening a window for a few minutes helps remove older stale air that could contain virus particles and reduces the chance of spreading infections. The more fresh air that is brought inside, the quicker any viruses will be removed from the room. Consider reducing the time you spend in enclosed crowded spaces.
  • Test: Most people can no longer access free testing for COVID-19, but you can still ask visitors to take a lateral flow test if you wish. If you're eligible for COVID-19 treatments, you can order free COVID-19 tests to use if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you live in Wales and are visiting someone eligible for COVID-19 treatments you can get a free lateral flow test to use before visiting them. If you are not eligible for COVID-19 treatments but still want to get tested you can buy a COVID-19 test from pharmacies or online. 
  • Symptoms: If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a respiratory infection you are advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. Avoid meeting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (and anyone in their household) until 10 days after they received a positive test. Try to avoid people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory infections and have a temperature or feel unwell.
  • COVID-19 treatments: New antibody and antiviral treatments are available to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms take a test as soon as possible. If any of your lateral flow tests are positive and you have reported the result, the NHS should contact you about treatment. COVID-19 treatments might help manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of you becoming seriously ill or being admitted to hospital.

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Meeting up with others and going out

Restrictions may have eased but we know a lot of people are still worried about COVID-19 and some have continued to shield. You might worry about the impact of your decisions around seeing people on your relationships, particularly if their feelings and approaches differ to yours. The important thing is to go at your own pace, do what feels right for you and don’t be afraid to say no to things that make you feel uncomfortable. 

Here are some ways to meet up with others whilst reducing your risk of catching COVID-19:

  • Take it step by step, and only do what you feel comfortable doing. Try not to avoid things entirely, but start with activities that are important to you and feel achievable, like meeting a close friend or a family member for a coffee outside, and gradually build up from there.
  • Talk with family and friends about how you feel. This can minimise the risk of people feeling hurt or offended. 
  • Consider meeting other people outdoors to keep your risk as low as possible. 
  • Open windows and doors when meeting inside to let plenty of fresh air inside. 
  • If you are eating out at a pub or restaurant, think about where you feel comfortable sitting. The risk is lowest outdoors. If you choose to sit indoors, try to find a quieter, well ventilated space if possible.
  • If you are planning a trip out, think about where you feel safe going. You could consider outdoor attractions, or larger, well ventilated venues where it’s easier to keep a safe distance from other people.
  • When you’re out in public, try to stay a safe distance away from other people. You might find our 'Distance Aware' badge a helpful way to remind others to give you space if they can. If you are visiting a public place, it is safer to visit at a quiet time of day if you can. If you need to go to the shops, try to pick a quiet time of day. Remember you can still shop online if you prefer.
  • Avoid public transport if you can. If you can't avoid it, try to travel at quieter times of day.
  • Although face masks are not a legal requirement anymore in most settings, you can still wear one if it makes you feel more comfortable. You could also ask others if they'd consider wearing a mask or if they’d test before meeting up to help protect you. Being aware of everybody's fears and expectations can help to avoid conflict. 
  • If you’re invited to an event or situation that you don’t feel comfortable attending you could suggest an alternative that you do feel comfortable with. Think about what is manageable for you, what is the bit that matters most in this and is there a way that you can do it differently that you do feel comfortable with. 

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Working

Employers no longer have to consider COVID-19 in their workplace risk assessments. However, health and safety laws are still in place to protect people at work. The industry you work in will determine what measures can be taken to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19. Here are a few things you can consider to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 at work: 

  • If you are able to work from home, you could ask your employer if you can continue to do so.
  • If you need to go into work, plan your journey by walking or cycling if you can. If you have to use public transport to get to work you could ask your employer about flexible working hours so you could travel at quieter times of the day. 
  • You could continue to socially distance from people at work.
  • You could choose to wear a mask at work and you could ask colleagues or clients whether they would also wear a mask. 
  • You could talk to your employer, colleagues or clients about keeping windows or doors open to allow fresh air in. On colder days even opening a window for a few minutes helps to remove older stale air that could contain virus particles and reduces the chance of spreading infections.
  • You could talk to your employer and ask your colleagues if they would be willing to take regular lateral flow tests. 
  • If you’re worried about your health and safety at work, you should speak with your employer about your concerns. You could talk to a member of your HR department or union representative, if you have one. You can get more advice from ACAS, the Health and Safety Executive or Citizens Advice. If you need support to work safely at home or in the workplace, you might be able to get help from Access to Work. If you think your employer is treating you unfairly because of your lymphoma diagnosis, the Equality Advisory and Support Service offers free advice.

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Foreign travel

After months of change and restrictions you might be thinking of a holiday. We have information on travelling outside the UK if you have lymphoma but here are some extra things to consider while planning your holiday during the pandemic:

  • Every country has different COVID-19 restrictions. You can check foreign travel advice for all countries you will visit or travel through on GOV.UK. This will tell you if the country will allow people to enter from the UK, whether you will need to show proof of vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test and whether you will need to quarantine on arrival. Foreign travel advice will also tell you if the UK government advises against all but essential travel to the country.
  • If you have lymphoma and you plan to travel to another country, it is important to arrange suitable travel insurance before you go. Many policies also include medical cover. Having medical cover as part of your insurance could help if you become unwell while you’re away.
  • Not every country has access to antibody and antiviral treatments for COVID-19. Your doctor cannot prescribe you antibody and antiviral treatments for COVID-19 to take with you in case you test positive while abroad. If you do catch COVID-19 while you are abroad you may not be able to access these treatments like you would in the UK.
  • You could wear a mask on public transport and in crowed places. Medical masks and respirator masks can provide you with better protection from COVID-19 than cloth masks. N95/FFP2 type masks are designed to form a seal around your nose and mouth so you only breathe air that has been filtered. This tight fit simply can’t be achieved by cloth masks and standard surgical masks. N95/FFP2 type masks also contain an electrostatic filtration layer that traps more particles than other materials - particles are sort of attracted to this layer in the mask and stick to it. You can purchase N95/FFP2 type masks in pharmacies or online. 
  • Some treatments for lymphoma like chemotherapy and radiation can make the skin more sensitive to the radiation from the sun. To protect your skin apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid spending time in direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm and wear a hat to protect your head and shoulders.  

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Managing uncertainty

Give yourself time to think about what feels right to you, even if others take a different approach. While it’s often easier said than done, remember that there’ll always be differences in thought, feeling and opinion: 

  • Try to pinpoint what it is that you feel uneasy about. Sometimes, feeling unsettled is a general feeling and it’s not always easy to link it to specific things. It’s also understandable that you’d feel generally uncertain after such ongoing and frequent change that is beyond your control. Giving some thought as to what might be at the root of this can help to take some of the power out of it. You could talk it through with someone you’re close to or get in touch with our helpline team
  • Come up with a plan. Think about how you’d like to go forwards in your day-to-day life. For example, you might want to continue to wear a mask and to socially distance. People make different choices, partly depending on individual experiences before and during the pandemic, health factors and personality. There’s no right or wrong.
  • Find ways to manage stress and anxiety. Following a healthy lifestyle can have a significant impact on your overall sense of wellbeing. This includes eating well, getting enough sleep and taking exercise – even a gentle walk can help. Make time to do the things you find enjoyable and relaxing, particularly if the easing of lockdown restrictions has quickened the general pace of life for you. 
  • Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Living with and beyond lymphoma can be a continual process of adjustment, and this is a time that brings further change. Our helpline team is here for you to help you process your thoughts and feelings. You might also consider a talking therapy such as counselling. Speak to your GP or find more information on the NHS website.

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Helpful resources

If you’d like to talk, contact our Helpline Services on freephone 0808 808 5555 from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, or via Live Chat through our website. You can also email us at information@lymphoma-action.org.uk.

You might find some of our other resources helpful: 

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