When more than one person is ill

As Covid-19 is a contagious viral infection, there was often more than one person who was ill within one household. However, Covid impacted people in very different ways. On this page you can hear people who became critically ill and went on to need treatment in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), partners or family members speak about multiple infections in their households, and how they sought to manage these situations.

Of the people we interviewed some members of the same household fell ill at the same time; others developed symptoms shortly after one another. Royston and his wife as well as Sadia and her family experienced infections months apart and could draw on their earlier experience to provide care for each other. As the pandemic progressed, some of those we interviewed fell ill with Covid twice.

Dana, her husband Mark, and their two children all had symptoms.

Whilst testing was not possible in the early months of the pandemic, later on family members were able to get tested to confirm whether they had Covid or not.

Alisha and her parents got tested when her mother felt unwell, and they were all positive.

Of those we talked to, when only one person developed symptoms or tested positive for Covid people within the same household tried to socially distance as well as they could, particularly if they were considered vulnerable. Some, like Deborah and her husband and Royston and his wife slept in different bedrooms or stayed in a different part of the house with minimal interaction.

Deborah tried to keep her husband, who is immunosuppressed, separate from herself and their son when they were positive.

Keeping enough distance from one another was difficult if the person who was ill with Covid required care, or if there was limited space. Whilst some people avoided getting symptoms, sometimes surprisingly so, others were not so fortunate. Before tests were available, people who did not have symptoms had no way of knowing whether they had Covid or not.

Paul’s wife took care of him when he was ill, but either did not get infected, or did not have symptoms.

Looking back, several of those we talked to found it confusing that the same virus could cause people to have such different symptoms and severity of illness.

Chris’ family members were all affected differently by Covid.

Some family members of those who went on to become critically ill felt guilty, worried they had exposed their loved ones to the virus.

Despite efforts to stay separate, Wendy caught Covid after her daughter. Wendy’s nurse said to tell her not to feel guilty.

Similarly, Stephanie, who works in healthcare and whose husband fell ill with Covid, said she “obviously wore appropriate PPE at work and always really careful when I came home but, you know, I had these feelings of guilt that it could be me that’s brought it home to him, you know, but then I, you know, thought I really can’t beat myself up too much because he could get it from anywhere really, the shops, golf club, you know.”

When family members were ill themselves, it was particularly difficult to manage emotionally and physically when their loved one went into hospital. If they were not admitted themselves, it meant that they were in self-isolation and could not accompany their partner or parent to Accident & Emergency (see ‘When things get worse’). They struggled with their own symptoms whilst trying to stay in touch with the hospital (see ‘Staying in touch during the visitor ban’).

When Simon became increasingly unwell, Donna was in self-isolation so that their daughter had to take him to A&E.

When things get worse

Most people we spoke to were ill at home for several days, during which they began to feel worse and worse. When people sought help...