GGC Medicines

Adult Therapeutics Handbook

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Infection

Management of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Infection


COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 and the therapeutic options are outlined below, with further information available on NHSGGC StaffNet / Clinical Info / COVID-19 Clinical Guideline Page (link available if accessing via a NHS computer). 

Information in this guideline has either been directly endorsed by NHSGGC or originates from a reputable source, such as NHS Inform. It is intended to be updated as and when guidance changes.


Assessment / monitoring

Of note, a significant proportion will be asymptomatic or have mild disease. The current clinical case definition of COVID-19 is one of the following:

  • Fever and/or high temperature (defined as ≥37.8°C)
  • Continuous cough, which is defined as:
    • a new cough that has lasted more than 1 hour
    • where a patient has had 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
    • where a patient may be coughing more than usual.
  • Loss of, or change in sense of smell (anosmia) or taste.

Other symptoms commonly include:

  • Dyspnoea
  • Fatigue/myalgia
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Sore throat or runny nose

COVID-19 in the older adults

This patient group is more likely to have an atypical presentation of COVID-19 and are less likely to present with cough, dyspnoea or raised temperature. Atypical presentation may include:

  • Delirium
  • Anorexia / fatigue / malaise
  • Falls / syncope
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Deterioration in function
  • Day to day variability

Symptoms may be unreliable so consider early testing and if index of suspicion is high then repeat swabs.  


The Coronavirus Information Hub on NHSGGC StaffNet has detailed advice about how to collect a sample and arrange suitable transportation to labs.


  • CRP - may be raised or normal and does not reflect presence of bacterial co-infection.
  • U&Es and renal function - acute kidney injury and hyponatraemia may occur
  • LFTS - transaminitis may occur
  • FBC - lymphopenia is common
  • Oxygen saturations - hypoxia without breathlessness can occur
  • Assess fluid status - febrile patients have high insensible losses and may need IV fluids. 
  • NT-Pro BNP, Troponin and D-dimer may be elevated and need to be interpreted with caution.
  • CXR - typical initial presentation is bilateral peripheral ground glass opacities. There may be no changes on the CXR.
  • Chest CT - only if it will change management.

Differential Diagnosis

Always consider other diagnosis or dual pathology, including bacterial infection / sepsis (although bacterial infection is an uncommon dual infection). Consider HIV testing / PCP pneumonia particularly in patients with 'atypical pneumonia' who are COVID negative.  

Management / treatment options

A Treatment Escalation Plan (TEP) is required for all suspected COVID-19 patients. If appropriate involve the palliative care team early and individualise the care. As for all severe viral respiratory illness in pregnant women, delivery may be a "therapeutic option" and so regular discussion with the Obstetric and Neonatal Team is necessary.


  • Suspected COVID pneumonia: target SpO2 90-94%.
  • If chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or risk of hypercapnia: target  SpO2 88-92%.
  • Where possible all patients should be proned if they have an oxygen requirement

Seek consultant review and treatment escalation plan if SpO2 is below the target levels stated above.

Non-invasive respiratory support (CPAP, nasal high flow therapy, non-invasive ventilation) is considered on a case-by-case basis for patients with COVID-19 severe respiratory failure. Respiratory support interventions are aerosol generating procedures so are only initiated in selected high dependency - hi-care areas. Please refer to site specific guidance on escalation thresholds and place of care for COVID-19 respiratory support. 


Patients with COVID-19 are at high-risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) and thromboprophylaxis should be prescribed in all patients admitted to hospital with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection, unless contraindicated. See the thromboprophylaxis in COVID-19 patients guideline for further information.


Dexamethasone shows reduced mortality in patients with severe and critical COVID-19 as per the RECOVERY trial. Criteria for using dexamethasone includes: COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed) in patients requiring oxygen therapy as per targets, non-invasive ventilation or invasive ventilation, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Patients with non-severe COVID (i.e. not requiring oxygen to maintain target saturations) should not be given dexamethasone as there is no evidence that they derive benefit from it and may, instead, derive harm.

Dose of dexamethasone is oral /IV 6mg once daily for 10 days (stop prior to hospital discharge if within 10 days). Use tablets (or oral solution), unless swallow is an issue or there are significant concerns with regards to enteral absorption. In pregnant or breastfeeding women alternative corticosteroids are recommended, see below for details.

N.B. If dexamethasone 3.3mg/ml IV 1ml ampoule is used, then dosage required is 1.8ml (5.94mg) once daily for 10 days.

A proton pump inhibitor should be considered in patients on dexamethasone who are at high risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or dyspepsia:

  • Omeprazole oral 20mg once daily or
  • Lansoprazole oral 15mg-30mg once daily.

Dexamethasone and blood glucose monitoring

Dexamethasone and COVID-19 can independently cause severe insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. Combined, there is therefore a risk to people with and without known diabetes of significant hyperglycaemia and possible Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS) or Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Therefore all patients with COVID-19 on dexamethasone (or alternative high dose steroid as above) will require capillary blood glucose (CBG) checked once a day (at 4pm) upon commencement if not diabetic, and four times a day in those with diabetes.

For non-diabetic patients who have a CBG>12mmol/L, and for all those with diabetes, please follow the guideline here for ongoing monitoring and management.  

Drug interaction

Co-administration of dexamethasone with remdesivir has not been studied, but based on metabolism, clearance and course duration; a clinically significant interaction is unlikely as:

  • Remdesivir has a rapid clearance and a moderate-high hepatic extraction ratio
  • Dexamethasone is used for a short duration in the treatment of COVID-19.

Corticosteroids in pregnant or breastfeeding patient

In pregnant or breastfeeding women, prednisolone oral 40mg daily (or hydrocortisone IV 80mg twice daily) for 10 days should be used, instead of dexamethasone. Use tablets (or oral dispersible tablets), unless swallow is an issue or there are significant concerns with regards to enteral absorption, in which case use IV hydrocortisone. Stop treatment if discharged from hospital within 10 days. Discuss all therapeutic options with the Obstetric Team as appropriate.

Interleukin-6 receptor antagonists

Tocilizumab and sarilumab are immune modulating drugs. The REMAP-CAP and RECOVERY trials have reported a survival benefit with the use of these agents in hospitalised COVID-19 patients meeting certain criteria. These benefits were additional to the benefits of systemic steroids, such as dexamethasone. Use of either tocilizumab or sarilumab in COVID-19 is off-label. The decision to treat with either agent is not an emergency and should be made judiciously after assessment and in a timely manner during office hours. See the GGC protocol for details of: the different clinical indications for using either agent, exclusion criteria, process for obtaining supply, dosing and administration information and monitoring details.

Both tocilizumab and sarilumab are potent immunosuppressant drugs. Patients are at risk of opportunistic infection following administration. Both drugs will suppress C-reactive protein for several weeks and this should therefore not be relied upon as an indicator of infection / inflammation.

Ensure patients receive the GGC tocilizumab and sarilumab patient information leaflet. It contains important information, including advice for women of child bearing age. 


Remdesivir does not improve mortality and probably has little effect on morbidity. In complex cases, multidisciplinary discussion should be sought and infectious disease or respiratory specialist can be contacted via the on-call consultant during office hours. The decision to treat with remdesivir is not an emergency and should be made judiciously after assessment and in a timely manner during office hours. Do not call out the on-call pharmacist to obtain supply. See remdesivir flowchart for clinical indications and brief dosing and monitoring information. For further information, see the manufacturer's summary of product characteristics via


Bacterial co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 is unusual, occurring in approximately 3-4% of patients. CRP is usually raised in COVID-19 and does not predict bacterial infection. The majority of patients with COVID-19 outside of the intensive care setting therefore do not require antibiotics. If there is clinical uncertainty, prescribe antibiotics as per current NHSGGC guidance (amoxicillin or doxycycline unless severe bacterial pneumonia is suspected) but review the ongoing need for an antibiotic when the SARS-CoV-2 result is available. In suspected bacterial pneumonia or infective exacerbation of COPD, limit the duration of antibiotics to 5 days irrespective of severity. 

Patients receiving systemic anti-cancer treatment (SACT)

Some cancer patients including, but not limited to, those receiving SACT are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and may be on the national shielding list. It is important to withhold all oral anti-cancer medicines, including chemotherapy and biological modifiers, in hospitalised patients and notify the on-call haemato-oncology or oncology team. There are particular risks associated with the use of Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (GCSF) e.g. filgrastim / pegfilgrastim in patients with COVID-19. GCSF must be withheld in patients with suspected COVID-19 and discussed with the on-call haemato-oncology or oncology team. For more information see the West of Scotland Cancer Network guideline on the WoSCAN intranet site (NHS network access required).

Useful Links 


Guideline content updated 26th April 2021