Coronavirus – General Hygiene Harm Reduction Tips

What is coronavirus? 

COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease) is the illness caused by a virus first discovered in late 2019. It is generally referred to as ‘coronavirus’ in the media. It is actually one type of coronavirus (CoVand is part of a large family of viruses causing ilnesses that have emerged in the last few decades such as  Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 

COVID-19 affects your lungs and airways and can lead to health complications such as pneumonia (a lung infection that causes inflammation) 

Coronaviruses are ‘zoonotic’ which means that they can be spread from animals to humans.  

COVID-19 caused by is what we would call a ‘novel coronavirus’ since it isn’t one that we have seen before and we don’t have existing immunity (our ability to fight off the virus) to it. 

Viruses from the coronavirus family are usually transmitted through the spread of aerosols or droplets released when people sneeze or cough. These droplets can then be breathed in or can land on surfaces we touch and then transferred to the mouth, nose and eyes by our hands. However, as COVID-19 is  caused by a new virus we don’t know exactly how it is spread from person to person.  

The symptoms of coronavirus are: 

  • a cough 
  • fever (high temperature) 
  • shortness of breath 

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness as the symptoms are similar to other viruses like the cold and flu. 

The best ways to prevent spreading the virus are to:  

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sneeze/cough into your elbow – bin any tissues straight away. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – washing them for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available – use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell and limit your own contact with other people if you suspect any of the symptoms. 
  • Avoid touching your face if your hands are not clean. 
  • Clean and disinfect any frequently touched objects and surfaces – including your phone! 

People who do not have symptoms may still have the virus and be able to pass it on to others. It is important that we all take care to reduce the spread of viruses.  

Some people with existing health conditions are at greater risk from the virus – this means people who have existing respiratory conditions or ones affecting their immune system.  

Worried about coronavirus?  

Viruses (such as the common cold, flu and hep Cand bacteria (such as E. coli and Staph), can be spread when people take drugs with unclean or shared equipment. To help prevent the spread, good hygiene practices are essential.  

The following advice can help reduce the risk of spreading infections all year round but are especially important during this outbreak of COVID-19. 

If you’re taking drugs remember to: 

  • Rest well before and after
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat nutritious well-balanced meals before and after  

This can all help keep your immune system healthy. It is also a good idea, especially in the autumn and winter months in Scotland, to take a vitamin D supplement

All drug use has risks. This page is for information only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have medical concerns about your drug use, please speak to a medical professional. Please bear in mind that now is a particularly risky time to take drugs. 

Despite the myths, drugs like cocaine and mephedrone are not shown to kill the virus!

Cutting down on or avoiding tobacco can also help keep your lungs prepared to fight off any illness. Your local Stop Smoking Service can offer resources and advice if you want to stop or cut down. 

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after you handle, prepare or take drugs 
  • Clean surfaces with alcohol wipes before preparing drugs 
  • Crush substances down as fine as possible before use to reduce soft tissue abrasions (cuts can increase the likelihood of disease transmission) 

Noticed changed to the way people take, buy or sell drugs? Has your drug use changed since the outbreak of COVID-19? We’re running a short survey – give us your insights here

How are you taking drugs?  

There are many ways you can reduce the harm from drugs depending on how you take them. Full info can be found on our website


  • Inhaling drugs can damage the mouth, throat and lungs and can cause breathing difficulties, wheezing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Smoking drugs during times of respiratory infection is discouraged as this will most likely make the infection worse and slow down healing. 
  • If smoking from foil, use clean foil each time.  
  • Keep all pipes and bongs clean and disinfect them regularly. 
  • Avoid sharing pipes, joints, cigarettes and vapes. 


  • Avoid sharing snorting tools – use colour coded straws so you don’t get mixed up. 
  • Avoid sharing the same card to crush up drugs
  • Avoid using notes or keys which can harbour viruses and bacteria – use a clean straw, post-it or piece of paper and bin it after use. 
  • Rinse your nose out with clean water at the end of a session. 


  • Only use clean needles and supplies. Free, clean needles are available from needle exchange services. If needle exchange services are disrupted, you can buy injecting equipment online. 
  • Wash injection sites (before and after). 
  • Avoid sharing equipment (including needles, filters, containers, spoons and water) – use coloured coded equipment so you don’t get mixed up. 


  • If mixed into a drink, avoid sharing bottles/cups. Make sure it is marked so no one accidentally drinks it and never leave your drink unattended. 


  • Wash your hands before each ‘dab’. 
  • Avoid ‘dabbing’ from shared bags of drugs.


  • Ensure all equipment is clean and sterile before use – this includes washing your hands. 
  • Add lube to the outside of the syringe to allow for easier entry and to prevent soft tissue damage.  
  • Avoid sharing water, mixing cups, syringes, straws, lube launchers and lube.

Visit our website for more harm reduction information

Interruption to supply  

Travel and work restrictions may cause an interruption to the supply of drugs meaning that the people selling drugs might not have stock for everyone who wants to buy them.  

This means that the drugs you are buying could be more likely to be cut with something unexpected or may not contain only or any of the drug you expect.  

It is important to test the drugs if you can – services like WEDINOS offer free testing to find out what the contents of a drug are. If you don’t have access to a drug testing service, reagent testing kits are available online and can give a greater understanding of what the drug contains, but they may not be suitable for identifying newer compounds or adulterants and can tell you nothing about purity or strength.

Keep an eye on Know Drugs and TripApp for any drug alerts. 

If you are concerned about your supply of prescribed medicines, please speak to your medical provider.  


If you don’t have access to the drugs you usually take you could experience symptoms of withdrawal. 

Withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, sickness and diarrhoea, headaches, pains and hallucinations. The severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the type and amount of drug used but most symptoms will ease after a few weeks. 

Taking benzos, GHB/GBL or drinking alcohol?  

If you take these drugs on a regular basis it is important to avoid sudden withdrawal. If you think you will be short in supply try to taper (reducing the amount you take each day) slowly and seek help and advice from your local drug service.  

If symptoms become too much seek medical help and in an emergency call 999. 

Taking downers?

Drugs like heroin and Valium slow down your central nervous system, reducing your heart rate and breathing. If you are taking these drugs during times of respiratory infection be aware that these drugs could reduce your breathing to a dangerous level. If you require medical assistance be honest about the drugs you are taking.

It may be tempting to stock up on drugs to keep in the house if you are worried about running out. If you have stocked up on drugs be careful with the temptation to binge. Worried about your use? Have a look at our check it out tool 


Thinking about sex? 

If you are having sex, then you are likely to be getting up close and personal with someone so the risk of passing on the virus is high. You should still think about safe sex if you do choose to get friendly during this outbreak! 

We don’t know if COVID-19 can be passed on through sexual fluids but using barrier methods to reduce that risk is always a good idea. Have you been tested for sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses recently? If you already have an infection this will reduce your body’s ability to fight off other illnesses. Get tested, get treated!   

Stock up on condoms, dams and lube – we have loads in the Crew Drop-in.* Lube can prevent tears and abrasions– small cuts and tears can increase the risk of infectionDo you take PreP? Contraceptives? Ensure you have a good supply in case access to services is interrupted.  

*Please note the Crew Drop-in is currently closed. To find out how you can access sexual health services in Lothian visit

Are you a sex worker? 

  • Stock up on safer sex materials – come to Crew!  
  • Be more careful about clients washing their hands or showering before the start of the session or meeting. 
  • Wipe down all surfaces, change sheets and disinfect all sex toys between clients. 
  • Do you have funds prepared if you have to take time off work?  
  • Are there people who can offer you support with essentials (like food, rent/housing) during this time?  
  • Do you know of any emergency funds available to you?  

Get in touch with Scot-Pep for any other advice around sex work. The Red Umbrella Fund could be a good way to self-organise emergency funding for sex workers who aren’t able to work and the Scottish, Umbrella Lane has also organised a fund to help sex workers during this time 

Accessing services 

Some services may reduce the hours that they are open or some services may close. Keep an eye on their social media accounts and look for any local or national announcements.  

If you receive on-going support from an organisation, ask them about what will happen if they close. Will online appointments be available to you?  

Are you part of a fellowship or other meeting?  AA, CA, NA, CoDA and SMART recovery groups all offer online options.


Staying indoors and not seeing your usual social group can feel lonely and frustrating. It could be an idea to stock up on books from the library or try out Borrow Box which allows you to borrow books digitally.

Think about having a plan for people you can contact if you are feeling down. There are many helplines that you can call to chat including:  

Where to get information 

It can be stressful to read about COVID-19 in the media. Sometimes the information from some news sources can create feelings of panic. Think about the sources of information that you are reading. A good way to keep up to date with the facts about COVID-19 would be to stick to trusted sources like the ones listed below:  

You can also visit which is an organisation that fact-checks any claims made in the media – in newspapers, magazines and on TV, including info on COVID-19 

Mental wellbeing 

The Mental Health Foundation has produced some excellent advice about managing your mental health during this time. Talk about any worries you have with people you trust. 

We’re all in this together 

If you come from an area where there is an outbreak or a nearby area, avoid going to parties or clubs at this time. This helps to protect the health of others. We have a responsibility to look after ourselves and each other. 

Read our info for venues – pubs and clubs.

Download our social media graphic with these top tips. Find the graphic in your language here.