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Last updated: 29 March 2020 at 12.10pm

There are some groups of people who may be more at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. But we do not think these groups have a higher risk of catching coronavirus. This is similar to other infections such as flu.

At-risk groups

You are more at risk of serious illness if you catch coronavirus and you:

  • are 60 years of age and over - people over 70 are particularly vulnerable
  • have a long-term medical condition - for example, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, renal disease, liver disease or high blood pressure
  • have a weak immune system (immunosuppressed)
  • have a medical condition that can affect your breathing
  • are a resident of a nursing home or other residential care setting
  • are in specialist disability care and are over 50 years of age or have an underlying health problem

Extra care for people in at-risk groups

The advice now is for everyone to follow the stay at home advice.

Ask others to shop for you. They can leave supplies at your door. You do not need to self-isolate unless you have symptoms of coronavirus

If you are caring for someone in an at-risk group, follow the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus.

Cocooning: extra care for people over 70 or extremely medically vulnerable

Cocooning is for people:

Extra care you need to take if you are in one of these groups

  • Avoid contact with anyone who is unwell or has any symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for 2 weeks from 28 March.
  • Do not go out shopping - ask neighbours, family or friends to help you with shopping and any medicine that you need.
  • If you are having food or medicines delivered they should be left outside your door.
  • Do not attend any gatherings, including gatherings with family and friends anywhere.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends over the phone or online if you have access.
  • Keep yourself mobile by getting up and moving as much as possible.
  • If you have a garden or balcony, spend time outside for fresh air.
  • Do not go outside your home and garden.
  • If you need to contact your GP or other services use the phone.

Visits from people who provide essential support with your daily needs should continue. These include healthcare, personal support and social care.

Phone your doctor if you have any symptoms of coronavirus.

If you have a carer who visits you

People who care for you can still visit if they do not have any symptoms. They need to wash their hands when they arrive and often when they are in your home. They should try to stay 2 metres away from you, if possible.

You may have a carer who lives outside your home and develops symptoms. If this happens, they will not be able to care for you while they are unwell. 

They must stay away until both the following apply to them:

  • 5 days with no fever
  • 14 days since their symptoms first appeared

Contact the person who arranged your care to arrange another carer.

If you have someone else living with you

Other members of your household do not need to follow the cocooning measures above. But they should follow our social distancing and hand hygiene advice and you should follow our self-isolation advice

If you have a weak immune system

There are many things that can cause a weak immune system (immunosuppressed).

These include:

  • cancer treatment
  • treatment for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammatory bowel diseases
  • HIV
  • having an organ transplant or a bone-marrow transplant

Other lung viruses can cause severe illness in people who have a weak immune system. This is likely to be the same for coronavirus. This is why you should take extra care if you have a weak immune system. This is similar for other infections, such as flu.

Phone your doctor if you have any symptoms of coronavirus and are concerned.

Continue to attend for any planned treatment, unless you have been told not to. If you have been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, phone the hospital before your appointment.

Hospital service disruptions and visiting restrictions (COVID-19)

Keeping well

Keep yourself mobile by getting up and moving around as much as possible. If you have a garden or backyard go out and get some fresh air, but keep more than 1 metre away from other people.

Staying at home or self-isolation can be boring or frustrating. It may affect your mood and feelings. You may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping. 

You may find it helps to stay in touch with friends or relatives by phone or on social media. 

Older people can contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm.

Read more about looking after your mental health

Medicines

If you have coronavirus, continue to take any medication you were already taking, unless you are told not to by a healthcare professional. This includes anti-inflammatories (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac.

Read more about medicines

Pregnancy and coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus. We are still learning how it works. But other lung viruses can cause severe illness in pregnant women. This is why pregnant women should take extra care to protect themselves.

Coronavirus and pregnancy

Asthma and coronavirus

Having a chronic lung illness such as asthma may be associated with severe symptoms if you get coronavirus.

If you have asthma you need to make sure it’s well managed especially during this coronavirus outbreak.

Keep taking all of your asthma medicine as prescribed. Do not stop taking any of your medicines unless you first discuss it with your GP.

You should have an action plan from your doctor. If you do not have one, make one now. Call the Asthma Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 to get an action plan or download and print off an action plan (PDF, 2 pages, 330KB).

What to do if you are diagnosed with coronavirus

If you are diagnosed you may be treated at home or you may be admitted to hospital. This decision will be made with your GP. it will depend on your symptoms, your home situation and the risk of spreading coronavirus.

If you are being treated at home continue to take all your inhalers as normal. Your GP may add steroids if necessary.

Be prepared to deal with an asthma attack in case you have one.

COPD and coronavirus

Having a chronic lung illness such as COPD may be associated with severe symptoms if you get coronavirus.

If you have COPD you need to make sure it’s well managed especially during this coronavirus outbreak.

Keep taking all of your COPD medicine as prescribed. Do not stop taking any of your medicines unless you first discuss it with your GP.

You should have a communication card and self- management plan from your GP.

It is important that you continue to follow your communication card action plan and take your inhalers as normal. Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue)with you at all times.

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to COPD, including breathlessness and cough. The main symptom of coronavirus which is different from COPD is experiencing a ‘new’ fever.

What to do if you are diagnosed with coronavirus

If you are diagnosed you may be treated at home or you may be admitted to hospital. This decision will be made with your GP. it will depend on your symptoms, your home situation and the risk of spreading coronavirus.

If you are being treated at home continue to take all your inhalers as normal. Your GP may add steroids if necessary.

There is more information on the COPD Support Ireland website on how to manage your COPD.

Call the COPD Adviceline Freephone 1800 83 21 46.

Smoking and coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an acute respiratory infection. Respiratory infections are serious infections that affect normal breathing. A wide range of bacteria and viruses cause these infections.

Smoking affects the immune system in the airways, lung tissue and throughout the body. This reduces your natural protection against infections, like coronavirus.

This means that if you smoke:

  • you have an increased risk of getting acute respiratory infections
  • you have a greater risk of the infection lasting longer
  • you have a greater risk of the infection being more serious than it would be for someone who does not smoke

Second-hand smoke has similar effects. Children who are exposed to smoke are at increased risk of acute respiratory infections.

Stopping smoking reduces your risk of smoking-related illness. Reducing exposure to second-hand smoke is also important, especially for children.