At risk groups

There are some groups of people who may be at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. This risk is similar to other infections such as flu.

These people need to take extra care to protect themselves from coronavirus. This is on top of the advice that everyone needs to follow.

Read more about what everyone should do to protect themselves and others.

It’s important you follow this advice. You should also ask the people in your life to take extra care to protect you from coronavirus.

If someone you care for is in one of these high-risk groups, share this information with them. Make sure they understand how important it is they follow the advice.

At-risk groups

The list of at-risk groups includes people who:

  • are over 60, people over 70 are particularly vulnerable and should cocoon
  • 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 residents of nursing homes and other long-stay settings
  • are in specialist disability care and are over 50 years of age or have an underlying health problem

We are still learning about how coronavirus affects pregnant women and their babies. Read more about coronavirus and pregnancy.

What people in at-risk groups should do

The advice now for everyone is to stay at home.

Some people in at-risk groups are extremely medically vulnerable and need to cocoon. Read more about cocooning.

You do not need to self-isolate unless you have symptoms of coronavirus.

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

If you develop a fever or any respiratory symptoms contact your GP or HSELive on 1850 24 850.

Support for people who are in at-risk groups

Community support is available for vulnerable people including those who are in at-risk groups. The support includes help with collecting groceries, medicines and other essential items.

Read more about how Local Authorities can help you during the coronavirus outbreak.

Changes have also been to make it easier for you to get your medicines and prescriptions.

Read about medicines and coronavirus.

Weak immune system and coronavirus

Many things 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 – if you’re not on effective treatment
  • 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 may 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.

You may need to cocoon if you have certain conditions or are having certain immunosuppression therapies.

Read more about cocooning.

If you are an essential worker on an immunosuppressant medicine, phone your occupational health service or GP. They can discuss your options for safe working.

Phone your GP 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.

Read more about hospital service disruptions and visiting restrictions during COVID-19.

Immunosuppressive medicines

Taking immunosuppressive medicine does not increase your risk of getting coronavirus.

If you do get coronavirus, there is no evidence to date that the medicine you are taking puts you more at risk of a serious infection.

But you should take extra care. Follow the advice for everyone to protect yourself from the virus. Other infections can cause severe illness in people who take immunosuppressive medicine. This may be the same for coronavirus.

If you stop your medicine you may be more likely to have a flare of your condition during this period.

If you were previously on immunosuppressant medicine, you may still be immunosuppressed. This can last for up many months after stopping taking the medicine.

Immunosuppressive medicines include:

  • biologic agents
  • steroids
  • methotrexate
  • azathioprine

Steroids

Keep taking steroids if you are usually on them unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Stopping steroids suddenly can make you very unwell.

If you become unwell due to coronavirus or another infection, continue to take your steroids.

Never start taking steroids unless your doctor tells you to.

Steroid tablets include prednisolone – brand name: Deltacortril.

Other steroid medicines do not usually cause immunosuppression. Continue to take these medicines as you normally would.

This includes:

  • inhalers (preventer inhalers)
  • nasal sprays or drops
  • eye drops
  • ear drops
  • creams

Taking your preventer inhaler will decrease your risk of an asthma attack or worsening COPD. It will also reduce your respiratory symptoms.

Immunosuppressive treatments

If you attend a consultant, ask them if they recommend any changes to your treatment. But do not make changes unless your doctor tells you to.

There is no evidence to-date that being on an immunosuppressive treatment puts you at higher risk of severe disease.

But you should take extra care to follow the advice for everyone to protect yourself from the virus.

Other infections can cause severe illness in people who take immunosuppressive treatments. This may be the same for coronavirus.

If you usually have regular blood tests, these should continue. But check with your hospital first as some hospital services are disrupted.

If you become unwell due to coronavirus or another infection:

  • continue to take your steroids
  • phone your GP or consultant and ask them if you need to change your treatment – do this before taking your next dose of treatments

The coronavirus pandemic may last several months. If you reduce or stop your medicine you may be more likely to have a flare during this period. This means you might need to restart your treatment and attend your GP or hospital.

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 an asthma 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.

Read more about asthma attacks.

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.

Download a:

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.

Learn more about how to manage your COPD on the COPD Support Ireland website.

Call the COPD Adviceline – Freephone: 1800 83 21 46.

Cancer treatment and coronavirus

Some cancer treatments can cause a weak immune system. You will need to take extra care to protect yourself from the virus.

Unless you are told not to, go for your treatment as usual if you are having:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy

Your treatment may change. Your consultant or oncology team will decide any changes. They’ll discuss them with you.

Changes may include:

  • changes to your medication
  • a break in treatment
  • a new location for your treatment
  • assessments by phone, where possible

Before going for treatment

Phone the oncology unit before going for treatment if you are:

The oncology unit may also phone you 1 or 2 days before your appointment. This is also to check if you have been in contact with the virus.

Go to appointments without family members or carers, where possible. This is to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

Avoid arriving early to minimise time spent in hospitals.

Treatment after coronavirus

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, phone your GP to arrange a test and self-isolate.

You will need to remain in self-isolation while you wait for your results.

Your cancer team will decide when you are fit to begin cancer treatment again.

They’ll base this on:

  • how well you are
  • the length of time since you first got sick

If you have coronavirus you’ll need to say self-isolated until:

  • you have had no fever for 5 days, and
  • it has been 14 days since you first developed symptoms

This could delay your treatment starting by 2 to 3 weeks. If you are already on treatment, you may have a longer than usual break between treatments.

Looking after your mental health

It is difficult living with cancer during the current uncertainty.

Read advice about minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

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.

Read more about smoking and coronavirus