Coronavirus information for people with chest, heart and stroke conditions
Having a chest, heart or stroke condition doesn’t make you any more likely to catch Coronavirus (COVID-19) than other people. However, if you do contract the virus then you may have a higher chance of developing complications, so it’s best to follow the guidance closely on how to stay safe. We’ve included a list of FAQs below which should answer any questions you have about COVID-19.
At NICHS we continue to offer a full range of services to people with chest, heart and stroke conditions in Northern Ireland – as well as helping those who are recovering from Coronavirus. You can therefore rest assured that support is still at hand despite the ongoing pandemic as we are committed to ‘Still Caring through COVID’.
Fundraising during COVID-19
If you’re planning to take part in fundraising for us at this time, then you can find more information here on how you can continue to raise funds from home.
Yes, but these have been adapted during the pandemic to include online, postal and phone support. Find out more about the services we offer and how to get support.
• Phone and postal support: We’ve already contacted all service users by phone and will continue to provide emotional support, advice and guidance like this once a week, as well as through the post.
• Online support: We’ve adapted all of our key services to ensure their ongoing delivery during the pandemic. This includes online Zoom meetings for support groups.
• Referrals: We’re still taking new referrals so, if you’re living with or have been diagnosed with a chest, heart or stroke condition, please contact our care services team by clicking here.
Coronaviruses cause a variety of respiratory infections – from the common cold and flu, to more severe illness. COVID-19 is a new infectious disease caused by a recently discovered coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in 2019.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- A persistent cough
- High temperature
- A loss of taste and/or smell
If you or anyone in your household develops these symptoms, you must ALL stay at home and self-isolate. (Find out more about this below: ‘What does self-isolating mean?’)
NB Some people may become infected without developing any symptoms or feeling unwell, which is why it’s important to maintain social distancing when out and about.
How is COVID-19 treated?
Researchers have been working to develop treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19, and new and more effective treatments are being tested and discovered all the time. Recently, breakthroughs have also been made in the development of a vaccine. For the most up-to-date and accurate information on vaccines and treatments, visit the Public Health Agency website or the NHS website.
If you catch the virus, you can help to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness by:
- Staying hydrated
- Taking paracetamol if you have a high temperature
Always continue taking any medication you have already been prescribed for other conditions and follow the advice of the medical professionals treating you.
Continue to follow the advice from your GP or healthcare team.
Since 31 July, shielding for extremely vulnerable people has been paused, rather than stopped. The pause is indefinite, but it remains possible that it may need to reactivate the guidance if the risk increases in the future.
If you have been ‘shielding’ the current government advice (as of October, 2020) is that you can now go out and meet with others inside or outside, in line with the current restrictions - see the question below 'How can I protect myself and avoid infection?' below for more details on these.
NB People who have underlying health conditions remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions. It is still best to stay at home as much as possible.
For the most up-to-date and accurate guidance around shielding, visit the NI Direct website.
You can view a full list of the conditions considered to put you more at risk of complications from COVID-19 over on the NHS website, along with information on what you should do if you are in an at-risk group. The list includes long-term respiratory conditions (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis), heart disease and those with a suppressed immune system.
While having a stroke has not been mentioned on the government list of conditions, it is possible that having survived a stroke could put you at greater risk of complications from COVID-19. As such, we advise that you take extra care and follow the advice to stay at home. You can find more information and advice on the NHS website.
If you or someone you love has a chest, heart and stroke condition, you may feel particularly anxious about coronavirus, which is to be expected. However, worrying excessively can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. If you’re following the official advice then you can be confident that you’re doing everything you can to protect your health.
To maintain your wellbeing:
- Limit your exposure to news on COVID-19 and only take information from reliable sources of information, such as the NHS.
- Keep in touch with friends and family over the phone or using social media.
- Try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
- Get outside for some fresh air and exercise once a day, making sure to socially distance.
- Keep taking your medicines and don’t be concerned if your doctor changes your medicine as it will be for medical reasons only. NB Your pharmacy may need longer to process your prescription due to the social distancing regulations.
- Attend any GP appointments you have, including those relating to INR testing if you are on prescribed medication.
Visit our information section of the website for the latest information on staying healthy.
- Work from home (or stay at home if this is not possible).
- Order your shopping online for home delivery, or ask a friend, family member or neighbour to do your shopping for you. If they are from outside your household, they should leave this on your doorstep.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
- Order your prescriptions online and arrange for someone else to collect it or ask if you can have it delivered.
- Keep in touch with friends and family over the phone, or by using the internet and social media.
- Quit smoking. People who smoke are five times more likely to get flu and twice as likely to get pneumonia. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to protect yourself from viral infections, including coronavirus.
For more information on social distancing visit the GOV.UK website.
When outside your home, you should continue to:
- Stay 2m (6ft) away from people you don't live with.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds each time, especially after you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food.
Other steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Avoid crowded areas or large gatherings.
- Avoid touching things when out and about as much as possible.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel. Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.
- Cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm to reduce the spread of germs and throw away used tissues as soon as you can.
- Wear a face covering/mask in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible, e.g. in shops or on public transport, if you are able to.
If you or someone in your household shows symptoms of COVID-19, then everyone in the house must not leave your home for any reason. This is called ‘self-isolating’.
For the most up-to-date and accurate information on actions to take to self-isolate for households with a possible coronavirus infection visit the PHA Website.
For the most up-to-date and accurate information on face coverings, visit the NI Direct website.
It is now mandatory to wear a mask inside shops, on public transport and within other enclosed spaces in Northern Ireland .
- When wearing a mask it’s still important to maintain social distancing.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after taking it off.
- Make sure the mask covers your mouth, nose and chin without any gaps at the side.
- Avoid touching the mask when wearing it.
- Remove the mask by the straps.
- Always wash your mask (if it’s reusable) after use. If it’s single use then dispose of it carefully in the bin.
You do not have to wear a face covering if you are aged under 13, or if you have a ‘reasonable excuse,’ such as:
- If you have a physical or mental impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering.
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress.
- If you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.
- If you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others.
- If you need to eat, drink, or take medication, you can remove your face covering.
- If you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official.
If you have symptoms of Coronavirus, for the most up-to-date and accurate information on actions to take to self-isolate for households with a possible coronavirus infection visit the PHA Website.
If you are about your symptoms because of your condition or feel you're not coping with your symptoms, call your GP.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital unless you are told to.
If your symptoms are getting worse or feel very serious, call 999.
If you think you or someone else may be having a heart attack or stroke, call 999.