Coronavirus information for people with chest, heart and stroke conditions
People with underlying conditions such as chest, heart and stroke illnesses may have a higher chance of developing complications if they contract Coronavirus.
We understand that this is a very worrying time if you or someone you love is living with these conditions. The good news is that you are at no greater risk of catching the Coronavirus than anyone else, and there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Throughout this crisis, we are still here for you – find out more below about how we can help you.
All of our face-to-face services are currently suspended.
This includes all our care and support services (including PREP, Taking Control, Breathing Better, Taking Care, and all support groups & programmes) and health promotion services (including health checks, talks, health fairs, school activities and our Health & Homeless service).
However, we are still here for you.
Phone & Postal support
Our care services team have contacted all service users via phone and will be continuing to provide emotional support, advice and guidance via a weekly phone call. We will also be keeping in touch and providing guidance and support via post over the summer - keep an eye on your postbox!
We are also working hard to rapidly re-design our services to find new ways of getting our help to people with chest, heart and stroke conditions and their carers, to support their ongoing rehabilitation and self-management. Our teams are putting together video tutorials and resources such as infographics to provide guidance and advice to help you keep healthy and well at this time.
If you are a service users, our co-ordinators will provide information on this via your weekly phone call, or alternatively you can follow our social media pages (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Linkedin) or keep an eye on our home resources page where we will be posting all the new content our teams create.
We are still taking new referrals. If you are affected by a chest, heart or stroke condition or become diagnosed during this time, please contact our care services team by clicking here.
Coronaviruses are a common type of virus which can cause a wide range of respiratory infections, from the common cold and flu to more severe illness.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.
This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in 2019.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
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. You can read more about what this means below within the tab titled 'What does self-isolating mean?'
Some people may also become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people who are older, and those with underlying medical problems such as a weakened immune system, chest conditions, high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes. People living with chest, heart and stroke conditions are therefore more at risk.
How is COVID-19 treated?
There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for coronavirus. Researchers are working to try to develop a vaccine but this takes time.
Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness, similarly to any other cold or flu. Things that may help include:
- staying hydrated
- taking remedies such as paracetamol if you have a high temperature
Always continue taking any medication you have been prescribed.
Always follow the advice of medical professionals who are treating you.
Depending on what kind of health condition you have, you may have received a letter from your GP or hospital care team advising you to 'shield' as you are considered to be at the highest risk from coronavirus (COVID-19).
However, even if you didn't receive a shielding letter, if you are older and living with an underlying health condition, even if it is not a condition that means you need to 'shield', you may still feel worried about your risk if you contract Coronavirus.
On 8 June 2020, the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland updated the guidance for those who are shielding, as "infection levels in the community are now falling".
If you have been advised to shield, you can now go outdoors while maintaining strict social distancing:
- with members of your household
- if you live alone you can meet one person from another household (preferably the same person each time)
People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions. It is still best to stay at home as much as possible.
You can view a full list of conditions which are considered to make you more at risk of complications of COVID-19 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
- if you have received an organ transplant
- if you have kidney disease and received dialysis
- if you have a suppressed immune system or if you are on some treatments like steroids and chemotherapy
There is also useful information on types of medication and inhalers which may put you in an at risk group available on Asthma UK’s website.
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 of COVID-19. Therefore we would 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 worried or anxious about coronavirus. These feelings are very normal.
Here’s some tips to help you cope:
- Switch off - there is a lot of information circulating on coronavirus in the media and on social media. Much of this may be exaggerated or inaccurate. Only look at reliable sources of information about coronavirus that are updated regularly, such as the NHS, to help you feel more in control.
- Keep in touch with your friends and family over the phone or using social media.
- Eat well and try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
- Get outside for some fresh air and exercise once a day, making sure to keep a distance from others. This is good for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
- Keep taking your medicines. Given the strain on the health service there has never been a more important time to take your medicines correctly, ensuring you follow exactly what your doctor has advised and what your prescription states.
- Attend any GP appointments you have – including relating to INR testing if they are on Warfarin. It is vitality important in order to lower the risk of stroke that people who are on Warfarin are kept ‘within range’.
- Don’t be concerned if your Doctor changes your medicine right now. If they do so, it will be for medical reasons only – not due to issues about supply or cost. There are no medicine shortages – although your pharmacy may need longer to process your prescription due to the social distancing regulations.
Our care services team will be providing emotional support, advice and guidance to all of our service users via a weekly phone call for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis - they are here to listen, so if you are worried or need help, don't be afraid to ask. We are here for you.
We will also be keeping in touch via postal support over the summer.
We also have a range of online videos and resources online, providing tips to help you keep healthy and well at this time. Follow our social media pages (Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Linkedin) or keep an eye on our home resources page where we will be posting these.
If you are affected by a chest, heart or stroke condition or become diagnosed during this time and would like to avail of our support, please contact our care services team by clicking here.
If you are shielding:
- Your employer should support you to work from home, or if this is not possible, to stay at home, especially if you have an underlying condition, are pregnant, or over 70.
- You can order your shopping online to be delivered to your home, or ask a friend, family member or neighbor to do your shopping for you. If they are from outside your household, they should leave this on your doorstep and not come inside. If you have to go out to the shop, do this less often, for example once a week, and try to go at an off peak time when the shop may be quieter. Always stand 2 metres away from others in the shop and wash your hands when you get home.
- 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.
Though lockdown measures are now being eased in most parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland, we should still continue to try to stay at home when we can and socially distance from others outside of our household.
When outside your home, you should continue to:
- Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people who you don't live with
- Wash your hands more often with soap and water for 20 seconds each time, especially after you get home or into work; blow your nose, sneeze or cough; are going to eat or handle food.
Other steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- 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 when in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible, such as in shops or on public transport.
If you or someone in your household is showing symptoms of coronavirus, everyone in your house needs to to self isolate.
This means you should not leave your home for any reason.
If you need food, you should order this online and have it delivered or ask someone from outside your household to go shopping for you and leave it on your doorstep.
If you have symptoms, you should also try to stay away from others in your household who don’t have symptoms if at all possible eg. by staying in a different room, or moving out of the house to somewhere else if the option is available. This advice applies to everyone, including people who have underlying conditions.
For more information on actions to take to self isolate for households with a possible coronavirus infection visit the GOV.UK website.
A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth.
The Government are now recommending that the majority of people should use face coverings when spending time in enclosed spaces - such as inside shops. You must wear a face covering on public transport.
In line with the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), when you do wear a face covering it is important that you:
- do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection they may offer
- continue to practice 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 removing it
- make sure the face covering covers your mouth, nose and chin without any gaps at the side
- avoid touching the face covering when wearing it
- take the face covering off by the straps
- wash the face covering after use, if the material is washable - if it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in the general waste
You do not have to wear a face covering if you are aged under 13, or if you have a "reasonable excuse". This includes if you have a health condition or if other circumstances make it difficult for you to wear one. For example:
- if you have a physical or mental illness or 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
There is no need to get a letter from a doctor or government to show that you do not need to wear a face covering. If you have a condition which means you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say, if asked, that you cannot wear a face covering because you are exempt.
It is important to that we all respect one another and remember that the reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible.
If you have symptoms of Coronavirus
If you have either a high temperature or a new persistent cought, stay at home. Anyone else who lives with you should also stay at home for 14 days.
- Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
- You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
- Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.
How long to stay at home:
- if you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days
- if you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms (new advice as of 16 March)
- If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.
- If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
Visit the PHA website for more information and guidance on actions to take.
If you feel generally unwell or have a flair up of your condition
If you have a lung condition, it may be difficult to distinguish between symptoms of an exacerbation or flare-up of your condition and COVID-19 symptoms. Anxious feelings and stress can also sometimes exacerbate conditions such as COPD. However usually, exacerbations of COPD and asthma will not cause high fever. If you are unwell and you haven’t been to the high-risk areas or been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, and you don’t have other symptoms such as fever, follow your usual steps to manage an exacerbation or flare-up, including getting medical help if you need to.
If you have a heart condition or have had a stroke, you should follow the same steps or measures you usually would if you were feeling unwell, including getting medical help if you need to.
If you think you or someone else may be having a heart attack or stroke, call 999.