Please note: The circumstances around Covid-19 are rapidly evolving on a daily basis. We will review and update guidance in line with the latest advice from the HSE as the situation develops. This information was updated on 2 April 2020. Check the HSE Website for regular updates on Covid-19 advice

There are some groups of people who may be more at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. More from the HSE.

NEW from the HSE: At-risk groups and cocooning

According to the HSE, 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 (are immunosuppressed) [that is, those who are “extremely medically vulnerable” and are being treated with “immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection”. What this specifically means for patients living with chronic skin conditions is currently under active discussion. The ISF is seeking expert clarification on this point – in the meantime, if you believe that you fall into this category and have questions about what to do, please contact your prescribing doctor] 
  • have a medical condition that can affect your breathing
  • 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

Some people in the at-risk groups are extremely medically vulnerable and need to cocoon.


If you are taking medication for other conditions

Take any medication you are already taking as usual, unless you are told not to by a healthcare professional.

There is no evidence that any medication is unsafe if you have coronavirus. Information on the virus is changing rapidly. The HSE is closely following any updates worldwide.

More from the HSE on treatments including: Medicine supplies; Prescriptions and collecting medicines; Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medication; High blood pressure medicines; Immunosuppressive medicines; Steroids; and Immunosuppressive treatments.

What is Covid-19?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

How coronavirus is spread

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.

You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on and bring your unwashed hands to your face (eyes, nose or mouth)

As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person or how long the virus stays on surfaces. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.

The virus may survive for up to 2 days if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

Symptoms of coronavirus / Covid-19

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear. They can be similar to the symptoms of cold and flu.

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:

If you have any of these symptoms, you should behave as if you have the virus and self-isolate for 14 days. People in your household will need to restrict their movements.

Close contact

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and you do not have symptoms, you need to restrict your movements. You only need to phone your GP if you have symptoms of coronavirus. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

This is only a guide but close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

Self-isolation and restricted movements

Coronavirus testing

Help slow the spread of coronavirus

To help slow the spread of coronavirus:

  • anyone who has symptoms should behave as if they have the virus and self-isolate for 14 days
  • everyone should stay at home as much as possible and limit unnecessary social contact
  • at-risk groups should avoid close contact with people outside the home

Stay at home

Government instructions are to stay at home as much as possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Only leave the house to:

  • work, as an essential worker
  • go to the shops for basic necessities, for example food and medicine
  • care for others
  • brief exercise

There is separate advice about:

Avoid non-essential travel overseas and follow the DFA’s travel advice.

Social distancing

Social distancing is important to help slow the spread of coronavirus. It does this by minimising contact between potentially infected individuals and healthy individuals.

Good hygiene and hand washing

Follow this advice as strictly as possible and encourage others to follow this advice too.


  • Wash your hands properly and often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze.
  • Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.


  • touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • share objects that touch your mouth – for example, bottles, cups.

You should wash your hands:

  • after coughing or sneezing
  • before and after eating
  • before and after preparing food
  • if you were in contact with someone who has a fever or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing)
  • before and after being on public transport if you must use it
  • before and after being in a crowd (especially an indoor crowd)
  • when you arrive and leave buildings including your home or anyone else’s home
  • if you have handled animals or animal waste
  • before having a cigarette or vaping
  • if your hands are dirty
  • after toilet use

Keep your hands in good condition, moisturise them often. Any basic product that is not perfumed or coloured is OK.

Caring for yourself at home

About 80% of people can recover from coronavirus at home and without needing to go to hospital.

If you are generally fit and healthy with only mild symptoms of coronavirus, your GP will tell you to self-isolate at home.

The most important thing you can do is to protect others from catching it. It is especially important to protect people in at-risk groups from catching coronavirus.

You should:

  • self-isolate
  • get lots of rest and sleep.
  • drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Your pee should be light yellow or clear
  • eat healthily
  • do not smoke
  • keep warm
  • monitor and treat your symptoms

If your symptoms get worse

Contact your GP if your symptoms don’t improve after 14 days.

If you are in an at-risk group, you should keep a close eye on your symptoms. Contact your GP straight away if they get worse.

If you are concerned about any of your symptoms phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Medicines to treat symptoms

The best medicines to use will depend on your:

  • symptoms
  • other medical conditions
  • any other medication you’re taking

Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains. Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first-line treatment for most people.

Before taking any medication, read the full package leaflet that comes with your medicine. Follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.

You should also follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.

If you get the virus, your healthcare professional will advise treatment based on your symptoms.

Antibiotics do not work against coronavirus or any viruses. They will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. Coronavirus is a virus and antibiotics cannot treat viruses.


There is currently no vaccine to treat or protect against coronavirus.

The flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus.

Keeping well

Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19) can be worrying. This can affect your mental health.

Read some advice on minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

General guidance for people with skin conditions

The ISF operates an ‘Ask a Nurse’ Helpline service where our dermatology nurses provide support, information and general guidance for your skin condition. Submit your question any time by filling out the ‘Ask a Nurse’ form.

The ISF and other dermatology organisations have been working to provide the below up-to-date guidance for people with skin conditions during this rapidly evolving situation. The ISF will ensure this content is regularly updated.