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 20th July 2020. Check the HSE Website for regular updates on Covid-19 advice and daily updates.

People at higher risk from coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people, the risk is higher.

There are 2 levels of higher risk:

There is different advice to protect people in each group.

Immunosuppressive treatments and steroids

There is no evidence to date that you are more at risk of a serious infection from coronavirus if you are on:

  • immunosuppressive treatments
  • steroids

But other infections can cause severe illness for people on immunosuppressive treatment. It could be the same for coronavirus. We just don’t know yet.

Read more on immunosupressive treatments and steroids

Covid-19 and Skin Conditions – Expert Q&A

This video was recorded on 1st April 2020 with Professor Anne-Marie Tobin, Consultant Dermatologist at Tallaght University Hospital and HSE Clinical Lead for Dermatology, and Professor Brian Kirby, Consultant Dermatologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and a global expert on psoriasis, to discuss some of the most frequently asked questions that the ISF has received about Coronavirus (Covid-19) and chronic skin conditions.

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.

Symptoms of coronavirus / Covid-19

If you have any common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you should self-isolate and phone your GP straight away to get a coronavirus test.

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:

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

Getting an early diagnosis from your GP means you can get the help you need and take steps to avoid spreading the virus, if you have it.

Signs and symptoms of hay fever can also be similar to symptoms of corononavirus. But hay fever does not cause a high temperature. Hay fever symptoms also get worse when you are exposed to certain triggers, such as pollen, weeds or grass. Read more about hay fever.

How coronavirus is spread

Coronavirus (COVID-19) 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)

The virus can spread easily in crowded environments. Avoid crowded places as much as possible. Leave if a location becomes overcrowded and keeping 2 metres apart from other people becomes difficult.

Be responsible, be safe

As public health restrictions are lifted, proper hand washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing are even more important.

We are still at risk of a large surge of infection. Everyone should use their judgement and follow the advice below to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Try and limit the number of people you meet with outside of your home and the time you spend with them.

You should:

  • wear a face covering if you are using public transport – this is the law, you may be fined or refused entry if you don’t wear one
  • work from home if possible – if you cannot work from home, keep 2 metres apart from other people
  • avoid crowded places as much as possible – leave a location if social distancing becomes difficult.
  • only use public transport for essential journeys – walk or cycle instead, if you can
  • avoid places where you can’t keep 2 metres apart from other people, where possible
  • wear a face covering if you are in a public place – wearing a face covering in shops or shopping centres will soon become law
  • wear a face covering when visiting people aged 70 or over, or other vulnerable people – be sure to practice social distancing for their safety

You can:

  • meet people indoors or outdoors for social gatherings, but keep at least 2 metres apart – read more information about having visitors.
  • attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products
  • exercise outdoors or indoors in gyms and sports clubs while following public health advice
  • visit outdoor spaces, playgrounds and tourism sites, where you can keep at least 2 metres apart from other people

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.

You should:

  • keep a space of 2 metres (6.5 feet) between you and other people
  • avoid communal sleeping areas
  • avoid any crowded places
  • not shake hands or make close contact with other people, if possible

There is very little risk if you are just passing someone. But try to keep a distance of 2 metres as much as possible.

If you are in a public place where it is difficult to keep 2 metres away from others, you should wear a face covering.

Use the COVID Tracker app

COVID Tracker is a free and easy-to-use mobile phone app that can:

  • alert you if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
  • advise you on what to do to protect yourself and others
  • alert other app users that you were in close contact with, if you test positive for coronavirus

The app is part of our contact tracing operation. Contact tracing is vital to slowing the spread of the virus. The more people that download and use the app, the more it will help contact tracing.

Using the app, along with following the public health advice on this page, can help us all stay safe when we meet up, socialise, work or travel.

You can download the app from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

Read about why you should use the COVID Tracker app.

Clean your hands

Use soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser to clean your hands regularly.

Many hand sanitisers are alcohol based and highly flammable. Do not use alcohol based sanitiser near heat or a naked flame.

How to wash your hands with soap and water

  1. Wet your hands with warm water and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together palm to palm until the soap forms a lather.
  3. Rub the back of one hand with your palm and fingers spread so you wash between fingers. Repeat with the other hand.
  4. Interlock the top of your hands and rub your fingertips – this cleans your fingertips and knuckles.
  5. Then finally grasp your thumb tightly and twist to make sure your thumbs are cleaned. Repeat with the other hand.
  6. This should take at least 20 seconds.
  7. Rinse your hands under running water.
  8. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel.

If you have dry skin or a skin condition, apply moisturiser after washing your hands and at night.

Hand hygiene at home

When you’re at home or not in hospital, make sure you clean your hands:

  • after you use the toilet
  • once you clean up after your pet
  • before you prepare food, handle food or eat
  • after touching raw meat
  • after you use public transport
  • when you get home after meeting lots of people

Cleaning your hands can help you avoid:

  • colds and flu
  • tummy bugs that cause diarrhoea, such as norovirus
  • eye infections such as conjunctivitis
  • superbugs such as MRSA and VRE

Many of these infections are common in children. Parents and childcare workers should always make sure children clean their hands regularly.


You may need to be assessed for a coronavirus test if you are in one of these situations:


You suddenly experience one of these symptoms and there is no other obvious cause:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you develop symptoms, you should self-isolate to stop the spread of coronavirus. Phone your GP straightaway to discuss your symptoms and whether you need a test for coronavirus. Getting an early diagnosis means you can get the help you need and take steps to avoid spreading the virus, if you have it.


If you are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus, you will be phoned by the contact tracing team. They will arrange a test for you. You will be tested even if you do not have symptoms.

Read more about restricted movements close contacts.

GP assessment

Your test and GP assessment will be free of charge.

Phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone.

If you don’t have a GP, any GP can arrange a test for you.

The GP out-of-hours services can also arrange testing.

Your GP may refer you to a coronavirus community assessment hub.

HSELive cannot order coronavirus tests. It is an information line only.

Find contact details for your local GP.

Treat coronavirus symptoms at home

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus. But many of the symptoms of coronavirus can be treated at home.

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

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

The most important thing you can do is to protect others from catching coronavirus. It is especially important to protect people at higher risk from 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
  • avoid smoking
  • keep warm
  • monitor and treat your symptoms

Read more about symptoms of:

If your symptoms get worse

Phone your GP if your symptoms don’t improve.

If you are over the age of 60 or have a condition that puts you at higher risk from coronavirus, keep a close eye on your symptoms. Phone your GP straight away if they get worse.

Read about when to get medical help if you need it.

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.

Minding your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

Infectious disease pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19) can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.

Learn more on minding your mental health.

SunSmart 2020

2020 is the year of the balcony, back garden and staycation! During peak-UV months (April to September), we need “Everyone Under the Sun” to be SunSmart – if you work outdoors, are just queuing for the shops, sitting in the garden, getting in some exercise or mowing the lawn!

The ISF is a proud partner of Healthy Ireland SunSmart, an initiative of the National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan and the National Cancer Strategy 2017-26.

If you’re concerned about a change or growth on your skin, you should always see your doctor.

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.