Grainne O'Leary, chief executive of Arthritis Ireland, speaks to Dr Richard Conway, consultant rheumatologist, about Covid-19 and arthritis. This event was streamed as part of World Arthritis Day 2020.

Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease. The risk of getting Covid-19 is now part of our daily lives and will remain so for the foreseeable future. We are all vulnerable to this virus and some people, particularly those over 70 and the medically vulnerable, are still at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill.

National Framework for living with Covid-19

Ireland is moving to Level 5 at midnight on Wednesday night, 20 OctoberSee the measures that will come into place here.

Covid-19 and arthritis

  • Do not alter your medications without specific instructions to do so by your rheumatology team, who have your medical records. If you develop symptoms of any infection, including Covid-19, in consultation with your rheumatology team, immunosuppressive therapy should be paused for the duration of the infection until you feel well.
  • Being on immunosuppressive treatments does not increase your risk of getting a Covid-19 (Coronavirus) infection 
  • There is no evidence to date that being on an immunosuppressive treatment puts you at higher risk of severe disease with Covid-19.
  • However, as other infections can cause severe illness in people who are on immunosuppressive treatment, you should take extra care. 
  • 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 Covid-19 or another infection, continue to take your steroids.
  • Further information about immunosuppressive medications, steroids and risk is available here.

If you have any questions about Covid-19, please contact our helpline by phone: 01 661 8188 or 1890 252 846 or by email to [email protected]. You can also connect with our private Facebook support group.

Symptoms of COVID-19 and how to protect yourself

Physical distancing should continue to be maintained at all times.

You are still advised to:

  • wash your hands well and often
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing, and discard used tissue safely
  • distance yourself at least 2 metres away from other people, especially those who might be unwell
  • limit your contact with others when out and about
  • keep your close contacts to a small number of people
  • limit the amount of time you spend in direct contact with other people
  • avoid crowded areas. If an area looks busy, go somewhere else or return at a quieter time
  • wear a face covering in situations where physical distancing is not possible, for example shops and busy public transport, or if you are meeting someone who is vulnerable to the virus, for example people who are extremely medically vulnerable and people over 70 years. Wearing cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others. Guidance on safe use of face coverings is available here.
  • keep a log of all of your contacts throughout the day

Know the symptoms of Covid-19.

They are:

  • a fever (high temperature - 38 degrees Celsius or above)
  • a cough - this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • flu like symptoms

If you have symptoms, self-isolate and contact your GP immediately.

Further information about Covid-19 is available on the Department of Health website

Updated 20 October 2020