Coronavirus > Coronavirus information and support > Managing your condition & planning ahead

Managing your chest, heart or stroke condition

Below you can find a summary of the Scottish Government advice if:

  • you have a respiratory (chest) condition – for example, severe COPD, bronchiectasis or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)
  • you have long-term heart disease – for example, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack or heart failure
  • you have had a stroke.

Information from the Scottish Government

Why you are more at risk if you are living with a chest, heart or stroke condition

Coronavirus mainly affects your lungs. This means that some people with respiratory (lung) conditions, like those listed below, have a higher risk of becoming ill if they get coronavirus:

  • severe asthma
  • severe COPD
  • bronchiectasis
  • interstitial lung disease (such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) or sarcoidosis)
  • cystic fibrosis
  • those on long-term oxygen therapy.

Some people with long-term heart disease have a higher risk of becoming ill if they get coronavirus. This is because:

  • your heart has to work harder if you get the virus so it can affect you more if you already have a weakened heart muscle
  • if you have coronary artery disease, you have a build-up of fatty material in your arteries. The virus might affect this fatty build-up which might make angina (chest pain) worse or increase the risk of having a heart attack
  • some people with long-term heart disease have a weaker immune system which can make it harder to fight coronavirus.

Some people with a neurological condition (a condition that affects the brain, spine or nerves), such as those who have had a stroke, have a higher risk of becoming ill if they get coronavirus. Your risk depends on things such as your age, your overall health, your immune system, how your stroke affected you (such as whether you have swallowing or breathing problems) and whether you have any other health conditions.

Do not change your current treatment without medical advice

You should not change your current treatment, such as your medications or appointments, without the advice of your doctor or other health professional. They will talk to you about the benefits and risks of your current treatment and will discuss with you if any changes are needed.

If you have a hospital appointment scheduled, contact your healthcare team first to check whether you should still attend the appointment or if different arrangements need to be made.

Do not leave home to go to appointments if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. Check your symptoms on the NHS Inform website and call 111 to seek further advice. When you call, tell them if you have a chest, heart or stroke condition. You should also let your chest, heart or stroke team know that you have symptoms.

Looking out for changes to your usual symptoms

Download PDF Guide

If you have a chest, heart or stroke condition, the symptoms of coronavirus are the same for you as for everyone else. The main symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature/fever, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change of sense of smell or taste. However:

  • if you usually feel breathless, your breathlessness might become worse
  • if you already have a chest condition, your symptoms may become worse, for example, your cough may be different from your normal cough or your normal cough may feel worse than usual
  • if you have angina (chest pain), your chest pain might feel worse than usual
  • if you have heart failure, you might have more fluid retention or feel more breathless than normal.

If this applies to you, get advice straight away from your GP or member of your specialist chest, heart or stroke team. They will tell you what to do.

For more information about looking out for changes to your usual symptoms and taking action, download our handy guide (PDF).

What to do if you think you have coronavirus

If you think you have coronavirus, do not to go the GP, pharmacy or hospital. You can check your symptoms on the NHS Inform website.

You and your household should follow the Scottish Government’s self-isolation advice.

You should phone 111 if:

  • your symptoms get worse
  • you start getting breathless or your usual breathlessness gets worse
  • your symptoms haven’t improved in 7 days.

When you call, tell them if you have a chest, heart or stroke condition.

Call 999 to get help straight away if you have sudden chest pain or sudden breathlessness.

What to do if you need advice about your health condition

If you don’t think you have coronavirus but you need advice about managing your chest, heart or stroke condition, you should call your GP (or 111 if your GP is closed), or your specialist chest, heart or stroke medical team.

Strictly follow Scottish Government stay-at-home advice

There is different advice for different groups, depending on what type of health condition you have.

Very high risk

Some people are at very high risk of becoming seriously ill if they get coronavirus, because of their health condition. If you are in this group, you will receive a letter from NHS Scotland or be contacted by your doctor.

You will have been advised to stay home and not go out at all. This is called shielding. From 1st of August shielding advice was paused and those who were shielding you should follow the same guidance as the rest of Scotland.

For more information, see our shielding page.

Increased risk

If you have a chest, heart or stroke condition but you are not in the very high-risk group, you still have an increased risk of becoming ill if you get coronavirus. You should strictly follow the Scottish Government’s general advice.

Extra support and advice is available

  • Contact your GP or specialist team member (such as your respiratory team, heart failure liaison nurse, cardiac rehabilitation team or stroke team) if you have concerns about your condition or your treatment.
  • If you have long-term heart failure, you can find more information about how coronavirus may affect you on the on the Scottish Heart Failure Hub website.
  • Visit the NHS Inform website for up-to-date information.
  • Call the coronavirus helpline on 0800 028 2816 for general information about coronavirus.

For free, confidential support and information about the new Scottish Government advice, or about how coronavirus might affect you, call the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Advice Line nurses on 0808 801 0899, email or text NURSE to 66777.

Scottish Government advice in full

You can download the full advice for people with a chest, heart or stroke condition from the Scottish Government website:

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Important advice for people with respiratory conditions
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Important advice for people with chronic heart disease
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Important advice for people with neurological conditions (this includes stroke)

You can also find details on the highest risk groups on the same website.

Manage your condition

It is important to continue to manage your health condition and stay as healthy as you can:

  • eat a healthy diet
  • stay as physically active as you can
  • get as much sleep as possible - this can help your mood, your memory and reduce your tiredness
  • look after your mental wellbeing as much as you can, and stay in contact with family and friends as much as possible through phone calls, emails, messaging and video calls
  • continue to take your medication as prescribed
  • know what is normal for you and your own health condition and know how to recognise the signs that your health might be changing or getting worse
  • have a plan in place for what you will do if you become unwell and who you will contact to get the help you need.


Plan ahead

If you are at increased risk from coronavirus, it's a good idea to plan ahead and make sure you are prepared in case you need to self-isolate. For example, you should:

  • think about who you may need to stay in touch with and who can help you if you, a family member or a carer becomes unwell - for example, who could collect your medicines from the pharmacy or deliver other essentials such as food to you
  • make a list of what you might need if you have to self-isolate, such as your food, medicines or contacting your GP or hospital about any upcoming medical appointments
  • make a plan for other people in your household who you support and who might be vulnerable if you had to self-isolate
  • put together a list of contact details for people you might need to contact if you needed to self-isolate, such as your neighbours, employer, pharmacist and GP
  • make sure you have enough medication to last you and continue to take this medication as prescribed
  • set up online shopping accounts if this is right for you
  • talk to your neighbours and family, and exchange telephone numbers so that everyone is connected.