People with a compromised immune system
In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have developed advice for people with a compromised immune system. This page outlines the steps you can take to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Anyone could develop serious or severe illness from COVID-19, but those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems are at greater risk.
What does it mean to have a compromised immune system?
Having a compromised immune system (also called immunocompromised) means a person has a weakened immune system, which reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases. It also reduces a person’s ability to recover from infections.
They might get sick more often or stay sick for longer. They are also more vulnerable to different types of infections.
Certain diseases or conditions may cause a weakened immune system placing people at greater risk of suffering complications if they become sick from COVID-19. These include:
- heart disease
- chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis
- kidney disease
- poorly controlled diabetes
- poorly controlled hypertension
- moderate to severe asthma
- genetic immune deficiencies.
Many conditions and treatments can cause a person to have a weakened immune system, including:
- cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- bone marrow or organ transplant
- stem cell transplant
- HIV infection
- other immune system suppressing medication.
What can I do to protect myself?
Because you fall into a vulnerable group, even if you are feeling well it is important to take extra care to protect yourself from COVID-19. You should always maintain good hygiene and stay 1.5 meters away from other people where possible. These are the best defenses for you against COVID-19. We also recommend you talk to your doctor about your individual situation.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you start to feel sick, contact a doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).
If your symptoms are serious and you experience shortness of breath, call 000.
How do I stay healthy during COVID-19?
It is important to maintain healthy habits during this time to keep your immune system as strong as possible.
Emotional stress, lack of sleep and physical exhaustion can impact your immune system further, making you more susceptible to illness.
- Get plenty of sleep—aim for eight hours every night
- Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Take steps to relieve stress—try yoga, meditation or light exercise you can do at home.
Find more suggestions on how to stay healthy at home on the Healthier. Happier. website.
How do I know if my symptoms are from COVID-19 if I have the same symptoms regularly due to my ongoing health condition?
We know COVID-19 symptoms can present as similar symptoms to other health conditions. If you have an ongoing health condition, you and your treating clinicians will know your regular health the best. You should speak to your doctor and get tested for COVID-19 if you notice any changes to your regular condition.
Should I attend my usual healthcare appointments?
At this stage of the pandemic, it is important that you go to your usual, confirmed appointment with your doctor or other healthcare professionals.
People with chronic health conditions may get very sick if their regular healthcare services and appointments are stopped.
Putting off your healthcare checks can be dangerous and now is not the time to delay getting the care you need.
If you have an appointment, our doctors and nurses are expecting to see you. Be sure to turn up, so you can receive the care you need.
Hospital and health services are following the highest standard of infection control. Positive COVID-19 patients are not treated in general wards, and fever clinics are either located off-site or in isolated areas of the hospital.
If you are worried about going to see your healthcare provider in person, contact them to see if you are eligible for a telehealth appointment.
What about my usual care arrangements?
Any essential carers or visitors who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit unless they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19.
Everyone coming to your home should practice good hygiene and social distancing, where possible.
Speak to your carers about back-up plans for your care in case your main carer becomes sick and has to stay at home.
Do I keep taking my usual medications, including immunosuppressant medications?
It is important to keep taking your usual dose of medications during this time.
If you are worried about your healthcare plan or medication, contact your doctor to discuss.
How can I order medical prescriptions from home?
The Australian Government has provided funding so you can get your medicines from home through the Home Medicines Service. Visit the Australian Government’s website for more information or contact your local pharmacist.
How do I care for my mental health and stay connected?
Staying at home and limiting contact with other people may lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, or depression.
You may also feel more vulnerable and anxious about being exposed to the virus.
For simple ways you can look after your mental wellbeing, visit the COVID-19 website.
Should I go to work?
If you have a compromised immune system, it is best to stay at home as much as possible. This includes working from home when you can. If you work for an essential service, contact your employer for advice about your situation.
Should my immunocompromised child go to school?
It is important that you communicate with your school if you choose to keep your child at home, either due to concerns about COVID-19 or if your child is ill for any other reason. When you contact the school with this information you may also wish to discuss any support you may need to assist you with your child’s learning at home.
Parents and carers of students with health support needs are encouraged to speak to their doctor when deciding if their child should go to school.
I have no support network; how do I get help?
The Community Recovery Hotline is available to support vulnerable Queenslanders in home quarantine who have no other means of support.
The hotline can assist people by arranging non-contact delivery of essential food and medication to people in quarantine with no other means of support.
The Community Recovery Hotline can be contacted on 1800 173 349.
Information for friends and family
Staying at home if you are sick and limiting contact with people doesn’t just help protect you. It helps protect the people who are most vulnerable to getting very sick from COVID-19.
If you know someone who has a compromised immune system, it is important to support them during this time.
Remember to check in on people, especially those who are living alone or may be more vulnerable to health issues. This can help them feel connected and supported.
Ways you can help:
- Connect with someone via phone, email or social media.
- Pick up groceries or prescriptions and drop them off at their home.
- Use Queensland Health’s Kindness cards. Print them out and slip it into someone’s letterbox.