Whether you’re self-isolating or shielding at home, supporting loved ones or caring for those in the community, we’ll continue to stand by, support and speak up for people living with lupus.
We’ll be continually reviewing this content as the COVID-19 situation evolves across the UK and guidance changes over time. Therefore, it’s important to check this page regularly for updates.
Our information has been updated to reflect the changes being introduced from 14 September in England, Wales and Scotland to limit the number of people who can meet together to 6 in specific situations. Also, from this date, wearing face masks in shops will be mandatory in Wales and local restrictions will be introduced in Northern Ireland. Read the latest COVID-19 advice for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
There are likely to be differences at a more local level when required. If there’s different advice where you are, your local council website should have details. Find your local council at gov.uk
Self-isolating and shielding
If you are being treated for an autoimmune condition it may increase your risk of getting coronavirus.
At the height of the pandemic you may have been advised to shield or self-isolate to protect yourself.
The UK Government has eased restrictions for vulnerable people. This means from 1 August in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England you will no longer have to shield and will have greater freedom. Shielding was paused in Wales from the 16 August.
The UK Government has updated its guidance for those people who are shielding because COVID-19 infection levels are substantially lower than when shielding was first introduced. We’re continuing to monitor Government announcements from each nation and will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Read more about the updates on the Gov UK website. This includes further information on schools and the workplace for those living in households where people are shielding. This guidance remains advisory.
Should I stop shielding?
We’ve heard from many people who are concerned that there is still a risk to their health.
Shielding guidance is just advice, meaning you can choose how to follow it. If you are worried or uncomfortable about going outside, it may help to speak to a member of your healthcare team, such as your GP or rheumatologist about your situation.
Global Rheumatology Alliance
Read more about Global Rheumatology Alliance – COVID-19 Patient Survey. This survey is for adult patients with a rheumatic illness or the parents of a child with a rheumatic illness. They hope to obtain insights about how best to prevent or treat COVID19.
Please note that every lupus patient is different. If you have specific questions about your condition and/or any new symptoms, you should speak to a member of your healthcare team.
The current advice is that you should not stop taking your medications unless advised to do so by your rheumatologist or rheumatology nurse. By stopping your medication, you’re more likely to have a ‘flare’, which could make you more likely to pick up an infection. If you have concerns about your medication, speak to a member of your healthcare team.
From the 23rd March the NHS have started contacting patients deemed ‘extremely vulnerable’ to provide instructions on shielding. This will include many people with lupus. Full guidance on shielding is below along with information on assessing if you are in this group.
Shielding advice for high-risk groups
What is shielding?
Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. This means that those who are extremely vulnerable should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household. This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) from coming into contact with the virus.
The Government has released guidelines for people who are at higher risk, we strongly recommend you follow this guidance if you are in one of the high-risk groups.
- Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.
Information and guidance from the Rheumatology Team at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust:
Advice for our HIGHEST RISK patients only:
How can I know if I am very high risk?
‘At risk’ groups
The below NHS guide published on the 16th March 2020 states that people with a diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are at a ‘high’/‘very high’ risk from the virus ( see page 4).
Generally the flu vaccination is advised for lupus patients and therefore you would be seen as ‘at risk’ and should be self isolating at home for 12 weeks.
If your entire household is unable to isolate, for instance if you are living with ‘key workers’ then these steps will help to reduce the chances of infection.
- Minimise as much as possible the time any vulnerable family members spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and keep shared spaces well ventilated.
- Aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from vulnerable people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible. If they can, they should use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. Make sure they use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes.
- If you do share a toilet and bathroom with a vulnerable person, it is important that you clean them every time you use them (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with). Another tip is to consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with the vulnerable person using the facilities first.
- If you share a kitchen with a vulnerable person, avoid using it while they are present. If they can, they should take their meals back to their room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. If the vulnerable person is using their own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these.
- We understand that it will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home. You should do your very best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces.
How do you look after your mental wellbeing?
Social isolation, reduction in physical activity, unpredictability and changes in routine can all contribute to increasing stress. Many people including those without existing mental health needs may feel anxious about this impact including support with daily living, ongoing care arrangements with health providers, support with medication and changes in their daily routines. How to protect your mental health – read more here!
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China.
Symptoms of coronavirus
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
How coronavirus is spread
Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person.
Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.
It’s very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.
Do I need to avoid public places?
Most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places.
You only need to stay away from public places (self-isolate) if advised to by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.
How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- always wash your hands when you get home or into work
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Check if you need medical help
NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
Use this service if:
- you think you might have coronavirus
- in the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
- you’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.
Getting help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
- Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open
- Wales: call 111
- Northern Ireland: call 111
How to self-isolate if you’re asked to
If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
This means you should:
- stay at home
- not go to work, school or public places
- not use public transport or taxis
- ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
- try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
Read more coronavirus self-isolation advice.
Treatment for coronavirus
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus.
Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses.
Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
You’ll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you’ve recovered.
Government response and action plan
We’ll continue to update this page as we know more.
Thank you for all of the comments below, we are working through these as quickly as possible and replying directly. If you have specific questions about your condition and/or any new symptoms, you should speak to a member of your healthcare team.