Isolating when you're immunocompromised

Keeping yourself safe if you have a weakened immune system

Key points about keeping yourself safe if you have a weakened immune system

  • The information on this page is intended for people who have a compromised (weakened) immune system, a long-term condition, are older and/or have a disability meaning that they are at greater risk of being unwell.  
  • If your immune system is weakened you might need to take extra precautions and monitor yourself carefully if you're ill, or in contact with others who are unwell. 
  • The term "disability" covers  people in various circumstances including those with physical or intellectual impairment and those who are at greater risk due to having multiple and/or severe long-term conditions. 

 

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Having low immunity means that your immune system and ability to fight off illness and bugs is not as strong as it should be. Low immunity can be caused by: 

  • illness, eg, cancer 
  • a long-term condition, eg, diabetes or multiple sclerosis 
  • taking certain medicines or having treatment, eg, chemotherapy 
  • being older 
  • having a physical or intellectual impairment or disability.   

When you have a weakened immune system you need to be more careful to avoid catching an illness like COVID-19 or the flu. You could become more unwell than others and your symptoms could be more severe. 

If somebody else in your household/whare is unwell, they should stay away from you if possible. It’s a good idea to follow the same rules as for COVID-19 which include: 

  • only using their own sheets and towels and cutlery, cups and plates 
  • staying in their own room if possible 
  • sleeping alone if possible 
  • wearing a mask when sharing a room with anyone or when moving around the house 
  • washing down kitchen and bathroom surfaces with disinfectant after they have used them 
  • opening windows to ventilate the house. 

If you or the person  you are caring for has difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, fainting or becomes unconscious, call 111 immediately.  

 

  • If you live with others, try following the suggestions about how to keep yourself well in the section above.
  • If you live alone, keeping to yourself doesn't mean no contact. Make sure you stay in touch with your healthcare provider or carer if you have one, and whānau and friends – update them on how you're doing. 

If you're getting home help or have visitors coming, let them know beforehand that you aren’t well, especially if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19. You can take precautions by:

  • wearing a mask
  • being careful about hygiene and ventilation
  • hand-washing
  • opening windows to let fresh air circulate.   

If you have COVID, read more about how to manage your symptoms and positions to help with breathing. You can also find a symptom diary to help you record your symptoms. It's advisable to do this 3 times a day so that you can see if they're getting worse.  

When to get medical help

If at any point you are worried about symptoms, don't hesitate to call your local doctor first for advice, or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. They may be able to help you over the phone or can advise you on what to do. Your doctor may offer you a telehealth appointment (read more about telehealth) or arrange for you to be seen in person.  
 
If you have problems remembering things, ask them to print out information for you or to write things down so you can refer back to it.   

Note: from 13 February 2023, some people will have to pay for COVID-related visits to their healthcare provider.

COVID care will still be free for you if you: 

  • have a high-risk medical condition 
  • are Māori or Pasifika 
  • have a disability 
  • are aged 65 years or older 
  • meet the criteria for antiviral medicine. 

Most people with COVID will be able to manage their symptoms and recover at home. However, if you need to go to hospital because of COVID, hospital care will remain free. 

Video: COVID symptoms and when to seek medical advice

Watch the video below on symptoms and when to get help. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Healthify He Puna Waiora, in partnership with Te Whatu Ora, Northland & Ministry of Health, NZ, 2022)

If you’re not well it’s recommended that you stay at home. Ask whānau or friends to get any supplies that you need like medicines, food and information. Many services will deliver to your home. 

Medicines

If you need medicines contact your doctor or local community pharmacist and they will arrange for them to be delivered to your home. It's important to keep taking all the medicines you have been prescribed and stick to your health plan.

Food

Countdown offers a priority service for people aged over 70 years, and for people with disabilities. This means that you can get your groceries delivered more quickly. If you are already registered for home delivery with your supermarket you can order supplies online and get them delivered to your home. If you have a disability and you are not already registered, you can email the Disabled Persons Assembly (info@dpa.org.nz) who can give members a code to use for the Priority Assist application. 

If your supermarket is unable to do home deliveries, register for click and collect so you can order your groceries online. You might need a friend or whānau member to help set this up and then collect them for you.  

Information

If you test positive for COVID-19 there’s information on what to do on The Ministry of Health’s health hub. (external link)

Home care 

Many older people and people with disabilities are getting regular support with household tasks and personal care. As long as they are really needed, these supports will still be available if there is COVID-19 in your house.  

Welfare support

If you have COVID and need welfare support or information you can call the COVID-19 welfare line 0800 512 337.

Internet access

If you don't have access to the internet because of the cost, as a senior (older person) or a person with a disability you can get subsidized broadband through Skinny Jump.(external link) They provide flexible pre-paid broadband, with 30GB data for $5 with no contracts or credit checks required. A modem is provided free. It's not available in all parts of Aotearoa New Zealand so check with them to see if you are eligible.(external link) 

Having access to the internet will mean that you can use the telehealth services your doctor can offer you, and you can access a large range of information. It will also help you to stay in touch with loved ones if you’re sticking close to home while unwell. It also gives them a chance to check on how you’re doing. 

Extra help

Resource

Isolating for older or disabled people (video)(external link) Healthify He Puna Waiora NZ, 2022

Note that some of the details may no longer apply as isolation requirements in Aotearoa New Zealand have changed. 

References

Help when you are self-isolating(external link) Unite Against COVID-19, NZ, 2022
Support and information for disabled people(external link) Unite Against COVID-19, NZ, 2022

Brochures

managing covid 19 symptoms

COVID-19 positive – how to manage your symptoms

Healthify He Puna Waiora NZ, 2021

pulse oximeter

COVID-19 positive – how to use a pulse oximeter

Healthify He Puna Waiora NZ, 2021

symptoms and when to get help

COVID-19 positive – symptoms and when to get help

Healthify He Puna Waiora NZ, 2021

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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