Cocooning and heart disease – what you need to know

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   31st Mar 2020

Updated Monday 25th of May What is cocooning, how do you do it and why is it important?

Everyone over the age of 70 and those with specific medical conditions known as “medically vulnerable” must cocoon.

A cocoon is a silky web spun around the larvae of many insects. Caterpillars emerge from their cocoons as beautiful butterflies. The word cocoon can also refer to a form of self-protection for humans.

The term “cocooning” which essentially means staying in your home at all times, was first coined in the 1980s by a marketing consultant but before the coronavirus many of us had never heard of the phrase in the context of human illness and disease.

What is cocooning? 

Cocooning is a way to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from the coronavirus by minimising interaction between them and other people.

According to the HSE, “it means you should stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact. Even within your home, you should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household. Family, carers, neighbours and our public services will help ensure you have the support you need.”

People who are cocooning can now go outside for exercise as long as they stay within 5km of their home and they can also meet up with other people outside in groups no larger than four people.

I have a heart condition/have suffered a stroke, but am under the age of 70. Do I need to cocoon? 

The HSE has listed the groups of people who are considered medically vulnerable and who must cocoon. In relation to heart disease and stroke they include the following:

Other people who need to cocoon include people with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD. People with heart failure who have severe breathing difficulties, patients waiting for a heart transplant and people with severe vascular disease needing long-term care would fall into these groups.

Some heart and stroke patients may also have other medical conditions such as cancer or other diseases requiring immune suppression. Visit the HSE website to see full list of people who need to cocoon.

How do you cocoon? 

Cocooning is for your personal protection. If you are unsure whether or not you fall into one of the categories of extremely medically vulnerable people talk to your doctor.

Dos and Don’ts when cocooning


Stay at home as much as possible but you can go outside for exercise if you stay within 5km of your home.

You can also meet up with other people outside in groups of no more than four.

If you have a garden or balcony, spend time outside for fresh air.

Keep in touch with family and friends over the phone or online if you have access.

Keep yourself mobile by getting up and moving as much as possible.

Do not go shopping – ask neighbours, family or friends to help you with shopping and any medicine that you need.

Arrange for food or medicine deliveries to be left outside your door

Use the phone if you need to contact your GP or other services.


Do not have visitors to your home, except for essential carers.

Do not attend any gatherings, including gatherings with family and friends anywhere. But you can meet up to 4 people outdoors.

Meeting people outdoors

If you choose to meet people you should:

If you have a specific condition which means your doctor has advised against meeting other people, always follow your doctor’s advice.

Why do we need to cocoon? 

If you are over 70 years of age or have an underlying medical condition some of which are listed above (see the HSE website for a full list), you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of COVID-19.

Cocooning is a practice used to protect those over 70 or extremely medically vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Everyone coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often while they are there.

People with cardiovascular disease

People with cardiovascular disease, those aged 70 and over (people over 75 are particularly vulnerable) and people who have a weak immune system are among the groups of people who are at more risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. However it is not thought that these groups have a higher risk of contracting the virus.

In general, unless you are in the group that has been advised to cocoon, people can still go out to shop, but the HSE advises that people in at-risk groups should not do this.

You should ask others to shop for you if you are in an at-risk group. They can leave supplies at your door. Do not invite them in.

People in at-risk groups do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms of coronavirus.

However some vulnerable people are taking this precaution. Everyone with symptoms needs to self-isolate.

If you are in an at-risk group or caring for someone in an at-risk group, you should follow the general advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus.

We are here for you 

We are living in difficult and uncertain times and here at the Irish Heart Foundation we are very aware of the extra challenges people living with the effects of heart disease and stroke face.

The Irish Heart Foundation has developed a number of services to support you at these difficult times.

Telephone and email support

Our nurses are available on phone and email support Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Call 01 6685001 or email

Further useful sources of information:


World Health Organization

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Health Protection Surveillance Centre

For global travel information please see the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website or download the Department’s Travelwise app 

Please note the information on this page is for general guidance and comes from national and international guidance. It is not intended to replace the individual support of a medical professional.


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