Irish Heart: FAQ – Facemasks, coronavirus and heart disease

Here we explain facemasks and heart disease in the era of COVID-19

As we slowly emerge from lock-down the HSE has recommended that members of the public should wear facemasks or cloth face coverings in situations where physical distancing is difficult this includes shops, shopping centres and on public transport.

Q. What is a face covering?

A. A cloth face covering is a piece of material that covers your nose and mouth and may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the community.

A cloth face covering should cover the nose and mouth and go under the chin and:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include at least two layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction

Q. Where can I get a facemask?

A. There are a number of organisations offering a range of facemasks for sale in some retail outlets and online however, you can also make your own. The HSE website has detailed instructions on how to make your own cloth face covering which you can see here.

Q. Do I have to wear a facemask?

The wearing of a facemask is not mandatory however, there are certain groups of people who should not wear them and these include:

  • Children under the age of 13, and anyone who
  • Has trouble breathing
  • is unconscious or incapacitated
  • is unable to remove it without help
  • has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering

It is important that we not criticise or judge people who are unable to wear a face covering.

Q. I suffer from heart failure and have difficulty breathing do I have to wear a facemask?

A. Some people with mild breathing problems will be able to wear a facemask but if you find it harder to breath with the mask on, then don’t use one. Wearing a facemask is not mandatory therefore if you have severe breathing difficulties don’t wear one. If your breathing difficulties are a new symptom or if they worsen please seek medical advice. If you have chronic and significant breathing difficulties and especially if you are over 70 years of age, you should still cocoon, and when you go outside avoid contact with other people, don’t go into shops and if you arrange to meet a friend ensure its outside and you can maintain adequate physical distancing.

Q. Is it safe to wear a facemask if you have a heart condition?

A. If you don’t have significant breathing difficulties you should wear a facemask if going into a shop on public transport or in situations where it’s harder to maintain physical distancing.

Q. How do I use a cloth face covering?

A. It is important to note that using a face covering does not negate the need to also practice social distancing as much as you can depending on the space and to wash your hands regularly.


  • Clean your hands properly before you put it on.
  • Practice using it so you are comfortable putting it on and taking it off.
  • Make sure it is made from a fabric you are comfortable wearing.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with it and make sure there are no gaps between your cloth face covering.
  • Tie it securely.
  • Carry unused face coverings in a sealable clean waterproof bag, for example, a ziplock.
  • Carry a second similar type bag to put used face coverings in.


  • Do not touch a face covering while wearing it – if you do, clean your hands properly.
  • Do not use a wet or soiled face covering.
  • Do not share face coverings.
  • Do not lower your face coverings to speak or eat- if you need to uncover your nose or mouth take the face covering off and put it in the bag for used face coverings.
  • Do not discard face coverings in public places.

Taking a cloth face covering off

To take a face covering off properly:

  • remove it from behind – do not touch the front of the mask
  • put in a sealable clean waterproof bag or wash immediately – put disposable masks in a bin straight away
  • clean your hands properly.

Q. What is the difference between a medical mask and a cloth face covering?

A. Medical masks are for healthcare workers. Some workers in specific jobs also use them. They are vital supplies and are not intended for use by the public in the community. As they are a precious healthcare resource it is important that we try and make sure that medical face masks are kept for health care workers therefore it is advisable that people wear cloth face coverings instead.

Q. How do I wash my face covering?

A. Face coverings should be washed daily at temperatures over 60 degrees with detergent. If using a washing machine, you should be able to wash and machine dry it without damaging it or changing its shape. You do not need to sterilise cloth face coverings. Wash it in a washing machine or by hand as you would any other item of clothing.

When to throw it out

You should throw out a cloth face covering when it:

  • no longer covers the nose and mouth
  • has stretched out or damaged ties or straps
  • cannot stay on the face
  • has holes or tears in the fabric

For more information please see the HSE website.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here:

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.


General Info

Date Entered/Updated
2nd Jun, 2020
Expiry Date
2nd Aug, 2020