Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., doctors have warned patients with underlying health issues to be vigilant in following social distancing guidelines. Those directives are important because issues like lung disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, can leave people with a compromised immune system.
Another group of patients not often talked about, but who are just as vulnerable, is those who are immunocompromised because of medications they take for chronic conditions. As restrictions start being relaxed doctors say it’s paramount for people with these conditions to stay vigilant in protecting from coronavirus.
According to medical records, there are more than 109,000 Intermountain Healthcare patients who fall into this category.
These types of medical conditions include:
- Transplant recipients
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Crohn’s Disease
A symptom of these conditions includes the immune system attacking the body, which is why patients take immunosuppressive drugs. It also makes patients susceptible to complications from infections like COVID-19.
“These medications are important to treat disease and improve quality of life but must be managed carefully when there is a risk of infection,” said Intermountain Healthcare physician, Paul Jensen, MD.
Experts are advising patients to consult their doctor first before stopping any medications. In some cases, not taking the appropriate drugs can have a worse effect than COVID-19. In other cases, a doctor may instruct a patient to suspend taking their medication if they start showing symptoms of fever or cough.
Most importantly, immunocompromised patients, their caregivers, and their family members should all be extremely cautious and very vigilant about practicing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s good hygiene health guidelines:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash with soap and water and soon as possible every time you touch a public object (grocery cart, public doorknob, public computer, etc.). If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces often. Regular household wipes and sprays will kill the virus.
- Maintain social distancing (6 feet)
- Avoid physical contact; like handshaking and hugging.
- Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.
- Manage stress by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and staying active.
- If you develop COVID-19 symptoms (high fever, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath), call your doctor or the COVID-19 Hotline (844) 442-5224.
Intermountain Healthcare has also launched a new online digital COVID-19 Symptom Checker. It’s a free online, artificial intelligence (AI) powered tool that’s available to the public on the Intermountain Healthcare website to help people assess their risk for COVID-19 and determine the most appropriate care setting for their condition if needed.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms, please call 9-1-1.
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