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HomeBlogWhat Steps Should Immunosuppressed People Take Considering the Higher Risks That COVID-19 Represents?

What Steps Should Immunosuppressed People Take Considering the Higher Risks That COVID-19 Represents?

By: Medix Team
What Steps Should Immunosuppressed People Take Considering the Higher Risks That COVID-19 Represents?

As COVID-19 continues to spread, it becomes clearer that certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing severe complications if infected with the virus. One of those groups are people who are immunosuppressed. Patients and doctors alike are facing the impossible dilemma – which is the greater risk at the moment, the Coronavirus or the patient’s underlying condition?

 

Although the media tends to generalise and discuss the immunosuppressed population as a whole, it is important to differentiate between 2 sub-groups - people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammatory bowel diseases and people with HIV, whose immune system is suppressed as a result of their condition; and Cancer patients or people who had an organ transplant or bone-marrow transplant, whose immune system is deliberately suppressed, as part of their treatment course.

 

But while patients from the first group are treated to strengthen their immunisation system, the latter are faced with an imposed danger in order to avoid another. This makes many wonder whether they should continue with the treatment that puts them at risk of severe complications or suspend the treatment until the COVID-19 threat passes.  

 

The fact that this dilemma troubles many (patients and doctors alike) is a testament to the severity of the virus and the fear it brings. However, as ominous as COVID-19 may be, stopping therapies like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, immunosuppressive treatment, antibody drugs etc. should not be considered lightly and can only be decided after a thorough review of each individual case – for some, the treatment can be somewhat delayed or perhaps changed to therapies with less severe effects on immunisation, while for others it’s simply not an option.

 

If you, a family member or a friend are immunosuppressed and are considering to stop treatment in order to protect against Coronavirus, we recommend discussing this step as soon as possible with your treating doctor. If you are eligible for Medix’ Personal Medical Case Management Service, open a case with us and continue treatment until advised otherwise.

 

But one way or the other, it is important to remember there are additional precautions for immunosuppressed people, that can help protect them from infection–

  1. Opt for voluntary isolation – even if quarantine or similar measures are not yet officially imposed in your region or country, voluntary isolation is preferred for those with a weaker immune system.
  2. Stock up – purchase extra medication in case you get quarantined and in order to minimise the need to leave the house.
  3. If needed, keep your scheduled appointments – consult with your treating Dr. regarding your scheduled tests, screenings, etc and if needed, make sure to keep them. However, check if you can move your appointments to early or late hours, when the clinic is less crowded.  Don’t stop treatment, unless advised otherwise by your treating doctor. Protect yourself with gloves and mask when coming to the clinic and ask your caregivers to maintain hand hygiene and a sanitary environment.
  4. Avoid unnecessary visits to clinics and hospitals – reduce any unnecessary visits to avoid coming in contact with people who may be sick or carriers of Coronavirus. This doesn’t mean you should stop your treatments, but you can check with your doctor whether these are necessary procedures at this time or look into the option of receiving the treatment at home.
  5. If you feel ill, call your doctor – if you develop any symptoms, call your doctor for advice. In case symptoms get worse and you are in need of urgent medical care, call the hospital or clinic ahead, let them know you are coming and explain your special circumstances.

 

On top of these precautions, there are other actions you should consider, to help strengthen your immune system:

 

  • Reduce stress – Studies show that reducing your stress levels can help your body fight-off diseases and infections. These are stressful times for all of us, so try to practice meditation, yoga, breathing exercises or if you feel the need, try talking to an online therapist to help you relax and keep your stress levels under control. Staying in touch with family and friends is also a good way to relieve some of the tension.
  • Get some sleep – sleep deprivation can suppress the immune system even further. Maintain 6-8 hours of sleep every night to help recharge your immune system.
  • Get some exercise – this will also help in reducing stress and inducing beneficial hormones like Endorphins, Cortisol and Adrenaline which are known as “natural painkillers” and mood elevators. You can find numerous workout videos online, but even a short dance session in your living room can do the trick!
  • Eat healthy – Vitamins are somewhat linked to a strong immune system, so it’s good to increase your vitamin intake, especially vitamin C, preferably from natural sources like citrus fruit, but supplements are also an option (as long as they are from a trust-worthy source).

Also keep in mind that all other general recommendations and precautions still apply – maintain your distance from others, especially from sick people; wash your hands every few hours with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your face; be aware of the possible symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing and other flu-like symptoms). These are even more important in your situation.

 

It is important to note that while the above is highly recommended for immunosuppressed people, some Doctors and Cancer Scientists believe that these measures should  be considered also by former Cancer patients, especially those who suffered from blood malignancies (non-Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and multiple myeloma) and not only for patients with an active condition. If you are worried about your condition or how you should best manage it, contact your treating doctor. Of course, if you are eligible for Medix’ services, please contact us and our teams will be happy to provide support and guidance.



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