6 Tips for Managing Crohn’s Disease During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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With most of the world experiencing quarantine and social distancing, self-care is more important than ever as it becomes increasingly difficult to control your Crohn’s disease symptoms. There’s much misinformation out there on what steps to take. Let’s sort through some of the facts and review the steps you need to take to keep yourself safe.

What is COVID-19?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a virus that mainly attacks the respiratory system. It is believed to be spread through contact with other people, surfaces they’ve touched, and droplets in the air from coughing. It’s much like the flu in this regard but a certain number of individuals get very sick, quickly. To slow the transmission of the disease, we’ve been advised to stay at home, practice social distancing, wash hands more frequently and wear protective masks.

Symptoms of Covid-19: how does it affect those with Crohn’s disease?

People who are infected with the Coronavirus may not experience any symptoms at all, but they can carry it and infect others. Typical symptoms include:

• Dry Cough
• Sore throat
• Fever
• Tiredness
• Difficulty Breathing

People have also reported loss of smell. Some cases become very serious quickly with the need for an artificial respirator to assist in breathing. These are a small number of cases around 5% of those infected. It hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions hardest.

Many Crohn’s disease patients must take an immunosuppressant like Prednisone or Hydrocortisone which can reduce inflammation but might lower your white blood cell count, leaving you vulnerable to COVID-19.

Will the coronavirus affect my Crohn’s disease?

The coronavirus COVID-19 is still very new, and there is little to no data (as of today) that suggest that it affects Crohn’s disease patients at a higher rate.

Below we’ll go over important steps to take to keep yourself and family protected.

  1. Wash hands more frequently.
    As the CDC suggests, washing hands with antibacterial soap is one of the most important steps you can take. The virus enters our bodies through contact with the face, mouth, and nose. If they travel through your body and hit your digestive system it might make things worse. We don’t know for sure right now, but safe practices are better than none.
  2. Sanitize surfaces.
    Whenever possible, sanitize any surface you touch before and after you touch it. The virus can live on surfaces for hours or even up to a few days, according to the World Health Organization. Sanitize surfaces even if it means carrying a small thing of disinfectant with you. It’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared.
  3. Don’t panic.
    Stress increases inflammation, the main symptoms we’re trying to keep low as it’s a part of both Crohn’s disease and COVID-19. There are no shortages in medication, but it’s good to keep a larger stock of supplies for future use in case there are interruptions in the supply. Be cautious, this isn’t the end of the world.
  4. Safety
    Your doctor might recommend you stop taking your immunosuppressant medication temporarily as it might slow down your body’s response to a viral infection but please don’t do it without their advice. Stopping the medication suddenly can cause a flareup and make the situation escalate.

    Keep in constant contact with your doctor so he’s aware of any updates to your situation and can make the best decision. If you’re in a severe flare-up, your physician will know best how to keep you healthy.
  5. Avoid large groups and non-essential trips.
    To keep your chances of infection at a minimum, many states have implemented a stay at home order. This means that most businesses and restaurants around the country have shut down and for good reason. Now, more important than ever, you need to be vigilant because your safety depends on it.
  6. Don’t avoid hospitals if you are in trouble.
    There is a certain fear of going to the hospital for fear of infection. Talk to your doctor and if he recommends you come, ask what precautions you should take and what they are doing to protect themselves. Please, don’t wait until it’s too late to get the help you need.

As time goes on, we’ll gain more knowledge and might need to refine our understanding of how Crohn’s disease interacts with the coronavirus. Follow these guidelines and practice safe social distancing. Chances are, with the right mindset, you’ll be fine once this all ends.

Just remember we’re all in this together. You know your body better than anyone else, so listen to it. It lets you know when things are wrong. When it’s time to take action, do it. Interestingly, many people might overreact out of fear but more people under-react and downplay its significance, putting others at risk, and are resistant to change. Listen to your body and your doctor and keep moving forward. Don’t allow fear to rule you or ignorance to determine your fate. Be safe.