People with cancer, diabetes, heart or lung disease or other health conditions urged to take special COVID-19 precautions
May 13, 2020
OCALA, Fla.—If you have cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a chronic or underlying health condition, you are at a higher risk for more severe illness if you contract COVID-19. This means it’s important to pay extra attention to your health needs right now.
If you have cancer now or had cancer in the past, you may need to take special steps to protect your health. This is especially important for cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy. They are more likely to get an infection because chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, and for the same reason, the infection may be more severe. To take care of your health:
- Before going into your appointments for cancer treatment, ask your doctor how you can help protect yourself from catching COVID-19.
- Check if any oral medications that you are taking can be sent directly to you so that you don’t have to go to the pharmacy or clinic.
- Ask your doctor if there are other things that you can do to isolate yourself from others.
When people with diabetes don’t manage their blood sugar levels well, they can have more trouble fighting off illnesses like COVID-19. Because of this, people with poorly controlled diabetes are more likely to become very ill or die if they get COVID-19. If you have diabetes:
- Ask your doctor how often you should check your blood sugar and what your target blood sugar levels should be. Keep records of your results.
- Recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and make sure you know what to do about it. Monitor your feet, skin and eyes to catch problems early.
- Take your medication on time as directed.
- Stress can make managing diabetes harder, including controlling your blood sugar levels and dealing with daily diabetes care. Regular activity, getting enough sleep, and relaxation exercises can help. Talk to your doctor about these and other ways you can manage stress.
COVID-19 can strain all of the systems in your body, and this puts additional stress on the heart. COVID-19 can also make it more likely that your heart won’t be able to keep up with the needs of your body. If you have heart disease:
- Make sure your vaccinations, including your pneumonia and flu shot, are up to date.
- Take your medications on time and as directed, and maintain your treatment plan.
- Measure your blood pressure if you have hypertension.
People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma may be at risk for complications from COVID-19. COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause difficulty breathing, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease. To take care of your health:
- If you have one, follow your Asthma Action Plan. Learn more at CDC.gov/asthma/actionplan.html.
- Take your medications on time and as directed, including any inhalers with corticosteroids.
- Don’t stop taking any medications or change your treatment plan without talking to your health care provider. Discuss any concerns about your treatment with your health care provider.
- Talk to your health care provider about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications, like asthma inhalers. If you have asthma, make sure you know how to use your inhaler and avoid your asthma triggers.
Chronic and underlying health conditions
People with chronic and underlying health conditions are more likely to become very sick from COVID-19. In addition to the above health conditions, people with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, liver disease, autoimmune disease, weakened immune system (such as from smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, poorly controlled HIV/AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids) or people with severe obesity (BMI greater than 40) face greater risks from COVID-19. Speak with your health care provider about specific precautions you should take based on your condition.
Whether you have cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or another chronic condition, it’s also important you:
- Stock up on 2-3 weeks of non-perishable food, prescriptions and medical and health care supplies.
- Create a contact list of family, friends, neighbors, healthcare providers, community assistance programs and drivers, and let them know you may need help if you become sick.
- Keep up healthy habits: healthy eating, exercise, getting enough sleep and managing stress.
- Stop smoking if you currently smoke. Smoking can make it more likely that you will have a heart attack or stroke. Visit TobaccoFreeFlorida.com for Quit Your Way services.
Practicing social distancing can also help further reduce your risk of exposure. This includes staying home as much as possible and staying away from people who are sick or have been sick in the past two weeks. Avoid crowds and gatherings of 10 or more and shop during off-hours when crowds are smaller. Further, keep at least 6 feet between you and other people, wear cloth face coverings when in public places, and avoid touching “high touch” public surfaces (for example, ATM screen, door handles, etc.)
Washing your hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) and avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands also helps protect you. Health officials also recommend cleaning objects or surfaces daily that people touch a lot, such as door knobs, kitchen counters and key pads.
COVID-19 symptoms and when to seek treatment
COVID-19 symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, shaking, muscle pain, headaches, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell. If you are experiencing symptoms, stay home and contact your health care provider; don’t go to work or school. You will need to get rest and stay hydrated. If you live with others, stay in a separate room and avoid sharing personal items.
If you are not sick enough to need hospitalization, you can recover at home. Monitor your symptoms, and if they get worse, call your health care provider immediately. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop any of the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
For more guidance
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Florida, visit floridahealthcovid19.gov. For general questions about COVID-19, call the state hotline (866-779-6121), local hotline (352-644-2590), or email COVIDemail@example.com. Individuals can also follow the Department of Health in Marion County on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FLHealthMarion for the latest updates on COVID-19 in Marion.