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How Should I Care for Myself If I Have a Preexisting Condition?

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If you have a health issue, you’ll want to take extra steps to protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with certain underlying medical conditions may or may not be at an increased risk for the illness, but they may have a higher risk for developing serious complications if they contract coronavirus.

People with diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease have the highest risk of serious complications. But according to the CDC, the following medical conditions can also put you or a loved one at higher risk of getting very sick if you contract coronavirus:

  • Asthma
  • Chemotherapy or radiation for cancer (currently or in the past)
  • Chronic kidney disease that requires dialysis
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease
  • Extreme obesity with a body mass index of 40 or more
  • Lack of a spleen or a spleen that doesn’t function properly
  • Neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Weakened immune system

The list also includes pregnancy and pertains to anyone of any age.

If you or a family member is at high risk of developing complications from the coronavirus because of these or other medical conditions, you’ll want to take every precaution to protect your health. These steps can help you stay as healthy as possible, especially if the transmission of coronavirus becomes more widespread in the U.S.

1. Become a homebody during coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus is highly contagious. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

If an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets in the air can travel to others who are within about six feet. That’s why you should stick close to home during this outbreak, especially if your community is affected, except to get medical care when advised by your doctor.

If you feel fine, it’s tempting to leave the house. But by doing so, you can put yourself at risk. Others who are sick or infected but not showing symptoms could easily infect you. So consider your home not only your sanctuary, but your safety zone.

By limiting contact with others, especially large groups, and staying close to home during the coronavirus outbreak, you’ll reduce your chances of coming in contact with those who may be infected with the virus.

This doesn’t mean you can’t go outside to take a walk around your neighborhood and breathe in some fresh air — just be sure to avoid crowded areas. You can stay in touch with friends and family by phone, email and social media. You’ve got options.

2. Stock up on supplies.

Since you’ll be hunkering down at home for the time being, you’ll want to have an abundant supply of essentials so you can avoid frequent trips to the store — and frequent contact with the public. For those at high risk of COVID-19 complications, the CDC recommends taking these important two steps:

Getting extra supplies of medications: Make sure you have an abundant supply of your routine prescription medications for blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions you have. Plus, make sure you have any over-the-counter medications you may need for fever and other symptoms in case you do get sick with the virus.

If you do come down with coronavirus complications, you’re likely to be able to manage the illness from home. Most people, even those at higher risk for coronavirus complications, can recover from the illness at home.

If you can’t get an extra supply of medications all at once, sign up for a mail-order service to have your medication delivered to your door. Don’t let the virus distract you: If you have a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, managing your condition is still a top priority.

Filling your pantry, refrigerator and freezer: Now’s the time to fill your grocery cart with your favorite foods and beverages, plus pet food if needed, and buy extra of everything you normally buy. If you don’t want to risk doing your own grocery shopping, ask someone to help you get the food you need, such as a family member or neighbor. Or sign up with a grocery delivery service.

3. Take your health into your own hands.

Get into the habit of washing your hands often, especially after sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing or being in a public place. Give the virus a good scrub by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Encourage family members to do the same.

4. Don’t touch. Surfaces in public places, such as handrails, door handles and elevator buttons, are popular germ hangouts.

Whenever possible, use your sleeve or a tissue to cover your hand before touching these areas.

If you touch a public surface, such as a strap handle on the bus, wash your hands as soon as possible. Also, try to avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes, which are portals for germs to enter your body.

5. Stay away from others who are sick.

You’ll also want to protect yourself from coronavirus by avoiding people who are known to be sick. Dodging illness may require making backup plans.

For example, what happens if key members of your family, such as your spouse or caregiver, becomes ill? Determine who can care for you as an alternative.

Similarly, if you take care of someone else, decide ahead of time who might care for that person if he or she becomes ill.

If you or someone in your household becomes sick with coronavirus, the CDC recommends home isolation with a designated sick room. The ill person should stay in that room and away from others. If possible, the ill person should use a separate sick bathroom, too.

6. Clean up your act.

You don’t have to give your home a deep spring cleaning during the coronavirus outbreak. But to help stop the spread of coronavirus in your home and help everyone stay healthy, now is a good time to clean key spots often.

To prevent coronavirus from being an uninvited houseguest, clean and disinfect surfaces that get frequently touched. Focus on wiping key areas, such as tables, doorknobs, sinks, faucets, desks, toilets, switches, handles and trashcans. They’re major germ collectors. Not every household cleaner is up to the job. The CDC recommends using household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface and following label instructions. (Use the search box to see if your favorite brand of household cleaner made the list.)

Time-saving tip: Look for a cleaner and disinfectant from the list that can handle multi-surfaces. When you pick a cleaner that can handle wood, metal and countertops, for example, you can fly through almost every surface in your house, from kitchen countertops and bathroom surfaces to trashcans and remotes.

Or use the bleach you may already have on hand. The CDC recommends simply mixing 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Grab the right rag, too. To avoid cross-contamination, the CDC recommends using paper towels and wearing gloves.

7. Call your doctor if you feel sick.

If you begin to feel sick and experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing and difficulty breathing, the best thing to do first is to call your physician. Call your primary care doctor or make an appointment for a video visit using the secure AdventHealth app via a computer, tablet or smart phone. You can find the AdventHealth app in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Tell your doctor you think you may have been infected by coronavirus and remind him or her of your other medical conditions. During the phone call or virtual visit, your doctor will have access to your electronic medical record.

A phone call or video visit can provide your doctor with the details needed to make an informed medical decision about any care you may need. If you’re at risk for COVID-19 and your symptoms are mild, you may be able to recover at home. If your symptoms seem more serious, your doctor can advise you on what to do next based on what you’re experiencing and your overall health status.

If your symptoms get worse and you feel it’s a medical emergency, call 911. Tell the dispatcher that you may have coronavirus. This information can also help you know what to do if you don’t feel well.

We’re Here to Help You Stay Healthy

For the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub. We’re continually updating the Hub with important news about the coronavirus outbreak that can help you stay healthy and informed, especially if you have an underlying medical condition.

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