Guard your health by managing chronic conditions
It’s always important to stay on top of your health, but the pandemic has revealed an even greater need to closely manage chronic health conditions. Underlying health conditions can make you more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19 and the flu, and the steps you take now to protect your health can help you in the long run.
Who is high risk?
Anyone may develop serious symptoms with COVID-19 or the flu, but risk of severe symptoms increases with older age. People of any age who have underlying health conditions may be at higher risk, including people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, obesity, a weakened immune system from cancer treatments and other conditions.
If you’re considered “high risk” for developing serious symptoms, it’s wise to take extra precautions to prevent illness. Even if you’re not high risk, you should keep your guard up during flu season and through the pandemic to protect those around you.
High-risk health management
Work closely with your doctor to manage your health conditions and prepare to act quickly if you do become ill. Here are some considerations if you have asthma, heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a weakened immune system.
Asthma and lung disease: If you have asthma, COPD or another lung disease, you may be at higher risk for developing severe respiratory symptoms with COVID-19 and flu. Both COVID-19 and flu viruses target the lungs and may cause inflammation of the airways. Exposure to asthma triggers can increase when you’re spending more time indoors, so it can help to minimize dust, pollen, mold, pet dander or other irritants. Continue to take medications as directed and contact your doctor with any questions or concerns about managing asthma.
Heart disease: Heart disease puts you at a higher risk for serious complications of COVID-19 and flu. An infection can put additional stress on your heart and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s important to take medications as prescribed, monitor your blood pressure and keep your regular appointments with your doctors.
Diabetes: Controlling blood sugar levels is key because having high blood sugar can make it difficult to fight off illness. Protect your health by managing blood sugar more closely. Contact your clinic if you are sick and prepare a diabetes emergency kit with supplies to bring with you in an emergency. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and seek insulin help from the American Diabetes Association if you’re struggling with the costs of insulin.
Chronic kidney disease: Having chronic kidney disease puts you at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, especially if you’re on dialysis. Continuing dialysis is essential for your health, so it’s important to keep up with your treatment plan. If you go to a dialysis center, protect yourself by wearing a cloth mask and call ahead to stay informed about safety guidelines.
Weakened immune system: Any type of illness may be dangerous when your immune system is weakened by cancer treatments, an organ transplant or long-term use of prednisone or other medications that weaken the immune system. Ask your doctor for recommendations before going in for appointments or cancer treatments. Have medications sent directly to your home so you don’t have to go to the pharmacy.
Don’t delay care
Don’t wait until a small problem becomes more serious. Be proactive about your health and talk to your doctor about ways to stay healthy.