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Coronavirus and chronic diseases: what to do to those at risk

Coronavirus can affect anyone, but it is believed that older people and patients with chronic diseases have a higher risk of severe illness. Writes about it with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

If you suffer from chronic illnesses, heed the advice of experts.

Who is at risk?

If you have a chronic illness, your chances of catching a coronavirus are the same as those of other people.

But among older people, either with a weakened immune system, or with existing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, there are more people who are seriously affected by the infection.

Most patients with coronavirus recover quickly after several days of rest. But in some, this disease is more severe and life threatening. Its symptoms are similar to other diseases familiar to us, such as a cold or flu:

  • cough;
  • heat;
  • labored breathing.

The risk group includes people over the age of 70, regardless of whether they have chronic diseases, as well as young people who have one or more of the following health problems:

  • chronic (prolonged) respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or bronchitis;
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure;
  • chronic kidney disease;
  • chronic liver diseases, such as hepatitis;
  • chronic neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, learning disorder or cerebral palsy;
  • diabetes;
  • spleen problems - such as sickle cell disease or a history of spleen removal
  • the immune system is weakened as a result of illness (for example, HIV or AIDS), drug therapy (for example, steroids) or chemotherapy;
  • significant overweight (BMI 40 and above);
  • pregnancy.

So far, all people have been advised to isolate themselves and maintain a distance in order to reduce the likelihood of infection and the spread of coronavirus. People at risk are urged to follow these tips.

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Since early April, the UK's National Health Service has asked about 1,5 million Britons at high risk of complications - for example, those currently undergoing cancer treatment or immunosuppressive therapy - to isolate themselves at home for 12 weeks to protect themselves. These people receive special recommendations from doctors.

Those who are among the listed categories but have not received a letter from the National Health Service are asked to contact their family doctor immediately.

I have asthma, what should I do?

Asthma UK specialists advise that you continue to use the prophylactic inhaler as directed by your doctor. This will reduce the risk of a sudden asthma attack if any respiratory virus, including coronavirus, gets into the airways.

Also carry another inhaler with you at all times to relieve symptoms if they do occur.

Daily measure and record in your diary your peak expiratory flow rate, if there is a special measuring device (peak flow meter). So you will know for sure whether the asthmatic symptoms worsen, so you can distinguish them from the symptoms of coronavirus.

I am an old man. Should I self-isolate?

According to the latest recommendations, everyone - regardless of age - should refrain from any social contact, except the inevitable ones, in order to stop the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable members of society. Accordingly, you should avoid even meeting with family and friends.

This is especially important for people over 70 and those who have chronic illnesses; because in case of infection they face a severe course of the disease.

Caroline Eybragems, director of the charity Age UK, encourages those who have older relatives and friends to regularly learn about their well-being.

Suddenly I have a chronic health problem?

Anyone for whom dangerous viral diseases, such as ARI or influenza, should do whatever is necessary to minimize the risk of infection.

When new symptoms - severe cough and high fever - appear, you should definitely stay at home. If after seven days your symptoms worsen, or at least have not improved, you should call your family doctor or the coronavirus hotline.

I have diabetes, what should I do?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetics also have a risk of severe coronavirus infection.

“Covid-19 can lead to complications in people with diabetes,” said Dan Howarth, chairman of the healthcare program at Diabetes UK. If you develop new symptoms with diabetes, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, you should be especially careful about your blood sugar. ”

When these symptoms appear, you need to stay at home for a week, continuing to take your usual medications. Do not go to a clinic, pharmacy or hospital, even if such a visit has been previously planned. Call the hotline if you feel that you are not coping with the symptoms.

If you regularly measure your blood glucose as recommended by your doctor, do it even more often. If you are not doing this at home, watch for signs of hyperglycemia, such as excessive thirst, excessive urination (especially at night), headache, fatigue, and lethargy. Call your doctor if you feel anything like this.

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If, in the absence of symptoms of coronavirus, you need a planned consultation with your doctor about diabetes, look for the opportunity to get it by phone or online, avoiding a personal visit.

Should pregnant women worry?

So far there is no reason to assert that pregnant women (and their children) are at risk, but doctors still advise expectant mothers to be especially careful. Like other people, they must do their best to avoid infection. They should also "especially strictly" refrain from social contact, the official guidelines say.

Healthcare workers are advised of the following:

If you are less than 28 weeks pregnant and do not have a chronic illness, you should maintain a social distance, but you can continue to work. If possible, avoid caring for patients with suspected coronavirus. Weigh the risk carefully and use protective equipment.

If you are more than 28 weeks pregnant or, regardless of how long, you have a chronic medical condition (such as heart disease, lung disease, etc.), avoid direct contact with patients.

Do I smoke or am I at risk?

Deborah Arnott, chairman of the Ash Charity Medical Organization, advises those who smoke a lot to break this habit or at least reduce tobacco consumption. This will reduce the risk of severe coronavirus.

“Smokers are more likely to contract respiratory infections and are twice as likely to develop pneumonia as non-smokers,” she explains. - From whatever side you look, smoking is unhealthy; therefore, let smokers see in the coronavirus an additional reason to quit this habit - and to strengthen the body's defenses now that this virus is actively spreading. ”

What about the drugs that I take on an ongoing basis?

It is important that you take your usual medications, even if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection. If you are running out of supplies at this time and you need to bring medicine from the pharmacy, ask someone from your family or friends to do this.

Do I need to get a flu shot?

Coronavirus is not a flu virus, so getting vaccinated against it will not protect you from this infection. At the same time, influenza is also a serious illness that often causes complications.

If you haven’t yet been vaccinated against the flu, find an opportunity to do it now.

So how do I protect myself from the virus?

As far as is known, the virus spreads through coughing and infected surfaces, such as handrails and door handles in public places.

The main way to stop the virus is through hygiene:

  • Coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a napkin or sleeve (not with your palm!).
  • Throw away used disposable napkins immediately in the bin.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water; if this is not possible, use a disinfectant spray.
  • Avoid contact with patients.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if you are unsure of the cleanliness of your hands.
  • Maintain your level of physical activity - do exercise at home or in your own yard if you live in a private home.

Need to use a mask?

The British Lung Foundation discourages the wearing of masks “because they have no proven effectiveness. In addition, in the case of chronic lung disease, the mask makes it difficult for a person to breathe already difficult. ”

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COVID-19: debunking popular myths about the disease

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