Chronic Disease and COVID-19: Here’s What You Can Do To Prevent and Manage It

Chronic Disease and Covid-19

It’s troubling times that we are living in.  I lost my grandfather recently to old age, and everyone at the funeral, including my mother, tested positive for COVID-19, just a few days later. The symptoms were already there – fever and scratchy throat, my aunt and grandmother were inconsolable and especially tired. My mother had a throbbing headache, and my younger, healthier uncle and aunt had a mild fever. 

As soon as I heard the symptoms, I started asking them to get tested. But the elder crowd is not easily convinced to get tested, as they think the attempt is futile, without any reliable treatment in sight. Management is not a concept that is easily understood by this demographic, even though it ought to be the most pertinent word in their healthcare vocabulary. 

As youngsters with access to the miracle of internet research, remote consultation and shameless networking skills, all we can do is reach out. Reach out to your friends who are doctors, look out into the world wide web and learn as much as we can and pass on the knowledge. 

In my attempt to do what I can, I reached out to Dr Pakhi Sharma, a trusted colleague and a healthcare warrior at the frontline against the second wave of COVID-19. 

Keep reading to know the guidance I got from Dr Pakhi, coupled with the information from reliable sources like WebMD, WHO, CDC, and a few studies published in Pubmed

The Need for Preventive Care and Better Disease Management Amongst Chronic Disease Patients

While the second wave of COVID-19 seems to be affecting those of the age of forty and under, there is still a risk for those living with comorbidities like chronic ailments. In this regard, management is the most crucial aspect, according to Dr Pakhi. On a personal note, she shared about her own mother’s experience with COVID-19. Even with the best preventive measures in place, she managed to contract the virus and developed symptoms like fever, headache and extreme fatigue. 

But because she kept up with the basic tenets of chronic disease management, fighting off COVID-19 didn’t lead to complications. These basic tenets included, but were not limited to: 

  • Following a clean and wholesome diet – Following a high protein diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals are important to build the cells that can create antibodies against COVID-19. While most people may experience lowered appetite due to the lack of smell and taste, it is important to keep fuelling your body with the necessary macronutrients that it needs.
  • Start supplementing with Vitamin E, Zinc and Vitamin C tablets – in the course of fighting off the infection, the body starts developing necessary cells, which in turn cause the need for supplementation. Starting off with taking these supplements, even after being infected can help in fighting off the virus faster, and better.
  • Ensuring regular exercise – While youngsters with no comorbidities can afford to be lazy with their exercise, those living with chronic diseases can’t. Whether it is a walk around the house, yoga sessions or even some dance workouts, staying active is more important than ever. It can help strengthen your immune system and keep your body in the best shape to fight off the infection. Even when down with COVID-19, patients are recommended to get in a few minutes of activity. 
  • Monitoring your oxygen level  – With COVID-19 largely affecting the respiratory system, most doctors recommend getting an oximeter, and checking your Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) levels regularly. In case your oxygen level is lower than 95, it will do well to keep your doctor informed of this status. Practising self-proning positions have also been recommended by doctors to improve the same. 
  • Sticking to your disease management plan strictly – While there are many factors that can negatively affect your health, poor disease management is the worst. Those who have poorly controlled chronic ailments are the worst affected by COVID-19. So it’s important that your disease management plan is safely in place, no matter what. Eating your medicines on time, sticking to the right diet, and staying active are all simple acts that can ensure that your condition is well managed. 
  • Stocking up on your medicines at all times – With the current times, and the raging pandemic, it makes sense to do your shopping in bulk, even when it comes to medicines. While there are chances that your doctor may revise your prescription, most chronic disease patients have long term medicines that they can stock up on. Keeping a supply of at least 30 days of medicines at all times is a good practice to ensure better medication adherence. 
  • Being aware of triggers that can affect your wellness and avoid them – Unless you are someone without any health issues, there are bound to be natural triggers that can worsen your health. For those with diabetes, this may be overexertion from exercise, or for those with asthma issues, this could be dust. Being aware of these triggers, and staying away from them, can help in avoiding preventable complications. 
  • Learning about stress and how you can cope with it – There is a lot of anxiety and stress associated with the second wave of Covid-19. Even without a pandemic at hand, everyday stress levels are at an all-time high, and learning stress management practices can help a lot. Raised stress levels can create a number of responses in the body, which can often affect your chronic disease management, and coping techniques like meditation, or journaling can go a long way in helping.

  • Not skipping out on doctor appointments, and rather exploring the options for safe consultations – If you have your regular appointments set up, don’t skip out on them because of COVID-19. Instead, explore options with your hospital or doctor to consult remotely. It is extremely important that chronic disease patients keep up with their regular checkup, to avoid any avoidable complications. 
  • Reaching out to an expert doctor and exploring the need for additional testing – if you do end up contracting the COVID-19 virus, it is important to reach out to your expert doctor. They might be able to prescribe additional tests that can show potential COVID-19 and/or chronic disease-related complications that may arise. 

After listening to the necessary care that COVID-19 management actually requires, straight from Dr Pakhi, my mother and family decided to get tested. When the result came back positive, in a way we were relieved. In the current situation, the cases that are detected on RT-PCR tests are the less worrying variant of COVID-19. 

In addition to following the above-mentioned directives, my family also required additional guidance. This was because my grandmother suffered from Diabetes, while my mother had elevated BP levels. 

Each of these conditions requires its own set of specific care and management tactics that can make it easier to fight off the infection. 

The Extra Care That Chronic Disease Patients Need To Take, When Infected With COVID-19. 
Chronic Disease and Covid-19

What Should You Keep In Mind When You Are A Hypertension Patient With COVID-19?

While COVID-19 might have taken a toll on the healthcare system at large, there is still a lot that infected patients can do, to prevent complications. If you are hypertensive or have cardiovascular issues, the following are what you should do to ensure good health, even while having COVID-19. 

  • Constant Monitoring with BP monitor- Having to keep track of your systolic and diastolic blood pressure regularly shouldn’t come as a big surprise to any hypertension patient. Blood pressure readings are directly indicative of the pressure that your circulatory system is under, and can easily help in identifying any problematic complications within the body. 
  • Consulting with your specialist doctor – While your symptoms may be mild, it does well to consult with your specialist doctor and go over your prescribed medications again. For example, according to Dr Pakhi, “A number of patients who are on anticoagulants like Ecosprin, have ended up needing more powerful medication, as a result of COVID-19.” While this may not be the case for every chronic disease patient, it will do well for your doctor to go over all the medicines you are on, and adjust accordingly. 

If you’d like to learn more about hypertension and COVID-19, you can read more here. 

What Should You Keep In Mind When You Are A Diabetes Patient With COVID-19?

According to Diabetes.org, being diabetic doesn’t increase the chance for a patient to get infected by COVID-19. But however, it does worsen the chance of getting more complications, as it is difficult for the body to fight both diabetes, and infection at the same time. While there are indications that those with Type 1 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes face more complications, the advice for all diabetes patients, to best fight off COVID-19 infection is: 

  • Constant Monitoring with glucometer – there is nothing worse for your health than poorly managed blood sugar levels. Using a glucometer to keep track of this number and tracking it constantly can help prevent potential complications. 
  • Eating food on time, and eating the right amount of carbs – What you choose to eat is especially important to diabetes patients since it has a direct impact on your vitals. Going for too long without eating, or choosing to eat the wrong things can all affect your sugar levels, and subsequently, impact your overall diabetes management and COVID-19 recovery.
  • Getting enough exercise, that doesn’t overexert you – If there has ever been a time when exercise has been integral, it is now. Whether you prefer to go for brisk walks or do your favourite workout videos at home, the point is to keep moving. Regular exercise, that doesn’t overexert you, can help in managing your weight, keeping your metabolism revving, help in keeping your glucose levels in check and will assist your body in fighting off the COVID-19 infection. 

If you’d like to know more in detail about the relationship between Diabetes and COVID-19, you can read it here. 

What Can You Do If You Have Respiratory Ailments and Is COVID-19 Positive?

Coming from a family of asthmatics, COVID-19 being a respiratory condition has been especially worrying. There is a lot of conversation regarding oxygen saturation levels and the same becomes even more important if you are someone with pre-existing respiratory problems. 

Be prepared for emergencies – While COVID-19 doesn’t cause additional lung damage to those with respiratory ailments. But especially with things like Asthma, it can exacerbate the situation with sudden attacks. Be prepared for the same.

Do not stray from your medication plan – In patients with conditions like COPD, COVID-19 may pose a higher risk, as existing lung damage makes it harder to fight off the infection. If you are on medication for this condition, you should continue to take them, including any corticosteroids, you may be on. 

If you’d like to read more about the relationship between Asthma and COVID-19, you can know more here.

Summing Up…

Even though we’re all going through a healthcare storm, this crisis has also brought our attention to a much larger problem – the need for disease management rather than treating symptoms. The most important thing that any chronic disease patient can do, is to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, follow all the safety precautions, and ensure their existing conditions are well managed. 

Taking these steps towards disease management can help you in avoiding potential COVID-19 complications, and will boost your wellbeing in the long run.

Phable is an innovative lifestyle disease management app simplifying life for patients & doctors through video consultations and remote healthcare.

Download Phable Here!

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