People with chronic health conditions or persistent symptoms may be delaying care out of fear of catching COVID-19, but putting off seeing your doctor may result in more harm than good. From routine screenings to regular blood tests to prescribed treatments, there are elements of care that should not be skipped, even during a pandemic. Find out what conditions and symptoms require regular medical care. And, as always, consult with your doctor to find out what personalized care should remain on your schedule.
Managing chronic diseases during COVID can be tricky if you aren’t sure you will have your medicines when you need them. Therefore, it’s important to check with your pharmacy to ensure it has the medicines you need and arrange for pickup or delivery so you have them on hand. Do not skip or change your medication dosage without talking with your doctor as this can adversely affect your chronic condition or result in other health concerns.
An exception to this advice is an allergic reaction to your medicine. Call your doctor or pharmacist and describe your symptoms. If you experience difficulty breathing or swelling of the lips, tongue or face, stop taking the medicine and call 911
Continue cancer care during COVID. Once your doctor prescribes a plan for cancer treatment, it’s imperative to follow that schedule as closely as possible to provide every opportunity for the treatment plan to have the desired results. Disrupting that treatment plan could increase the odds of the cancer spreading or recommended treatments failing.
In addition, if you have a strong family history of certain cancers or are a cancer survivor, it’s important to continue with your routine screenings on time so you can detect cancer early. If you are low risk for cancers, talk with your doctor regarding when to schedule your screenings.
Maintain your asthma care routine and seek help when necessary. As with all chronic diseases during COVID, controlling asthma means following your prescribed management plan from your doctor. Monitor your asthma inhaler expiration date to ensure you get a new one ahead of time. Because stress and anxiety can trigger an asthma attack, be aware of your emotions and take steps to cope with these feelings before they get out of hand. Above all, if you have questions or concerns regarding your asthma, do not hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.
Staying on top of your blood sugar levels is crucial for diabetic patients at all times. This means regular health checkups continue to be an essential part of your medical care during COVID. Yes, it’s important to monitor your sugar levels and ketones at home, but if you are scheduled for testing or screening at your medical provider’s office, this should remain a priority. Check with your doctor to find out what procedures are in place for in-office visits or if there are alternative testing procedures available.
People with heart disease or high blood pressure are at higher risk for serious symptoms of COVID-19, so they may consider staying at home to avoid exposure. However, it’s important to consult with your physician before making any decisions. If you are scheduled to have a procedure, your doctor may want to proceed as planned. If you are scheduled for cardiac rehabilitation, it’s possible the rehab center could be closed. If so, check with your doctor for an alternative location or to see if there are at-home exercises you can do.
If you have chronic kidney disease, you are at a higher risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19. Even if you are following precautions to avoid COVID-19, it’s still crucial to follow your kidney disease management plan to keep the disease in check. Do not skip dialysis unless your doctor says it’s OK to miss an appointment. If you are scheduled for routine lab tests, ask your doctor if you need to come in for those as planned. It’s possible they could be postponed or even completed by at-home testing. (You may be able to get blood draws at a lab closer to your home and they send the results to your doctor.)
Many people need physical therapy following surgery or as part of a pain management plan. Whether or not your physical therapy plan is considered essential depends on your specific case. Check with your doctor to find out how to proceed. There are many physical therapy providers open for in-patient PT, where everyone takes the necessary precautions to prevent COVID-19. If you don’t need hands-on PT, you may be able to participate in virtual PT sessions. Depending on your needs, you may receive an at-home PT routine from your physical therapist to continue your care.
Maintaining your mental health during COVID-19 is especially important given the unprecedented circumstances and stress experienced during the pandemic. You might feel fine skipping a mental health therapy session, but it’s crucial to continue your regular therapy schedule to help you cope with this new environment—as well as the problem that existed before the pandemic. Find out if your mental health provider is continuing in-person sessions or if you can attend a virtual session.
Also, do not stop or change your medications or dosage without talking with your primary care provider or psychiatrist first. This could lead to adverse effects in your mental health journey. At a minimum, call a pharmacist for guidance on your meds.