As someone living with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, I have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Like many others living with chronic illnesses, I’m terrified right now.
Beyond simply following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)
The best way to start actively doing something from home while you practice physical distancing, also known as social distancing, is to contact your healthcare provider.
Your local doctor (who knows the situation in your community) will be able to help you cope with your own health challenges during this global crisis.
Here are some questions to get you started:
In an effort to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and to keep higher-risk folks safe, many offices are canceling nonessential appointments or transitioning in-person visits to telemedicine appointments.
If your provider hasn’t canceled or rescheduled your in-person appointments, ask whether your appointment can be done via a video visit.
Some tests and procedures would be impossible to translate to a virtual appointment. In that case, your doctor will guide you through what’s best for your specific case.
It can be tempting to stop taking medications that suppress your immune system at a time when immunity feels very important. But one of your doctor’s goals during this pandemic is to keep your condition stable.
The disease-modifying immunosuppressants I’m on are working, so my doctor hasn’t advised a change. Your doctor can talk to you about what’s best for you based on your health condition and the medications you’re taking.
Likewise, if you’re having side effects or relapses, check with your doctor before you stop taking any of your medications.
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of starting new treatments. They may suggest moving forward if leaving your condition uncontrolled for a longer period would be more dangerous for you than COVID-19.
If you’re eager to switch your regular medications because of side effects or other reasons, talk to your doctor.
If your treatment is working, your doctor will likely not want to start a new treatment during this crisis.
Depending on what state you live in, many non-emergency surgeries are being canceled to add capacity to hospitals for COVID-19 cases. This is especially true of elective surgeries, which are being canceled in some states one hospital at a time.
Surgery may suppress your immune system, so it’s important to discuss your COVID-19 risk with the doctor performing the procedure if your surgery isn’t canceled.
In my case, in-person care is limited at this time, but my doctor has assured me that telemedicine visits are available.
If you live in a place where in-person care hasn’t been disrupted, it’s a good idea to get an idea of the types of at-home care available to you.
As more medical professionals are called on to support COVID-19 efforts, communication with your provider may become difficult.
It’s important that you open up lines of communication now so you’ll know the best way to contact your doctor in the future.
Don’t email your doctor in emergency situations. Call 911.
These questions to ask your doctor are just examples of things that you should be thinking about as you shelter in place. The most important way you can help the public healthcare system is to keep yourself healthy.
Good communication with your doctor is as important as exercise and healthy eating.
Molly Stark Dean has worked in newsrooms optimizing social media content strategy for over a decade: CoinDesk, Reuters, CBS News Radio, mediabistro, and Fox News Channel. Molly graduated from New York University with a Master of Arts Journalism Degree in the Reporting the Nation program. At NYU, she interned for ABC News and USA Today. Molly taught audience development at the University of Missouri School of Journalism China Program and mediabistro. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.