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How do I manage an underlying health condition with all this COVID-19 noise and panic?

by Dr Kirsty Benton

The world is a really challenging place for everyone right now, but particularly for those who have underlying health conditions. There are a number of conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and a worse outcome. Please see and for the list of conditions which fall into ‘higher risk’ and ‘extremely vulnerable’. It is important to identify which category you fall into as those deemed as extremely vulnerable are strongly advised to undertake ‘shielding’ which is a much stricter set of conditions until the middle of June when the advice will be reviewed.

In the meantime, here is some advice on how to stay safe and manage this time when you have an underlying health condition.

  1. Stay well. It seems simple but it is so easy to slip out of good habits while we are out of our routines. Stay hydrated, eat well and have plenty of rest.

  2. Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds and use hand sanitiser in between washes.

  3. Keep your house clean and wash commonly used and shared surfaces such as door handles and taps regularly with normal house cleaning products.

  4. Ensure you have a sufficient supply of your usual medication at home. Phone the pharmacy or local volunteer community groups to ask someone to collect your prescriptions for you.

  5. Protect your emotional and mental wellbeing. See the post from 2 weeks ago for more advice.

  6. Quit smoking with help from NHS Smokefree website. I know this won’t be easy but there’s no better time to optimise the health of your lungs than right now. You won’t regret it.

  7. Check with your GP, Specialist Team and online organisations/charities for advice on your specific condition. This is particularly important for advice regarding whether or not to stop, continue or alter your usual medication. Some medications can complicate an infection of COVID-19 even more, so it is important to find out this information. Do NOT stop or alter your medication without discussing this with your doctor. They can help you make a contingency plan for medication changes should you start to suffer with COVID-19 symptoms.

  8. Try to avoid face to face GP or hospital appointments. If your disease is well controlled then you may wish to postpone your appointment. If your disease is active or you would like medical advice then explore the options for a phone or online consultation.

  9. If you do need to go to hospital then practice social distancing and good hygiene. Stay 2 metres away from others, catch your coughs/sneezes in tissues then bin them and wash or sanitise your hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially if you used public transport. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  10. If you do attend hospital for your treatment there may be some changes that have taken place. Extra precautions are in place such an fewer people attending at the same time and increased time for cleaning. You may need to attend a different location and some treatments may be delayed if they are less urgent than others. Your clinic should let you know before you go if there have been any changes but you can get in touch with them to check if you are worried.

If you have any other concerns please seek help from your GP or your Specialist team. Don’t worry or suffer in silence, your doctors and nurses are still there to help you. Take care of yourselves.

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