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What Those With Inflammatory Bowel Disease Should Know About COVID-19

Navigating a world in the midst of a pandemic raises questions and concerns about daily activities we have always taken for granted, from visiting family to picking up prescriptions. For those with ongoing medical issues, these worries are only heightened. 

If you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may have questions about how COVID-19 can impact your condition and if your medications may increase your risk of contracting the virus. The board certified specialists of Tryon Medical Partners gastroenterology are available for virtual visits and have put together these three pieces of advice to keep you safe and informed during this uncertain time.

Remain on Your Medications and Understand Their Implications

Individuals with IBD who are taking immunosuppressive medications and those experiencing active malnutrition are considered high-risk. 

It is important to stay on your medications to keep your IBD under control. 

  • Aminosalicylates (5-ASA) products such as Asacol, Apriso, Canasa, Delzicol, Lialda, Pentasa and Rowasa are NOT considered immunosuppressive medications. 
  • If you are on steroids, you are considered immunosuppressed. Our preference is to keep you on steroids for the shortest period of time possible. If you have been on a prolonged course of steroids (greater than one month), please contact us to ensure this is the correct course of action for you.
  • Immunomodulators such as azathioprine, 6-MP and methotrexate inhibit the body’s response to viral infections. DO NOT stop taking these medicines. 
  • Biologic therapy including Cimzia, Humira, Remicade, Simponi, Entyvio and Stelara are also medications that affect the immune system and can put you at increased risk. DO NOT stop taking these medications. 

Patients on immunosuppressants and biologics are advised not to travel or gather in groups of more than ten. Ideally, patients on these medications would stay home with limited movement in the community. This would include working from home. 

Follow the General Guidelines

Having inflammatory bowel disease alone can place you at a slightly higher risk of contracting COVID-19. We ask that you follow general precautions from the CDC: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.  
  • Keep your medicine cabinets stocked with supplies and essentials (cough syrup, cold and flu medicine and prescription medications) – enough for two weeks. 

Individuals in high-risk groups are being advised to take extra precautions, including those over the age of 60 (especially men) and those with underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, and avoid leaving the home whenever possible. 

Consult With Your Medical Providers

The technology to conduct visits virtually has existed for years, but this is a great time to take advantage of seeing your regular provider from home. As part of our ongoing efforts to serve the community and offer our patients as many options for accessible care as possible, Tryon has expanded virtual visit hours, including not just primary care but also specialty visits. 

In a time of social distancing, it is important to stay safe, but management of ongoing conditions like IBD is important to your overall wellness and immunity. Do not put off seeing your provider. 

Stay informed through expert resources like the CDC’s recommendations for at-risk communities and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundations’ guidance regarding COVID-19. Our offices are always available for questions at 704-489-3410 and we are pleased to offer guidance and information to keep you healthy and informed.