Over the past few weeks, many countries all over the world have issued stay-at-home or social distancing orders in their effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 infection. Although the orders are for everyone, people with vulnerabilities especially those with chronic illnesses (i.e. diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, chronic renal diseases, autoimmune conditions etc) have been ordered to observe the orders more diligently through self-quarantine. It is not going to be easy, so here is a survival guide to help everyone with chronic illness get through this challenging time.
Tip 1: Follow the stay-at-home order & practice social distancing
Chronically ill patients are more likely to become severely infected should they come into close contact with anyone carrying the virus. Therefore, avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms. If chronically ill patients contract the infection, they also tend to do worse than others due to a myriad of complications that can occur. So, please practice social distancing by avoiding intimate physical contact, shaking hands, sharing eating utensils and personal hygiene items. Everyone with chronic illness must follow local government’s orders and stay at home. Here are 7 tips to stay calm at home during self-quarantine.
Tip 2: Wash your hands regularly
The cheapest, easiest and most effective way to prevent the spread of a virus is to wash your hands with soap and water. Practice good hand hygiene and wash your hand regularly for a minimum of 20 seconds each time. Wash your hands at the following times:
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- Before and after touching your face
- After visiting a public space, e.g shops or supermarket
- Before and after eating
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or helping children use the toilet
- After handling trash
- After touching pets or animals
- When your hands are visibly dirty
If you are unsure about your hand-washing technique and would like to make sure that you are doing it correctly, check out the video below.
Tip 3: Look after your health
Maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Consume fruits and vegetables as snacks rather than reaching out for the candy bar. This is especially important if you have diabetes as it will minimise your chances of having abnormally high blood sugar level. Also, perform simple house chores like sweeping, mopping and wiping surfaces to help you stay active while getting rid of viruses. You may even try regular light exercises. Do not overdo it or attempt high-intensity exercises if you are not accustomed to it as this will more likely lead to injuries. The key is to look after your health and stay out of hospital during this pandemic.
Tip 4: Sort out your outpatient appointments
If you have outpatient appointments scheduled over the next few weeks or months, call the clinics to find out if the appointment could be postponed. Rescheduling non-urgent clinic appointments support the social distancing move, further reducing the spread of the virus. If your condition requires frequent monitoring by the doctors in the clinics and you absolutely have to be seen by a doctor, discuss if it could be done over the phone or through other modes of communication. Many outpatient facilities have started providing teleclinic services during this pandemic. So, be sure to ask if your clinic has it. Do not turn up to outpatient clinics unless you absolutely have to.
Tip 5: Check your medications
Start counting your tablets. Make sure you have enough to last you till the end of the quarantine period. If you are unsure how long that would last, just make sure you have a continuous supply for 12 weeks (that is the general length of the quarantine period for people with vulnerabilities including those with chronic illnesses). If you don’t have adequate supply, call your pharmacy and ask for your medications to be delivered to you in the mail. Some pharmacies even provide drive-thru services which would allow you to pick up your medications while maintaining the required social distance. Do not go to the pharmacy unless you cannot avoid it.
Tip 6: Compile your medical history
With all the time you have at home now that you are in self-quarantine, start compiling your medical history. Document all your diagnoses, previous investigation results, current medications, treatment plans and future clinic appointments to the best of your ability. Put the finished document into a single file and let your family members know where you store it. The document would prove very helpful in case of a medical emergency especially if you are taken to different healthcare facility than your regular one, which is common in times of a pandemic. Just be sure to bring it with you if you need to present yourself.
Tip 7: List your emergency contact numbers
Make a list of your emergency contact numbers. Make sure you include in the list the contact numbers of your local emergency services (i.e ambulance, fire station, police), local health facility/ authority, family members, neighbours and close friends. Be sure to write the numbers down in legible handwriting or type it out in clear and large fonts. Then, keep it handy or paste the list on a wall where you can clearly see it. The key is to ensure high visibility of the numbers in case you ever need them while being quarantined at home. Make sure you contact your local health facility/ authority immediately if you start having any symptoms.