If you have Crohn’s, you already know flare-ups can kick you in the butt in the best of times. But what about during a pandemic?
If your Crohn’s is the result of a hyperactive immune system, isn’t that a *good* thing RN?
Or does a wacky gut open you up to COVID-19 complications? What about the risk of exposure when you need a public restroom, like, now?
So many questions! Here’s your crash course in Crohn’s, COVID-19, and how they do (and don’t) affect each other.
Does Crohn’s make COVID-19 worse or increase my risk?
Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It’s uncomfortable, sure. And it can be really debilitating. But there’s no data suggesting it makes you more likely to catch coronavirus.
Chronic illness could *indirectly* increase your risk of COVID-19 if you’re in one of the following situations:
- You’re hospitalized during a Crohn’s flare-up, so you’re more likely to be exposed to the virus.
- You take immunosuppressants to manage Crohn’s. This might reduce your body’s ability to combat COVID-19.
- You need to use public restrooms regularly during flare-ups. This could theoretically increase your chance of exposure. So, wash 👏 those 👏 hands! 👏
Probably not. But COVID-19 is still so new. Experts still don’t have a comprehensive list of conditions that *do* boost your risk. It’s like trying to guess “WandaVision” spoilers.
A recent study of peeps with IBD found that they’re no more likely than the general population to get COVID-19. It also indicated that folks with IBD aren’t any more likely to die as a result of COVID-19 complications.
Folks in the research study had diarrhea while they were sick with COVID-19. (Which just sounds like a whole heap of no fun at all.)
COVID-19 *can* cause gut problems. But it’s not common because coronavirus is a respiratory disease that doesn’t commonly mess with gastrointestinal health.
The research looks pretty much the same for younglings as it does for adults.
- Children with IBD don’t have a higher risk of acquiring COVID-19 than other kids.
- About 10 percent of kids who get COVID-19 experience some kind of gut symptom — nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Experts recommend that kids with Crohn’s continue their regular meds but postpone elective procedures (let’s take a rain check, colonoscopy) during the pandemic.
So, kids with Crohn’s and COVID-19. Should I worry?
Whether you or your little one has Crohn’s, the disease doesn’t ramp up any COVID-19 risk.
Just mask up, social distance, and wash your hands like everyone else. 🎶 🎤 We’re all in this together! 🎶 (although very few musicals are happening in high schools right now).
First of all, don’t think of your meds as *destroying* your immune system. It’s still functional. They just stop it going into overdrive to the point of harm all the time.
WTF is an immunosuppressant?
Folks with Crohn’s often have vigilante immune systems that attack their own intestines. Immunosuppressants are like a prescription chill pill for the system.
Common ‘scrips include:
- adalimumab (Humira)
- azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
- methotrexate (Trexall)
- natalizumab (Tysabri)
- ustekinumab (Stelara)
- vedolizumab (Entyvio)
If you take immunosuppressants, you can reduce the risk of acquiring COVID-19 by keeping well on top of hygiene and washing 👏 your 👏 hands 👏.
(TBH, you should be doing this whether you have Crohn’s or not.)
Some medications — steroids and a few immunosuppressants or biologics — *do* weaken your body’s ability to fight off viruses. In that case, it’s super important to be extra vigilant about good hygiene.
The Crohn’s Colitis Foundation warn against cutting your dose or halting your meds. This increases the risk of a flare-up.
Here’s what doctors recommend for people with IBD during the pandemic.
What to do
- Postpone optional medical procedures until COVID-19 cases have reduced.
- Keep on keeping on with your infusions and prescriptions.
- Ask your doc if you should stop taking prednisone during the pandemic (but don’t make this decision alone without professional medical advice — they didn’t spend 7 years at college only for you to go rogue).
- Ask your doctor about the plan for stopping or changing your medications if you test positive for COVID-19.
- Plan to restart any meds you’ve paused once you’re symptom-free.
What not to do
- Don’t travel.
- Don’t change anything about your Crohn’s treatments without talking to your doctor first.
- Practice self-care. 😊
We’ll say it louder for those at the back: Continue taking your meds unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Staying in tip-top shape is more important than ever. This isn’t the time for a flare-up that lands you in the hospital. It’s not the time to destroy your gut’s delicate balance.
A super friendly reminder that it’s also not a good time to supercharge inflammation with triggers like:
Stay healthy, friends.
Here’s how to dial down the threat level:
- Stay on your meds.
- Wash your hands often — and for at least 20 seconds!
- Avoid travel unless it’s super-duper necessary.
- Say goodbye to crowded rooms, say hello to (or via) Zoom.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Wear a mask in public, or around anyone not living in your household.
- Keep social distancing.
If you feel a flare-up coming on, contact your doctor ASAP. You’ll want to nip it in the bud and choose virtual appointments whenever possible.
At this point, there’s no evidence that you’ll have a more severe case of COVID-19 than anyone else.
Visit the SECURE-IBD database to keep up with all the latest stats on patients with IBD and COVID-19.
Research suggests that having Crohn’s doesn’t make you any more likely to acquire or die from COVID-19 complications than those who don’t have it.
Some Crohn’s meds could increase your risk of developing COVID-19 as they suppress your immune system.
Even if you take immunosuppressants, it’s important to maintain your treatment plan during the pandemic.
If you test positive for COVID-19, call your gastroenterologist stat. They might suggest tweaking your meds until you’re COVID-free.