High-risk individuals urged to take special precautions to protect against COVID-19
Given the increase in the spread of COVID-19 in our community, our infectious disease team is encouraging high-risk patients to take special precautions.
Dr. Christopher Penn, infectious disease physician at LMH Health, reminds us that COVID-19 is a new disease, and as such, there’s limited information about the impact of underlying medical conditions and how they might create additional challenges for patients with COVID-19.
How do I know if I fall into a high-risk category?
The CDC indicates that patients of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:
- Transplant recipients
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Diabetes (Type 1 diabetes mellitus and Type 2 diabetes mellitus)
Additionally, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Chronic lung disorders (including pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis)
- Hematologic (blood) disorders (including sickle cell disease and thalassemia)
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
If you fall into one of the above categories—or if you live with someone who does—Dr. Penn said it’s all that much more important to protect yourself from exposure to COVID-19. This means limiting your interactions with other people as much as possible.
I’m high risk. Is it safe to come to LMH Health for care?
Yes. Dr. Penn explained that our hospital and clinics have the most up-to-date COVID-19 precautions in place. These safeguards help protect you, our staff and ultimately the community. As we contact you to schedule or remind you of an appointment, we will ask several screening questions to verify your health status. We will gather as much registration, health history, insurance and payment information in advance as possible, and we will also notify you of changes to our process when you arrive at our campus and entrances.
Not every health need requires an in-person visit. LMH Health offers TeleCare, a service that is available to almost all clinics and appointments. Any existing or new patient can take advantage of this service—all you need is a smart device such as a tablet, smartphone or laptop. TeleCare can be very effective even outside of a pandemic—think of it as another convenient option for care delivery. Ask your treatment team if a TeleCare visit is an option for you.
Dr. Penn said that the most important thing for all patients to keep in mind—especially those who fall into a high-risk category due to certain conditions—is to avoid any and all delays to necessary emergency care. Delaying your care can create even more significant health issues, and the infection prevention measures in place in our Emergency Department are meant to keep you safe.
How can I reduce my risk of infection?
If you can’t avoid interaction altogether, remember that the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, specifically:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths, noses or eyes of people who are nearby or can possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
You can best protect yourself and those around you by following this guidance from the CDC:
- Wash your hands often
- Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact
- Inside your home:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.
- Outside your home:
- Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
- Stay at least 6 feet (about two arm’s lengths) from other people.
- Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
- Try to avoid touching the mask.
- Practice cough etiquette
- Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow, and do not spit.
- Immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them first. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection, and follow with a household disinfectant.
What should I do if I experience symptoms?
Monitor your health daily, and be alert for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, call your healthcare provider before coming in. If you don’t have a provider, you can contact Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.
You can also keep track of your symptoms, and watch for emergency warning signs. Seek care immediately if you have trouble breathing or experience confusion, chest pain or chest pressure.
For nearly 100 years, our community has relied on LMH Health to provide exceptional, safe care. This has always been our top priority, and it remains true – now more than ever. Our purpose is to be “A Partner for Lifelong Health,” in all times, but especially in these challenging ones.