The Novel Coronavirus has turned our lives upside down! Though most of us patients are used to staying at home, taking extra precautions in public situations, and being poked and prodded, we are a little out of our element. Though it is said to have a lower mortality rate than SARS or MERS, it is apparently more contagious. So, the spread is faster.
Living through a pandemic as a patient living with a chronic condition or as a caregiver for a patient is extremely stressful. The big invisible boogeyman creeping somewhere outside makes it anxiety-inducing just to go check the mail. And although we are more likely to abide by the shelter in place orders, we are not always able to just stay home. At some point, we are going to have to make a doctor’s visit. Blood tests, infusions, and injections are often the main reason for a non-telehealth doctor’s appointment. The idea of having to go to a hospital outside of an outbreak is already scary. So the thought of having to go to a center or a doctor’s office where I know we’re not 6 feet apart, and many people have sat in those chairs, personally freaks me out. However, #MedTwitter has taught me that the best thing I can do as a patient with an autoimmune disease is to stay on my meds, keeping the flares at bay. Wait, what? #MedTwitter?! Yes, that’s a thing. And through this pandemic, it has brought me solace through education. Some of my favorite doctors like Dr. Rubin, Dr. Charabaty, Dr. Bewtra, Dr. Higgins, Dr. Balzora, Dr. Mahadevan and many more have been working with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, The International Organization for the study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), along with their perspective hospitals & universities research and development departments to bring us real-time facts concerning COVID-19 relates to IBD. If you are not on twitter, I highly suggest taking the time to sign up, just to stay up to date with all of the information coming out of the science community as we navigate through this pandemic.
Okay, so infusions. Yesterday, during a webinar on IBD therapies + COVID-19 hosted by the AGA with Dr. Rubin, Dr. Russell Cohen & Dr. Rajeev Jain, and during that talk, they spoke about therapeutic safety and infusions/injections. Both Dr. Cohen and Dr. Rubin agreed that going to an infusion center would be the safest option because centers are currently taking severe measures to ensure everyone’s safety. Dr. Rubin suggested that it would be more reliable than having a nurse who is going from house to house, come into your home. However, Dr. Higgins added on twitter that you can ask your home infusion nurse to wash their hands for 25 seconds, remove shoes and top jacket, etc. So, what to do if you are due for an infusion or an injection soon? Here are five safety precautions you can take to help protect yourself during this time.
5 Safety Tips
Take a blanket
I often travel with a blanket during Flu season to put on the seat of the airplane to protect myself. It has it’s own bag and is folded a certain way, so I don’t sit on the part that touched the chair. For your appointment, travel with a clean blanket in a bag. Then deposit in back in the bag when you are done. Wash immediately when you get home.
Remove Outside Clothes
Once you get home, remove the clothes you wore to the infusion and shower. This should be immediate. This goes for shoes as well.
Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands before you enter the infusion center. Wash your hands as soon as you leave the infusion center. Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
25 seconds. Warm water & soap.
Sanitize Your Reusable Mask & Gloves
We’ve been using cloth masks with a disposable filter inside, along with nitrile gloves. We spray both with 91% isopropyl alcohol. I also keep a small bottle in the car. I use a small amount to wipe my gloves before I buckle my seat belt or touch the steering wheel. I wipe down the door handle with a small amount as well.
Call Your Center
Call your infusion center or your doctor (if you take your treatment at your doctor’s office) and ask them what the precautions are that they are taking and what is to be expected of you. Communication is always essential, but during this time of constant change, we should be communicating with our health team often, which includes the facility where we take our infusions and injections.
What’s In My Bag
It’s essential to have a little kit with you when you leave the house. Even if you have to venture out to take the dog for a walk. Everything right now is an entire production of PPE and lines. So, in a small sanitary bag, I have a few things that will help me get through whatever task I have to complete while outside.
Extra Mask Filters
Travel Bottle of Alcohol
Travel Toilet Seat Covers
Disposable Water Bottle
Stay On Your Meds
I repeat, STAY ON YOUR MEDS! I know the idea of heading out to a center or a doctor’s office is scary; however, you need to stay as healthy as possible, and staying on track with your treatment plan is the best way to do that. If you would like to hear a real-life account of someone’s infusion experience during this pandemic, check out my friend Amber Tresca’s podcast, AboutIBD. She interviews advocate Julie Kennedy of Semi Colon Girl. Check it out here. Amber has a great informative blog post on what to do if your infusion center is closed. Check it out here.
If you are having any sort of anxiety or apprehension about the infusion process during this time, please communicate this with your doctor and team. It’s important to express your feelings and needs during this time. Remember, all of your feelings are valid, and there are plans you can put into place to ensure the safety of your physical and mental health.