Managing Chronic Conditions
- Chronic Conditions and COVID-19
- Health Care during COVID-19
- Staying Active during COVID-19
- Healthy Eating during COVID-19
Chronic Conditions and COVID-19
Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Below are just some of the high-risk conditions that are important to manage to stay health and reduce your risk of becoming very ill from COVID-19:
- Asthma and lung disease
- Heart disease
- Various conditions that lead to a weakened immune system, including cancer treatment
- Chronic kidney disease
Steps to keep healthy
Do what you can now to protect and improve your health so you can stay as healthy as possible if you get COVID-19. Follow recommendations found at Protect Yourself and Others.
- Get vaccinated and a booster shot when eligible. Find COVID-19 vaccine locations.
- If you test positive, find out right away about eligibility for treatment by contacting a health care provider or visiting COVID-10 Medication.
- Contact your health care provider if you have any concerns or questions.
- Ask about telehealth. Talk to a health care provider about the option of setting up your medical visit on the phone or online. Keeping up with regular appointments could prevent a visit to the emergency room later.
- For more information, see: Health Care During a Pandemic.
- Do not skip a dose or change your medications or treatment without first talking to a health care professional. Talk to your health care provider, insurer, or pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications.
- Have two weeks of non-prescription medications and supplies on hand in case you need to stay home for a long time.
- Take care of both your body and mind. It is natural to feel stressed or anxious, but getting enough sleep, deep breathing or meditation, and moving your body can help. Consider talking to someone you trust about how you are feeling.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can make it more likely that you have a heart attack or stroke, and can cause lung damage. Visit Quit Partner for free phone or online coaching.
- Be active and eat a healthy diet. Include fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains into your meals. Limit sugary drinks.
What to do if you have:
People with asthma should take extra care when any type of respiratory illness is spreading in their community.
Take all your asthma medications and follow your management plan as directed.
Don't hesitate to call your health care provider.
Social distancing and stay-at-home orders means you are spending more time inside the home. Spending more time indoors may increase your exposure to known or new asthma triggers, which can cause asthma symptoms, and can bring on an asthma attack. Here are a few things to think about:
Find ways to stay active and reduce stress.
- Continue taking all your daily asthma medications as prescribed, including rescue and controller medications (inhaler or pill form). If you have questions about your asthma medications, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist.
- Check your asthma inhaler expiration date and see if it has a counter that indicates how many doses you have left. If needed, call your pharmacy to get a refill. Use your current inhaler until you get a new one.
- Follow your Asthma Action Plan.
- If your symptoms are in the yellow zone and aren't resolving, contact your health care provider immediately and begin taking your prescribed oral steroids.
- If your symptoms progress into the red zone, call 911 if you are unable to take yourself to the ER. Bring all your medications with you.
- Know how to use your asthma inhaler correctly. The medication needs to get deep into your lungs, so it is important to use good technique. Watch: National Jewish Health Instructional Video.
- Managing your asthma is important right now, so if you have questions or concerns, contact your clinic and arrange for a phone or online visit with your doctor, pulmonologist, or asthma specialist.
- Use your exhaust fan (if it exhausts to the outside) or open a window when cooking.
- Make your home a smoke-free zone. Tobacco smoke is a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms and attacks. Encourage your household member(s) to stop smoking and refer them to Quit Partner for free coaching.
- Keep your windows (home and car) closed during pollen season and when mold counts are high. Check the National Allergy Bureau Pollen and Spore Levels to see current conditions near you.
- Avoid using cleaning products and other disinfectants that can cause asthma symptoms or an asthma attack.
- Learn more about asthma triggers in the home.
- Strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack. Take steps to help yourself cope with stress and anxiety. See: Find Your Happy Place (PDF).
Learn more about asthma
When people with diabetes become sick, it can dramatically raise blood sugar levels. Having high blood sugar can make it more difficult to fight off illnesses like COVID-19. Even for people with well-controlled diabetes, a COVID-19 infection is more likely to make them very ill.
If you are sick and have diabetes:
- Contact your clinic and ask what changes you should make to your treatment plan and when to seek emergency care.
- Monitor your blood sugar more often than usual and regularly check for ketones. If you have symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, seek help immediately.
- Review the Diabetes Disaster Plan. This plan includes a checklist of supplies, diabetes information, and guidelines to help you build a "diabetes emergency kit."
- If you need ideas for healthy cooking, check out the Diabetes Food Hub.
- If you are struggling to find affordable insulin, visit Insulin Help to get connected to resources.
Learn more about diabetes.
If you have prediabetes, you can take steps now to prevent type 2 diabetes. Consider a lifestyle change program, like the National Diabetes Prevention Program. The program is covered by most health plans, Medicaid and Medicare. Find a National Diabetes Prevention Program class in person or online.
COVID-19 can strain all systems in the body, which puts additional stress on your heart. In patients with heart disease, COVID-19 can make it more difficult for your heart to keep up with the needs of your body.
If you have heart disease or high blood pressure:
- Monitor your blood pressure regularly. Refer to the American Heart Association guidelines on how to use a home blood pressure monitor.
- If you have heart failure, excess fluid in your body may be a concern. Ask your health care provider about any extra monitoring you might need.
- Work with your health care providers to keep regular appointments.
- Take medications as prescribed and make sure you have a two week supply of your medications, including those to treat high blood pressure or cholesterol.
- Continue to eat healthy meals and get regular physical activity.
Learn more about heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Some types of cancer and cancer treatments can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to get very ill from COVID-19.
Before going in to your appointments for cancer treatment, ask your health care provider how you can help protect yourself from contracting COVID-19. Use virtual appointments if that is an option. Your doctor may recommend other things that you should do to isolate yourself from others to help make sure that your treatments have the best chance of working. Check to see if any medications can be sent directly to you so that you don’t have to go to the pharmacy or clinic.
You can find more information and answers from the American Cancer Society or call their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-227-2345.
- Minnesota Cancer Alliance
- American Cancer Society: Coping with Stress
- American Cancer Society: Resources for Caregivers
- NIH National Cancer Institute
Learn more about cancer.
Having chronic kidney disease (CKD), especially if you are on dialysis, puts you at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Skipping dialysis could seriously impact your health, so it's important to continue as your doctor recommends.
- Use social distancing, hand washing and a mask to protect yourself whenever you go to the dialysis center. Call ahead to see what accommodations they have.
- For routine lab tests, contact your health care provider to see if the tests can be postponed or if there are home testing, urine sample drop off, or other options.
- Continue to take your medications as directed. Ask your pharmacists if 90-day refills of your prescription medicines and home delivery are options for you.
- Seek out family resources and online peer support from the National Kidney Foundation.
If you are sick and have CKD:
- Contact your health care provider immediately and ask what changes you should make to your treatment plan and when to seek emergency care.
- Plan to have enough food on hand to follow a kidney-friendly diet in case you are unable to maintain your normal dialysis schedule.
As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. Older adults are more likely to have one or more chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.
Due to age, behavioral factors, and other underlying chronic conditions, adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias may have increased risk of contracting and experiencing severe illness from COVID-19.
Cognitive impairment can get in the way of self-protection. A vulnerable person may not understand the risk of disease or remember to be as careful as necessary. They may need more reminders and supervision for proper handwashing or using an elbow or tissue to cover their cough instead of their hands.
You can learn more from the Alzheimer's Association or call their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-272-3900.