COVID-19 Pandemic Basics for Autoimmune Patients
Updated April 22

The COVID-19 Pandemic is upon us. It is the worst disease outbreak we’ve seen in the 21st Century so far. For the first time in a pandemic, we live in internet-connected world. Thus, information, disinformation and misinformation about the virus and public health responses worldwide have been spreading as fast as the virus itself! In response, we are offering some basics about the COVID-19 pandemic for autoimmune patients.

Autoimmune patients are at risk

COVID-19 is a new viral respiratory disease for which none of us had any acquired immunity. That means we are all dependent on our innate immune defenses. This is particularly dangerous for people with dysfunctional immune systems. Autoimmune patients and their caretakers are already concerned about everyday infectious diseases (including the seasonal flu). Even more worrisome, autoimmune conditions and immunosuppresive treatments make patients more susceptible to infectious diseases. There is even more cause for concern if you are older than 65. Furthermore, people living with other comorbidities (e.g., obesity, diabetes, heart disease or COPD) are even more at risk.

But don’t panic

While many people will get sick, most will get mild cases and recover. So far, this can be likened to a really bad flu year. But it is important to remember that flu kills tens of thousands of people every year in the US alone. The case doubling rate for COVID-19 in many countries was far more rapid than seasonal flu. Hospitals and ICU beds were overwhelmed in parts of China, Iran, and Italy and nearly were in New York City. Draconian mitigation efforts in many other places prevented such disasters. It goes without saying that it is better to avoid the disease. However, the pandemic has reduced access to medical care for other conditions. Therefore we all must try to keep our health in the best condition possible.

Stress suppresses immune system for autoimmune patients

Be prepared

Stock up on medicine

Hopefully, you already have extra 4-8 weeks of supplies to tide you through isolation or quarantine. This should be the case for everyone even when there isn’t a pandemic! For autoimmune patients this is even more essential. Keep at least a 1-3 month supply of prescription and OTC medicines. Also keep stocked up on vitamins and supplements. We have already seen shortages of products dependent on fragile supply chains, especially involving the PRC. Keep checking your pharmacy and vendors and jump on any opportunity to top off your supplies.

Medical masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment) have been particularly hard to source. The situation seems to be easing with many factory owners producing emergency supplies.

Toilet paper has been scarce with a surge in demand. Manufacturers have lost commercial customers and must re-tool to make more consumer product.

Finding groceries

Fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, and eggs may be harder to obtain. There are a growing number of grocery delivery services that will deliver fresh food to your home. In the Bay Area, under shelter-in-place, many local grocery stores and restaurants have reorganized to deliver food to people at home. Consider a subscription service for fruit or vegetables. Check in your community to see who is doing deliveries.

Stay informed

We at Your Autoimmunity Connection are sharing basic information and links to other resources. These have curated by us with autoimmune patients and caretakers in mind. 

Autoimmune patients should stay informed about COVID-19

Public health guidelines, advice

Background and tracking of COVID-19

As an autoimmune patient, what should I do?

Personal protection during Covid-19

Don’t panic

  • Don’t panic, just educate and protect yourself.
  • Contact your healthcare provider to see if you should come in for previously scheduled appointments. These include infusions, injections, or blood tests. Ask about whatever else you should do to manage your condition.
  • If you feel sick, have a dry cough, or run a fever, stay home and contact your medical provider. Many practices are using telemedicine to screen patients without in-person visits. 
  • If you have difficulty breathing, call 911 or your city, state or country’s emergency services.
  • Call before traveling to an urgent care center or hospital emergency department.
  • Don’t forget to keep up whatever trigger avoidance you already follow, including food, sleep, and stress (especially since stress will be hard to avoid during a pandemic).
  • Exercise however you can. Many of us have lost our regular gym or studio classes or must avoid them out of an abundance of caution. Walk or hike outside or take advantage of online exercise videos to coach you into being as active as you would be otherwise.
  • Take charge of your news consumption! There are a lot of emotionally manipulative stories out there, especially on TV. There’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation on social media (although there’s great info, too). If you are confused or upset by what you see and hear, go do something else. Ask family or friends to give you an executive summary once a day.
To learn more:

Food Safety with Autoimmune During Covid-19

Stories from the Covid-19 pandemic self-isolation front, plus functional MD advice for immunocompromised patients.


Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Ellen M. Martin, Annie Rooker

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