Preventing Illness When You Have a Pre-existing Condition

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — March 11, 2020 — 1 min read
The flu and other respiratory viruses, like COVID-19, can drain your physical and mental health, especially if you have a pre-existing condition or mental illness. Flu and virus outbreaks are more complicated for those who need regular medical care. If you or a loved one is taking certain medications or has a pre-existing condition that causes a lowered ability to fight off illnesses, there’s even more reason for concern about staying well.

The important thing to remember is: stay calm. As new respiratory viruses around the world get attention in the news and social media, it’s easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed. However, know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and North Carolina state and county officials will take the best safety measures during an outbreak.

While the world can’t get rid of all respiratory viruses, you can take steps to lower your chances of becoming sick with a virus.

Five Steps to Stop the Spread of Germs and Prevent Illness

How do respiratory viruses (like the flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and various coronaviruses) spread? Most people catch these illnesses through close contact with a person who is contagious.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

1. Get your flu shot.

Get vaccinated to avoid the year’s most common strain of the flu. Most big chain pharmacies accept Medicaid. Flu shots are normally free with insurance at:
  • Your primary care doctor
  • Local clinics
  • Urgent care centers
  • Pharmacies
  • Department stores
  • Local county health departments
Don’t have insurance? Some stores (like Costco, Walmart, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and Target) and county health departments give flu shots at no cost!

2. Wash your hands.

Normally, you may just wash your hands before eating or after using the restroom (at least, we hope you do). However, during flu season, you should wash your hands more frequently. Follow these tips:
  • Use soap and warm water to suds your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well to wash all those pesky germs down the sink.
  • If you don’t have a sink/soap nearby, use hand sanitizer.

3. Avoid touching your face.

Often, viruses and germs will get on your hands and enter your system when you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Start making it a year-round habit to keep your hands off your face.

4. Cover your mouth and nose.

When you sneeze or cough (even if you don’t think you’re sick), always cover your mouth and nose. It’s the best way to prevent the spread of airborne germs.
*For best results, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not into your hands or shirt.*

5. Stay home when you’re sick.

To stop the spread of illness to others, it’s important to stay home when you’re sick, especially if you have a fever over 100F. However, depending on your job or other commitments, you might not have the option to take sick leave.

If you absolutely cannot stay home, help others and yourself by:
  • Drinking lots of water.
  • Avoiding close contact with coworkers and customers.
  • Avoiding handling food/drinks.
  • Washing your hands frequently.
  • Getting extra sleep when you’re home.

Flu Prevention for Individuals with Special Needs or Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

As a person with special needs or the caregiver for someone with special needs, flu season can cause a lot of stress. To ease your worries, make sure to plan ahead:
  • Refill all your prescriptions. If you or your loved one receives Medicaid, you can sometimes refill your prescriptions early during bad weather or virus outbreaks. You can also ask your doctor for an early or partial refill if you need to avoid going in public.
  • Establish an emergency contact list and, if possible, give them a spare key to your home in case your caregiver gets sick.
  • Identify nearby urgent care centers and hospitals. Also, have your primary physician’s phone number handy in case you or your loved ones start to show symptoms of the flu or another respiratory virus or diseases.
*If you or a loved one is facing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1*

As a caretaker for someone with special needs, it is important to remain calm even when news and media make new viruses seem scary and overwhelming. If you or a loved one needs a referral for services or is in a crisis situation, call our 24/7 phone number at 1-800-939-5911.
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