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COVID-19 and Remission

Question:  I had surgery a couple of years ago, and while I am off the replacement steroids I took for almost a year afterwards, I’m still working on recovery.  I have a lot of body pain still, and was going to the gym to do strength exercises, but they’re closed.  I still have depression and anxiety, and this is not helping either of those.  I was just starting to re-enter life, and now we are closed up and scared to go out.  Am I at a higher risk than the “general population” right now?

Answer 1:  There should not be increased risk right now – the immune system has fully recovered by now.  On the other hand, it is very, very true that isolation and social distancing are understandably affecting more patients like ours that have already suffered from a disease like CS.  It is essential to maintain a social support system and be close emotionally to many (although not physically close obviously).  (Dr. Constantine Stratakis, NIH)

Answer 2:  Patients who are in remission are unlikely to be at higher risk for infection. It is certainly important for them to follow the CDC guidelines in order to minimize their risk of exposure to COVID-19.  (Dr. Nicholas Tritos, Mass General)

Answer 3:  The populations at higher risk, based on what we know now, are older people (risk increases every decade over 60 years), and those with reduced immunity or with underlying heart or lung conditions or hypertension or diabetes.  In some countries, men are more likely to need ICU admissions, but it is not entirely clear if this relates to a behavior that predisposes to an underlying condition, like smoking, which is more common in men in some countries.

Regardless of whether you have a ‘high risk’ condition, for the near future, it is recommended that everyone reduce physical interaction with other people, including touching surfaces (like elevator buttons, door knobs) that other people have touched.  If you live in an area where it is safe to walk outdoors, and you can maintain six feet of separation from other people, walking is a good exercise and may help with anxiety.  A number of exercises can be done at home for strength training—search “body weight exercises” – and if you are not using heavy weights at the gym, canned goods can be used as light weights.  Setting a structure/schedule to your day is helpful, as well as building in things to increase happiness.  (Dr. Lynnette Nieman, NIH)

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