Fall Precautions for NTM/Bronchiectasis Patients During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Posted on October 22, 2020   |   
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This blog post was written by Katie Keating, RN, MS, patient advocate

Fall is upon us; winter is approaching. Days are getting shorter with less sunlight and cooler temperatures. This can be a very challenging time of year if you are mostly homebound and especially difficult as we deal with the challenges of the pandemic. We are making history with the COVID-19 quarantine.

We have restrictions, yet we can still reach out to others.

Consider join some type of community organization — whether it is a church or synagogue group, a meet up group, a library, a recreational center — where you can chat with friends (safely in person or virtually) on a weekly basis. We all need something to look forward to and to have a sense of connectedness. Consider whether you can develop a 6-foot distance relationship with a neighbor if you have not already done so. Speaking with someone (rather than texting) for a few minutes a day is very therapeutic for both the mind and the body. It is ideal to speak with positive, understanding people about your present concerns. Avoid spending time speaking with negative people.

Focus on what is possible. If we think creatively, canceled events can turn into new opportunities of working with others.

Exercise — a walk, yoga, whatever you are capable of — to detoxify your system. Perhaps consider putting on your headphones, listen to motivational music whether you are walking miles or just doing arm exercises in a chair. A few of my upbeat and inspirational favorites are Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Bee Gee’s Staying Alive, and Rocky Balboa’s Eye of the Tiger. Start a new hobby, such as crocheting, take a virtual tour around the world, see National Geographic website, https://www.expeditions.com/destinations/virtual/

We must stay positive; we all have been through many difficult times before and have found relief. Consider making your bucket list for when we get to the other side of the coronavirus challenge (and we will!). Maintain a sense of purpose, whatever that means for you. This page on the Mayo Clinic website includes information on coping through the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to maintain your mental health. Similarly, this page on the CDC website includes information on coping with stress during the pandemic.

During a time of massive uncertainty, focus on positive solutions instead of negative thoughts. Do you like to read books? Norman Vincent Peale is an author famous for books on positive thinking/positive psychology. Perhaps reading one of his books would come in handy during these challenging times?

Continue to take all necessary precautions in place to maintain your physical health. Carry that pocketbook or bag with wipes, plastic bag to dispose of the wipes, paper towels or tissues, use gloves as needed. Wash hands frequently; do not touch your face. Wear your mask snugly but comfortably against your face. Follow the science, be guided by the facts. I would encourage you to visit the COPD Foundation’s dedicated COVID-19 page for great resources, including recordings of webinars with valuable information regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Advocate for yourself. If someone does not have a mask, do not come in close contact with that person. Do not shake anyone’s hand. Recently, someone extended their hand for me to shake; I refused. Kindly, I stated that I have a chronic respiratory disease and must be very cautious due to the coronavirus. One person looked at me as if I had a problem. No, I absolutely did not. I was advocating for myself. Some people may not understand the complication risks associated with COVID-19 infection for those of us with chronic lung conditions, but that’s ok – as long as we’re being cautious and protecting ourselves.

Virtual medical visits (also known as “telehealth”) are recommended when possible. The COPD Foundation’s most recent COVID-19 community survey results showed that telehealth use has increased during the pandemic, and survey participants indicated they plan to continue taking advantage of telehealth over the next 12 months. Additionally, getting a flu shot is typically recommended for those with chronic lung conditions. Getting a flu shot in October is a great precaution as it lasts approximately six months. Plan your flu shot when you know that you can rest the following day in case you need to do so. Here’s a webpage on the CDC website with some helpful information about the flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic. Postponing non-essential/non-emergent doctor and dental visits can also help minimize potential exposure to COVID and the flu. Of course, before you make medical decisions, you should check all of this with your physician or medical provider.

The goal of vaccinations is the prevention of infection and lessens severity of the infected. Currently, over 150 clinical trials are underway, most in phase 1 or 2. Moderna, Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson are in phase 3 of clinical trials, which involve humans. The hope is for the COVID-19 vaccination to generate and maintain an immune response. If you’re interested in learning more about the COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline, this article from National Geographic covers the COVID-19 vaccines that appear most promising at this time.

Drink plenty of liquids — water, decaf drinks; get sunshine, 20 minutes a day if possible. Vitamin D levels are important for both your mental health and your immune health. Eat a balanced diet--our gut microbiome is very important for our mood and immune system.

We can either stay strong and proactive or sink into a hole. I hope that you use all preventative measures, work on positive daily affirmations, and envision getting to the other side of the rainbow where skies are blue. Reach out on this site for support, to vent, to ask any question, and for regular CDC updates. We are here for you.

The COPD Foundation advises that before you make any changes to your medication or therapies that you first consult with your doctor.