What the COVID-19 outbreak means for people with IBD

For many patients struggling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD (chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract), avoiding social gatherings isn’t entirely new for them. Debilitating symptoms often restrict them from enjoying activities most people take for granted. However, the spread of COVID-19 has caused even more challenges for those with compromised immune systems.

While information and research about COVID-19 continues to be released, there are a few core recommendations for IBD patients during this time:

  • Don’t stop taking your immunosuppressant drugs unless instructed by your GI doctor. It’s recommended that you continue the medications and stay in remission rather than risk having a flare-up that could lead to hospital admission.
  • Unless your gastroenterologist tells you otherwise, continue your regular schedule of infusion and injections unless you have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Follow general healthy practice during the outbreak: Practice social distancing, avoid travel, don’t touch your face/nose/mouth, wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when washing is not available.
  • The CDC recommends that patients have a supply of medications available. Talk to your GI doctor to see if this is possible for you. The FDA hasn’t yet reported a shortage on medications used to treat IBD. 
  • Plan to keep your in-office visits unless you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are having any symptoms. If you cannot attend your appointment, ask your provider about a telehealth option.

Caring for your mental health is also crucial to managing symptoms. While stress doesn’t cause chronic inflammation, it can lead to increased disease activity and potential relapse in patients with quiescent IBD. Anxiety, fear and feelings of isolation are especially heightened during the current health crisis. But you’re not alone! Here are some resources that you can turn to for support:

  • Explore the Crohn’s and Colitis community forum (discussion boards, expert advice and much more): https://www.crohnscolitiscommunity.org/
  • Utilize the IBD help center (a collection of resources that provides info to patients and caregivers about IBD): https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/community-support/ibd-help-center
  • Join a Facebook group! Type in “IBD Support” in the search function on Facebook and click the “Groups” tab to find a support group that’s right for you. For example, this Sarasota IBD Support Group is offering virtual sessions while the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing: https://www.facebook.com/sarasotaIBDsupportgroup/
  • Find the positive side of Instagram: Unfollow any person or company that is causing you anxiety and seek out people who are going through similar situations. Follow hashtags like #IBDSupport and seek out users sharing their experiencing with IBD and are a positive influence on your mental health.

Our final recommendation is to turn to your gastroenterologist for any questions. They are here to help and provide expert advice!

Find a gastroenterologist near you.