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COVID-19 FAQ For The Pulmonary Hypertension Community2021-08-10T10:08:29-04:00

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for the Pulmonary Hypertension Community (updated 8/10/2021)
As communities adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) continues to address questions and concerns from the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community. PHA provides the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to help the community make decisions about safety precautions and daily activities.

Visit the CDC website and PHA’s COVID-19 page for current information. It is important to understand potential risks and take precautions to protect yourself and others because there is no way to ensure zero risk of transmission.

Symptoms

Q: What are symptoms of COVID-19?2020-09-01T12:03:51-04:00

A: COVID-19 symptoms can include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and/or diarrhea, according to CDC. Some may be a result of PH, but worsening symptoms might be warning signs. You don’t have to be sick or have symptoms to spread the virus.

Emergency warning signs include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, severe chest pain and blue lips. This list isn’t all-inclusive.

Q: How do I know if my breathing issues are due to PH or COVID-19?2020-09-01T12:07:52-04:00

A: Symptoms of COVID-19 can be difficult to distinguish from your PH and from other viral infections, especially during cold and flu season. You know your symptoms and PH best. Significant worsening symptoms might be warning signs of COVID-19.

Q: What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?2020-09-01T12:10:51-04:00

A: If you have these or other severe and worrisome symptoms, call your doctor or EMS immediately. Notify the 911 operator that you think you might have COVID-19. If possible, cover your mouth and nose with a mask before medical help arrives.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms and want to be tested at a clinic, urgent care or emergency room, contact your PH health care team. In some places, COVID-19-specific testing sites and stand-alone respiratory clinics evaluate non-urgently ill people who might have the virus. Your health care team will work with you on how to proceed.

Safety

Q: Are people with PH at greater risk for COVID-19 virus infection?2020-09-01T12:20:13-04:00

A: According to the CDC, there is no evidence to suggest that people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus. However, there is evidence that people with underlying health conditions, including all types of heart and lung diseases, have a higher risk of developing serious illness from the COVID-19 virus if they become infected.

A recent research study through PHA-accredited PH Care Centers (PHCC) suggests the risk of COVID-19 virus infection in PH patients might be similar that of the general population. However, outcomes aren’t well established for people with PH who contract COVID-19. Additional studies are needed to fully understand the impact of COVID-19 on PH patients.

Q: What everyday safety precautions should I take to prevent infection?2020-09-02T13:55:59-04:00

A: People with PH and those close to them should continue taking precautions to keep themselves healthy and follow CDC guidelines for those at higher risk:

  • Stay at home as much as possible to reduce your risk of being exposed. The best way to prevent COVID-19 infection is to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus.
  • Keep space between yourself and others, and stay at least six feet apart from others. Look for physical barriers or visual reminders such as plexiglass screens, markings or arrows on the floor, or chair arrangements to help you keep your distance from others. Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities. It is easier to stay six feet apart from others outdoors, as well as maintain good air flow for virus clearance.
  • Avoid large crowds or heavy traffic areas.
  • Limit close contact with other people, especially those who are sick.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when in public and around others outside of your household. Continue to keep six feet between you and others while wearing a face cover. Cloth face covers aren’t a substitute for social distancing. The COVID-19 virus is thought to spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks.
  • Monitor your health for COVID-19 symptoms, and take your temperature if symptoms develop. Stay home if you are sick. Follow CDC guidance if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

The best way to lessen the impact of COVID-19 is to slow the spread of the virus to others. This will ensure the healthcare system doesn’t become overwhelmed. It also will allow researchers time to develop vaccines or treatments for the infection. If you are sick with COVID-19, stay home and away from others until you have no fever for 72 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medicine) and for at least seven days since your first symptoms. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.

Remember: The more people you interact with, the closer the contact and the longer the time you interact, the greater your risk of COVID-19 virus infection. Some people might be infected but don’t have symptoms. It’s not known how often people without symptoms transmit the COVID-19 virus to others.

Q: Should I wear a mask?2021-08-10T07:15:49-04:00

A: If you are two years or older and unvaccinated, the CDC recommends you wear a mask in public indoor settings and around people who don’t live with you.

If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends you wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission (to maximize protection from being infected with the Delta variant and potentially spreading it to others.

The CDC states that those with weakened immune systems or living in households where someone is unvaccinated or at higher risk for severe disease may choose to wear a mask indoors at all times as well as in crowded outdoor settings.

If you are fully vaccinated and live in an area with a low number of people infected with the COVID-19 virus, the CDC indicates that you can resume pre-pandemic activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except as required by federal, state and local regulations, including local businesses and workplace guidance.

The CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker shows the level of COVID-19 transmission in communities throughout the U.S.

Currently, wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth is required for travel on all public transportation including airplanes, buses and trains.

For more information about masks, visit CDC.

Q: What type of mask or face covering should I wear?2021-08-10T10:04:20-04:00

A: A mask should fit snugly against your face and fully cover your nose and mouth.  Gaps in your mask can let in air and respiratory droplets can leak in and out around the edges of the mask. A mask with layers will prevent more respiratory droplets from getting in and out of your mask. Learn more about the CDC’s guidance on masks and ways to improve how your mask can protect you.

Q: How will using nebulizers, inhalers or oxygen therapy impact COVID-19 transmission?2020-09-02T16:41:56-04:00

A: Person-to-person transmission is thought to be the main way the way the COVID-19 virus spreads. While it’s unknown whether aerosols from some procedures, such as high flow oxygen delivery and nebulizer administration, spread infection, devices used at home aren’t thought of as great a concern.

Continue to use your prescribed oxygen therapy or nebulizer for respiratory medications, and don’t stop any treatment without consulting your PH health care team. If have suspected or diagnosed COVID-19, speak with your healthcare provider about taking additional precautions when using your nebulizer.

Don’t share equipment with others or reuse old supplies. Discard cannulas after 30 days as directed by the manufacturer. Consider using your nebulizer in a room by yourself away from other household members. Wear a cloth mask over your cannula when in public to protect against COVID-19 infection and spread.

Q: Am I at risk of getting COVID-19 from food?2020-09-02T10:58:19-04:00

A: Coronaviruses are thought to spread from person to person by respiratory droplets. COVID-19 is a new disease, and we are still learning about how it spreads. There is no evidence that suggests COVID-19 is transmitted through food. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating as part of a regular food safety routine.

Q: Can I contract the virus by touching mail?2020-09-02T10:59:15-04:00

A: Although the virus can survive for short periods of time on some surfaces, health experts consider it unlikely that the virus spreads through mail or packaging products. While it might be possible to get COVID-19 if you touch packaging or other materials contaminated with the virus, then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, that isn’t thought to be the main way coronaviruses spread. It is good practice to wash your hands after receiving deliveries and mail and routinely clean frequently touched surfaces.

Learn more about the current understanding of how COVID-19 can spread  on the CDC website

Q: How can I protect my unvaccinated child and my family member with a weakened immune system?2021-08-10T07:20:17-04:00

People who have a medical condition or taking medications that weaken their immune system many not be protected even if vaccinated and should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people. The CDC states that those with weakened immune systems or living in households where someone is unvaccinated or at higher risk for severe disease may choose to wear a mask indoors at all times as well as in crowded outdoor settings.

Work and School

Q: Is it safe for me to go to work?2021-06-15T06:25:04-04:00

A: Unvaccinated adults with PH work should remotely whenever possible. You should consider the infection rate in your community, health of household members, financial situation and job type if you decide to go into your workplace. PH patients might be eligible for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), such as reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Find out more information about working with PH, including your rights.

If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC guidelines indicate that being indoors at work would be safe. Employers will be developing their own guidelines in terms of masks, telework etc. Many businesses are gradually returning to in-person work on a voluntary basis.  This may evolve over time as more and more people within communities get vaccinated and the infection rate drops.

Visit CDC for new guidance for unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people.

Q: Is it safe for my child to go to school?2021-08-10T07:26:15-04:00

A: CDC recommends all teachers, staff, students and visitors wear masks indoors in K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.  The CDC recommends students return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with prevention strategies in place against COVID-19 infection.  Visit CDC for more information about schools and childcare programs during the pandemic.

Discuss your decision with your PH care team and ask how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for you, your child and other members of your household.

Q: I’m worried that someone I live with might get infected because of their work or other circumstances (e.g. spouse works in a medical setting or a profession in frequent contact with others). What should I do?2020-09-02T11:16:33-04:00

A: To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, that person might want to change clothes before entering the house, keep potentially contaminated shoes outside, sanitize hands before entering the house, wash potentially contaminated clothes in hot water, and shower before interacting with other household members.

Q: What do I do if my family member gets sick?2020-09-02T11:17:03-04:00

A: The CDC provides guidance on reducing the risk of infection when someone in the house is sick. That includes separating the sick member of your household in a room away from others in your home, with a separate bathroom when possible. Do not share linens/towels and food. Discuss your concerns with your PH health care team and ask whether they recommend additional precautions.

Medical Appointments and Clinical Trials

Q: Is it safe for me or a family member to have in-person doctor visits or non-emergency medical procedures?2021-06-15T06:31:43-04:00

A: PH patients should continue regular care regimens recommended by their PH health care teams. Routine PH clinic or non-emergency doctor’s visits can be conducted through telemedicine (telephone, videoconferencing, etc.) appointments.

It is important to continue to manage and control your PH. Certain in-clinic treatments and monitoring may be necessary. Patients with newly diagnosed or worsening symptoms might benefit from in-person PH clinic visits. Ask your PH health care team when to opt for an in-person clinic visit or a telemedicine visit.

If you go to a hospital or care facility outside of where your PH health care team is located, have the health care providers reach out to your PH health care team for guidance and recommendations. Bring all your PH medicines and supplies with you.

For additional guidance on telemedicine, see the “PHA Connects: Preparing for a Telemedicine Appointment” video. Download the worksheet.

Tips for transitioning back to in-person doctor’ visits with your PH team:

Before your appointment

  • If the clinic offers an online patient portal, now is the time to sign up. You may be able to pre-register, update your insurance plan and provide other information.
  • Review the clinic’s procedure for outpatient appointments and requirements for anyone who may accompany you.
  • Prepare a list of questions or concerns you want to discuss with your provider.

At the appointment

  • Arrive early and wear a mask.
  • As you enter the building, be prepared to have your temperature checked and answer COVID-19 screening questions.
  • Adhere to physical distancing and other requirements.

Seeing the doctor or clinician

  • Be sure to tell your provider if you’re having trouble hearing because of their mask.
  • Provide updates about any health changes you’ve experienced.
  • Discuss any concerns.
  • Request medication refills if needed.
  • Make a plan for future in-person or telehealth visits.
Q: What should I do if I am participating in a clinical trial?2020-09-01T12:58:48-04:00

A: If you are participating in clinical research, contact the research team about your clinical trial visits. While some research studies are temporarily pausing new patient enrollment, many clinical trials are making changes to allow you to stay in the study while limiting in-person visits and/or relying on telemedicine visits.

Treatment

Q: What treatments are available for COVID-19?2021-06-15T06:34:59-04:00

A: Veklury (remdesivir) is the one FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment for hospitalized patients. Other medications are being studied as potential treatments for COVID-19. Ventilators, corticosteroids and convalescent plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19 may also be used on an emergency basis in the hospital.

FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for a number of therapeutic products and medical devices to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients at risk of severe illness or hospitalization. For the most up to date information, visit FDA.

For more information about therapies to treat COVID-19, visit the CDC.

Health insurance plans aren’t required to cover COVID-19 treatment. Out-of-pocket costs for treatment vary by insurance plan and by individual.

Be aware of products that falsely claim to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure COVID-19. To help patients protect themselves, the FDA lists warning letters sent to companies selling fraudulent products.

Q: What risks are associated with medication for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) when infected with the COVID-19 virus?2020-09-01T13:19:05-04:00

A: The use of PAH and CTEPH medications hasn’t been studied in PAH or CTEPH patients who contract COVID-19. Stopping or modifying your medication isn’t recommended because that could make your PAH or CTEPH worse. Talk about medication concerns with your PH health care team.

Q: What do I do about routine tests for refills?2020-09-01T13:27:32-04:00

A: Certain PH medications may require blood and/or urine tests to refill your prescription. If you are concerned about going to the hospital for tests but are short on medication, contact your PH care provider and/or specialty pharmacy. Your specialty pharmacy might require home visits for some medications. Most have temporarily halted home visits, but speak to your healthcare provider and specialty pharmacy about changes in services.

Q: What about herbal or vitamin supplements?2020-09-01T13:29:16-04:00

A: Don’t take herbal supplements, high amounts of vitamin supplements or any “antiviral cures” without consulting your PH care team. Herbal therapies should be viewed as drugs and can be harmful.

Q: Can I use at home a pulse oximeter to accurately monitor my blood oxygen level?2021-06-15T06:37:43-04:00

A: A pulse oximeter is a device used to estimate the amount of oxygen carried in the blood and pulse rate. It can be helpful for COVID-19 patients to monitor their illness at home.

The FDA suggests that changes or trends in oximeter measurements may be more relevant than relying on one single reading. Do not solely rely only on a pulse oximeter to assess your health condition or oxygen level.

If you are concerned about your pulse oximeter reading or if your symptoms are getting worse, contact your PH health care team.

Pulse oximeters cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19.  If you think you may have COVID-19, contact your PH care team or local health department about getting a diagnostic test for COVID-19.

COVID-19 In Your Community

Q: How is COVID-19 affecting my community?2020-09-01T19:06:11-04:00

AJohns Hopkins University, the CDC, and state and local government entities provide updates on infection rates, stay-at-home orders and reopening.

Q: My city/state is reopening. What does that mean for people with PH?2020-09-01T13:44:26-04:00

A: The CDC has added additional guidance to consider as communities begin to reopen. That includes recommendations to stay safe while running errands, dining outside your home and participating in social activities. See the CDC’s updated frequently asked questions about COVID-19.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Q: COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety for me and my family. What can I do?2021-06-15T06:39:58-04:00

A: PHA is here to help! The “Living with PH” section of PHA Classroom provides resources to learn about coping, diet and nutrition, and exercise to help manage stress. Your PH care team is another resource for stress management.

You might feel lonely or isolated because of social distancing or feel unsure about resuming some pre-pandemic activities. PHA encourages you to use its many platforms to reach out to other people with PH. Connect with another patient or caregiver, call 800-748-7274 or download an overview of PHA’s virtual support resources. CDC provides information on coping with fear and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Q: How do I stay up to date about new developments?2020-09-02T13:48:54-04:00

A: Our understanding about COVID-19 is evolving. It is important to regularly check websites from the CDC, PHA, reliable news organizations and state health departments.

Talk with your PH health care teams about your health risks and safety measures to protect yourself from COVID-19 infection.

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