Immunocompromised can protect themselves from COVID-19

Cancer patients, along with others who are immunocompromised, should take special precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Many medical conditions and treatments can weaken a person’s immune system making them immunocompromised, including cancer, organ or bone marrow transplants, HIV, genetic immune deficiencies and even use of certain medications. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect tens of thousands of people locally it is important now more than ever for those who suffer with compromised immune systems to know how to protect themselves from the illness.

Since immunocompromised people are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, it is important to understand what those suffering from weakened immune systems can do to protect themselves and their families from the virus.

For those who are immunocompromised, and even for those who are not, the best way to protect themselves from COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised those who are immunocompromised to stay at home as much as possible. When going out, those with weak immune systems should always practice social distancing – at least 6 feet between themselves and people outside their household – and should always wear a mask covering both their mouth and nose when outside the home and should ask others to do the same.

Immunocompromised people should avoid large gatherings and places where people can congregate and if possible, should have food, medicine and other needed supplies delivered to their home.

Handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose or sneezing, can help prevent the spread of germs.

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

The CDC recommended that all immunocompromised people should continue their regular treatment plans for their illnesses, including continue taking all medications, discussing concerns regarding their treatment plan with their doctor and should keep all scheduled medical appointments, using telehealth services whenever possible if recommended by their doctor.

Other useful tips include talking to their doctor, insurer and pharmacist about getting an emergency supply of prescription medications. Immunocompromised should have at least 30 days of prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines and supplies on hand in case they need or want to stay home for several weeks. The CDC also recommended talking to the doctor or pharmacist about ways to receive medications by mail.

Special precautions should be taken to protect the health of those with cancer or who have survived cancer, the CDC said.

Even though some types of chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, cancer patients and survivors should continue to take their chemotherapy as directed by their doctor.

Chemotherapy patients should watch out for fever, taking their temperature anytime they feel warm, flushed, chilled, fatigued or not well. If the patient has a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, they should call their doctor. Remember fever during chemotherapy treatment is a medical emergency, and patients should be seen quickly. For those who need to go to the emergency room, be sure to tell the person checking you in that you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy patients should also know the signs and symptoms of an infection and should find out from their doctor when their white blood cell count is likely to be at its lowest following treatment. Patients should stay home during those times.

For more information on protecting yourself against COVID-19, visit,

Kim Harris can be reached by email at