Having been classified as a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ by the World Health Organization (WHO)1, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the lives of millions across the globe, including people living with psoriasis.
We must adapt to this new way of living and also take preventive measures to protect ourselves, as well as those around us. For psoriasis patients, here are some steps that you can take to get through this new normal:
- Maintain social distancing
Psoriasis patients should maintain at least a 1 meter distance between themselves and others. Researchers have found that when someone coughs, sneezes, or speak, small liquid droplets may be emitted from their nose or mouth, which may contain the virus2. If a person were to stand too close to someone who is infected, they may breathe in these droplets thus infecting themselves as well2.
Psoriasis patients should also avoid going to crowded areas as this would make it difficult for them to maintain social distancing. Crowds would increase the chance of them coming in close contact with someone who may have COVID-19, thus increasing the risk of infection.
- Keeping your hands clean
Every day, we tend to touch various surfaces such as tables or doorknobs with our hands, and this may cause us to pick up various germs or viruses along the way3. These germs or viruses can enter our bodies if we use the same hands to touch our face, eyes, nose, or mouth, without first cleaning them3. However, research have shown that washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitizers regularly has been proven to prevent infectious diseases3.
For psoriasis patients, the practice of hand washing and using hand sanitizers can be difficult, as it can sometimes cause their skin to dry out or crack4. Hence, it is recommended that they use gentle solutions like hydrating cleansers, so that it does not dry out their skin barrier4. It is also important for patients to remember to rinse off all the soap with water and apply hydrating creams such as lotions to ensure that their skin stays moisturised after washing hands4. If a psoriasis patient develops any irritation or allergy reaction when using hand sanitizers, it is recommended that they discontinue usage and consult their doctors immediately4.
- Wear masks or personal protective equipment (PPE)
If psoriasis patients are required to leave their house, it is highly advisable to wear a mask or personal protective equipment (PPE). Scientific evidence points to the use of face masks in primarily helping to control the source of infection5. This is a key public health initiative as a sizeable number of COVID-19 infections occur in the asymptomatic phase and it has also been shown that mask wearing is said to be as equally beneficial as the practice of frequent handwashing as a mitigation strategy5.
- Stay home when possible
Psoriasis patients with underlying conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and so on are advised to stay at home when possible, as they are classified as part of the high-risk group of COVID-19 by WHO67. Studies have shown that COVID-19 is often more severe in people who are part of the high-risk group, as they generally have a weaker immune system6.
The habit of practicing preventive measures does not only limit to psoriasis patients, but to their family members as well. As psoriasis patients are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 situation, it is important that their family members be extra cautious as well when going out of the house. This is to avoid them from being a potential carrier of COVID-19, which might place the patient at risk of contracting it.
- Speak to a healthcare provider
It is important for psoriasis patients to discuss their treatment and health concerns with their healthcare provider8. As their healthcare professionals would be aware of the current developments of COVID-19, they would be able to provide psoriasis patients with the appropriate advice for their condition.
If a psoriasis patient is required to consult their healthcare provider, it is advisable that they contact them via a phone call or another telehealth solution, to avoid having to be physically present at a clinic or hospital, which may increase the risk of infection.
However, if they are required to visit the clinic or hospital, it is best for the patient to call their healthcare provider to schedule an appointment. This could reduce their time spent waiting in line at the clinic or hospital, which may risk exposing them to the virus.
These are just some helpful tips for psoriasis patients to take note of in this new normal. However, it is also advisable that patients adhere to the guidelines or standard operating procedures (SOP) that are set by the local authorities. If you are showing any signs or symptoms that may suggest it is COVID-19, please notify your local health authorities and your healthcare provider immediately.
1Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Who.int. (2020). Retrieved 30 June 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov).
2Advice for the public on COVID-19 – World Health Organization. Who.int. (2020). Retrieved 13 July 2020, from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.
3Show Me the Science – Why Wash Your Hands? | Handwashing | CDC. Cdc.gov. (2020). Retrieved 13 July 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html#:~:text=Handwashing%20with%20soap%20removes%20germs,mouth%20and%20make%20us%20sick.
4Brody, B. (2020). Psoriasis and Coronavirus: Understanding Risk, Hand Hygiene, and More. CreakyJoints. Retrieved 30 June 2020, from https://creakyjoints.org/living-with-arthritis/coronavirus/psoriasis-coronavirus-risk/.
5Wearing Face Masks In Public Is Key To Help Control Covid-19 During Extended MCO — Malaysian Thoracic Society | CodeBlue. CodeBlue. (2020). Retrieved 13 July 2020, from https://codeblue.galencentre.org/2020/05/11/wearing-face-masks-in-public-is-key-to-help-control-covid-19-during-extended-mco-malaysian-thoracic-society/.
6COVID-19 High risk groups. Who.int. (2020). Retrieved 30 June 2020, from https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19/information/high-risk-groups.
7Related Conditions – National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis.org. (2020). Retrieved 30 June 2020, from https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/related-conditions.
8Frequently Asked Questions. International Federation of Psoriasis Associations. (2020). Retrieved 9 July 2020, from https://ifpa-pso.com/covid-19/frequently-asked-questions/.