What to Know About Coronavirus If You Have Liver Disease

There is a lot of uncertainty about COVID-19 (coronavirus), but current information shows that people with liver disease or those who have received organ transplants might be at higher risk for severe illness from this new virus. And as much of the country begins to phase in routine activities, it’s more important than ever to remain safe and know what to do if you feel sick.

Understanding the Main Symptoms of Coronavirus

As we learn more about this new coronavirus, the list of symptoms has grown. It now includes: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills or shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and recent loss of smell or taste. For more information on the signs of coronavirus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Tips for Staying Safe

Because liver disease increases the risk of serious complications from the coronavirus, you should maintain all measures to remain safe and healthy. These include thorough hand washing, staying at home – even during phases one and two as your part of the country re-opens; social distancing when you must go out; and wearing a facemask when you’re outside of your quarantine circle. Avoid public places as much as possible, especially indoor spaces and public restrooms. You should also keep at least a month supply of medicine and several weeks of healthy food at home.

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you notice any new or worsening symptoms, regardless of what you think is causing the changes, contact your primary doctors right away. These would include your primary care provider, liver specialist (hepatologist), and/or transplant doctor. The doctor(s) will let you know what to do. You may be offered a telehealth visit instead of an in-office appointment. This is a way to assess your health and keep you safe from being exposed to the coronavirus. For tips on making the most of this new way of speaking with your doctor, click here.

In case you do get sick, it’s important to have a plan in place. This can include a list of your medicines, medical providers, and any other care providers. It should also note how you plan to stay in touch with caregiver(s) and family – such as email, text message, or cell phone.

A trip to the emergency department should only be considered if you are having trouble breathing in addition to a high fever.

For more detailed information about liver disease and COVID-19, visit the American Liver Foundation.

The Role of Palliative Care

Palliative care specializes in treating the symptoms and stress of serious illness. The skills that palliative care teams use every day at the bedside–symptom management, communication with patients and families, compassionate support for understanding patient priorities, and a calm presence–are the same skills needed to treat patients with COVID-19. Palliative care teams understand how challenging it is for patients and families to face uncertainties due to serious illness.

To learn more about whether palliative care is right for you, take the quiz at GetPalliativeCare.org.

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