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What IBD Patients Need to Know About COVID-19

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Our care teams at the Jill Roberts Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition are actively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its impact on patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Even as we track the virus, we are continuing our comprehensive approach to care for our patients with IBD.

With your safety in mind, we have enacted various precautions, including:

  • Expanding the use of video visits,
  • Postponing some non-essential procedures, and
  • Encouraging patients to maintain their current medication regimen.

We will remain in touch with COVID-19-related information as it evolves. As always, please contact us if you have questions or concerns.

Important: If you or your child have inflammatory bowel disease and have recently developed a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms, please call your healthcare provider or our hotline at (646) 697-4000 before visiting any of our locations.

IBD and COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

Do people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?

Although the data on this topic is still limited, early reports do not show an increased risk of COVID-19 infection in patients with IBD.

Currently, our team recommends that patients with IBD maintain their current course of treatment. If you take prednisone, please contact your doctor to see if the dose can be lowered or discontinued.

We encourage all patients to follow CDC guidelines to prevent and reduce the spread of the coronavirus, including handwashing, social distancing, and avoiding touching one’s nose, eyes, and mouth.

Do children with IBD have different COVID-19 symptoms than adults?

Children with COVID-19 may experience the same symptoms as adults, including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. However, children and adolescents tend to experience more mild symptoms, which can sometimes mimic the common cold.

Early findings suggest this holds true children and adolescents with IBD. Parents of children and adolescents with IBD should closely monitor symptoms and contact their care team if they suspect their child has COVID-19.

Can COVID-19 appear as gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms?

Early data suggests that diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can appear in patients infected with COVID-19 with or without symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. COVID-19 can also appear in the stool of an infected person.

It is important to distinguish between GI symptoms you may already have because of an existing diagnosis like IBD, versus newly emerging GI symptoms. If you experience a new GI symptom—especially if it appears along with respiratory symptoms or fever—please contact your physician’s office immediately to discuss further evaluation.

What can I do to protect myself against COVID-19 as an IBD patient?

  • Follow the CDC guidelines to prevent and reduce the spread of the coronavirus: handwashing, social distancing, and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Continue taking your IBD medicines, including regularly scheduled infusions. If you are taking prednisone, please contact your doctor to discuss reducing your dose.
  • Maintain good sleep hygiene. This will help your body maintain its strength.
  • Eat healthy foods that do not trigger your IBD.
  • Exercise while maintaining social distance.
  • Pay attention to your mental health. It’s easy to get caught in the anxiety of the pandemic. Schedule time to reduce stress: take a walk, meditate, or watch your favorite movie or show.

What should IBD patients do if they think that they have been infected? 

If you have COVID-19 symptoms—or suspect that you were in contact with someone with COVID-19—please contact your doctor. Your doctor may schedule a Video Visit to determine if your symptoms require further testing or treatment. If you require an in-person evaluation, your doctor will let you know the necessary safety precautions to take before you arrive.   

Please  do not  visit your doctor’s office or the emergency department without first being in touch with your healthcare team. 

I have a routine appointment already scheduled. May I convert that to a video visit?

With a firm commitment to social distancing, both the Jill Roberts Center for IBD and the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology are converting all office visits to Video Visits and encouraging its use whenever possible. This keeps our entire community safe and allows patients to receive high-quality care from the safety and convenience of their own homes.

Should you need labs or require an in-person assessment, your care team will contact you to schedule it.

Need help setting up and accessing your video visit? Here’s our instruction guide.

In light of COVID-19, do I need to change my IBD medication?

Please continue to take your IBD medications as prescribed. Although some prescriptions are labeled as immunosuppressants, keeping your IBD in check is the best way to protect your immune system right now.

If you are taking prednisone, please contact your doctor to see if the dose can be reduced or discontinued.

To have your prescription refilled, please contact your physician’s office on Weill Cornell Connect or by phone.

Please check with your pharmacy and insurer about delivery and mail order options.

I have an infusion scheduled, and I feel well. What should I do?

The infusion centers in the David H. Koch Center and within the hospital (NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Starr Pavilion, and Payson 6 pediatric infusion office) remain open at this time.

Your care team will contact you if the location of your in-person infusion or treatment changes.

Since access to NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center is currently limited to select entrances and caretakers, please review our updated visitor policy and entrance policy.

  • If you are scheduled to receive your IBD medication by infusion or injection, we encourage you to keep your infusion appointment. Continuing your IBD therapy is the most important thing you can do for your IBD.
  • If you have an infusion scheduled for iron or hydration that can be postponed, we will contact you to reschedule it.
  • If you have an infusion scheduled but do not feel well, please call your physician’s office or use Weill Cornell Connect for further evaluation before the date of your infusion.

What if I am experiencing an active flare of my IBD?

Please contact your physician’s office via phone or Weill Cornell Connect to determine if you can be seen by Video Visit, or if you need to come in person.

Will my routine colonoscopy scheduled related to my IBD still happen as planned?

Out of an abundance of caution, Weill Cornell Medicine is postponing all elective procedures and surgeries beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, until further notice. This includes routine colonoscopies and some other procedures relating to IBD.

Please contact your physician’s office for information about your specific care, including the rescheduling of postponed procedures.

For more information

Robbyn Sockolow M.D., Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, joined Kids Health Cast to discuss what parents of children with IBD should know about COVID-19.

All of us at Weill Cornell Medicine understand that this is a difficult time for all New Yorkers. As experts in immunology, pulmonary medicine, and critical care medicine, we are working diligently to provide the greatest possible care to patients in need.  

We are available to all New Yorkers who have questions or concerns. Please call our hotline at (646) 697-4000 for information about COVID-19 or read our patient guide