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Prednisone 💊 & Coronavirus 😷: What You Need To Know

Prednisone 💊 & Coronavirus 😷: What You Need To Know

This video was recorded in March 2020 and included the latest research about prednisone and coronavirus at that time. Now we know more facts about prednisone and coronavirus. My predictions have so far held true. The only change is regarding precautions to take, including wearing a mask.

Show Notes from Prednisone 💊 & Coronavirus 😷: What You Need To Know

Pretend I’m wearing a mask. Just kidding. Today, I am talking about the coronavirus.

People on prednisone are wondering, “What do I need to know if I’m taking prednisone, which we all know is an immunosuppressant. Should I be worried about the coronavirus or COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that came from Wuhan, China?” I’m going to answer that today. I’m Dr. Megan, your prednisone pharmacist.

What We Already Know About Prednisone & Coronavirus

So first of all, let’s talk about what we already know. We already know that prednisone is an immunosuppressant. What does that mean? It means it turns down your immune system, in the hopes for most people taking it, that it’s going to make your immune system not attack what it’s attacking for me, it was attacking my blood cells. For some people, it’s attacking their joints. For other people, it’s attacking their kidneys.

Prednisone is a Miracle

Miracle becomes miserable describing prednisone

For all of those reasons, prednisone is a miracle and it saves lives. If you’re taking prednisone, do not suddenly stop taking prednisone at any point ever. Especially, not just because you’re worried about coronavirus. That’s the first thing.

Prednisone is an Immunosuppressant

We know it’s an immunosuppressant, but what does that mean when it comes to a virus like this? What we do know about what prednisone typically does when it infects people, when it makes people at a higher risk for infection, these infections are typically not your normal infections. These infections are invasive opportunistic infections, like fungal infections or viral infections like HIV, or the weird ones that you wouldn’t normally see. That’s what you’re at a higher risk for. People on prednisone aren’t necessarily at a higher risk for cold and flu, and I’m going to lump coronavirus in there. You’re not necessarily at a higher risk to catch them.

Prednisone Increases Risk for Weird Infections

Now, what we know is that you’re at a higher risk to catch weird pneumonias, like these really weird viral, bacterial and fungal pneumonias that are strange and not your typical ones. We know that strange things like tuberculosis, that’s another one that would go to your lungs, Kaposi’s sarcoma. It’s like they’re really rare, but prednisone makes your chance go up. What we also know about prednisone is that people taking it are at a higher risk for pneumonia. In fact, a five times higher risk for pneumonia.

Pneumonia Kills People on Prednisone

Now, why does that matter? Because, what kills people with coronavirus is the pneumonia. If you get coronavirus and you’re taking prednisone, we don’t actually have any data to actually support this, but my assumption, based on what I know about a viral infection, like coronavirus, and what I know about prednisone is that if you get an infection, your chances are a little bit more that it might progress to the pneumonia.

Who Needs to Worry about Prednisone & Coronavirus

Who really needs to worry, is people who actually have an underlying breathing disorder. If you are taking prednisone for COPD, asthma, sarcoidosis, or another breathing problem, then you are at a higher risk for the complications of the coronavirus. That’s what they’ve shown in China, that the people whose infection gets bad, it’s because they have an underlying condition like asthma or COPD.

Prednisone Affects Your Heart

Another thing that prednisone does is, it affects your heart. One of the top side effects of taking prednisone is hypertension. That’s high blood pressure, and lots of other cardiac problems can occur because of the prednisone, like stroke and heart attack and all sorts of different little heart things can happen. People taking prednisone are at a higher risk for cardiac problems. If prednisone has caused higher cardiac problems in you, then you’re at a higher risk for the infection going bad.

Prednisone Does Not Give You COVID-19

Basically, what I’m trying to say is prednisone alone isn’t going to be the thing that is going to give you the coronavirus. I don’t think you’re at a higher risk to get coronavirus because you’re taking prednisone. But, if you are taking prednisone and you’ve experienced side effects, or you have an underlying condition that gives you higher risk for cardiac conditions, like your heart, or breathing problems, that’s when you should take extra precautions.

Take Precautions if You Take Prednisone

Everybody in the world should be taking normal precautions, like hand-washing, keeping your distance from people, no more handshakes. Let’s do elbow bumps from now on, right? [This was the standard at the time of this video. Now we should all wear masks and not touch each other at all.] No, not hugs and kisses to strangers, just taking normal precautions that you would take for the flu. Everybody should be doing that. But, those who have an underlying condition or that prednisone has caused a condition with your heart or with your lungs, that’s when you should take extra precautions, like not going to social events where a lot of people could be there that could make it harder for you to recover.

Prednisone Does Not Necessarily Give You Higher Risk for COVID-19

We know prednisone is an immunosuppressant, but that’s not necessarily going to give you a higher risk for prednisone causing you to get COVID-19, coronavirus. We don’t actually know though. There’s not enough information out there to say whether any of this I am suggesting is true or not. I’m just saying this based on in the past, people taking prednisone aren’t necessarily at a higher risk for getting a cold or the flu. They are at a higher risk for getting pneumonia. But, did that come from the flu, or did it come from a really weird opportunistic infection? That’s my guess. That’s what I am inferring based on all the data I can find. What do you need to do? You need to take care of yourself. You need to get enough sleep. You need to do the normal things you do to stay well.

Take Care of Yourself

Stay hydrated, eat good food. Stay away from the junk food, especially if you’re taking prednisone, don’t eat anything high in sugar.

Masks save prednisone lives

Prednisone Can Mask Infection Symptoms

One more thing, is prednisone can mask the symptoms of infection. One of the first symptoms is a sore throat. Then, if it’s a runny nose, that’s probably not really this, it’s not coronavirus. That’s probably just a normal cold virus, but if you’re getting a sore throat and then hard time breathing, that’s when you really need to tell your doctor. But, prednisone might mask those symptoms, because it’s turning down your body’s immune response to things so that it doesn’t immediately go to a fever. It doesn’t immediately go to a red throat. You should definitely be in contact with your doctor if you get a fever, if you get a sore throat, and if you get a hard time breathing. Signing off as Dr. Megan, your prednisone pharmacist.

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Dr. Megan Milne, PharmD, BCACP

Dr. Megan Milne, PharmD, BCACP, is an award-winning clinical pharmacist board certified in the types of conditions people take prednisone for. Dr. Megan had to take prednisone herself for an autoimmune condition so understands what it feels like to suffer prednisone side effects and made it her mission to counteract them as the Prednisone Pharmacist.

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