The Challenges of COVID-19 for Canadians with Underlying Health Conditions

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By Cassandra Mccalla

The second wave of COVID-19 is here. With the numbers of cases and deaths reporting at an all-time high in Canada, Ontario in particular, there are concerns related to individuals dealing with other health obstacles. Many people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and at higher risk of getting the virus and its severity.

According to University of Toronto psychology professor Steve Joordens, individuals dealing with other health conditions such as cancer, asthma, diabetes and pregnancy are more likely to have detrimental effects from COVID-19. Fear of getting the virus is causing many people not to want to be in hospitals, as it is the one place where you’re likely to get COVID.

“The last place that you want to be is the hospital, and if you find yourself in a hospital, then I think you would potentially have a bad outcome that one; the disease is tougher on people who already have pre-existing conditions. Second, as everybody knows, once you’re in that hospital, you might be feeling bad, and then what we see is a self-fulfilling prophecy where a person might start to believe they’re going to have a bad outcome, and that simple belief can make their outcome worse,” Joordens said.

Due to many COVID cases, hospitals are struggling to provide intensive care to their patients. Long-term care homes where many seniors stay to cope with health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia have had many outbreaks of COVID cases in Canada since the pandemic started in March. They are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 and dealing with its severity due to them already having a weaker immune system.

Residents in long-term homes can’t be left alone as they need assistance from someone that is caring for them.As for a family member caring for a sick relative, Joordens suggests that the most important thing is for that family caregiver to know this virus is scary to them. They are more prone to getting it with their immune system already compromised.

Some of the common health outcomes for patients’ hospitalizations are hypertension, obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma and cancer.  Those health conditions put individuals more at risk in catching COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Joordens says those with compromised lung capacity due to asthma are especially at risk.

“A person with asthma versus a non-asthmatic person both have COVID the same way, and it is compromising the ability of their lungs to produce oxygen by about 50 percent their normal way,” Joordens said.

“For asthmatic individuals, their lungs already start low at about 25 percent; you’re often only getting to 75 percent as much as oxygen in your lungs compared non-asthmatic person would. When both parties are healthy, the asthmatic person can get hit hard more severely; then a non-asthmatic person does which that person is down to 25 percent as the regular person would be 50,” he said. Joordens advises individuals who are suffering from other pre-existing health conditions to isolate and keep your distance from other people as much as possible. Remaining positive and getting emotional support from family can also go a long way in with people suffering and coping with illnesses, COVID-19, and their mental state.


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