How to handle COVID-19 if you take immunosuppressant medications

People with autoimmune disease or arthritis may have special concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are taking immunosuppressive medications and wondering whether they should continue to take medications that suppress their body’s natural ability to fight infections and viruses. Here’s some general guidance if you’re currently taking immunosuppressive medications.  

Don't stop taking your medications without talking with your doctor

Generally, if you’re taking immunosuppressive medications, DO NOT STOP taking them without first talking with your doctor. The risk of a disease flare from stopping your medication is probably higher than the risk of getting COVID-19. Therefore, do NOT stop taking your prescribed medications.

DO NOT STOP steroid medicines such as prednisone, methylprednisolone, dexamethasone, or hydrocortisone, without discussing it with your doctor. It’s dangerous to stop these medicines abruptly.

There are times when you may temporarily stop taking your medication

There are times when you may consider temporarily not taking your medication. Hold off your medication only: 

  • If you develop a fever, cough, runny nose, or otherwise feel sick. In that case, stop taking the immunosuppressive medicine until you feel better. 

Remember, hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine are NOT immunosuppressive and should be continued as a part of your care. In fact, there are some signs that hydroxychloroquine may be helpful if you get COVID-19.

Practice daily health habits that prevent the spread of COVID-19

Follow safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and encourage others to do the same to protect yourself and lower your risk of COVID-19:  

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible every time you touch a public object (grocery cart, public doorknob, public computer, etc.). If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces often. Regular household wipes and sprays will kill the virus. 
  • Maintain social distancing (6 feet).
    • Avoid physical contact like handshakes and hugging.
    • Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.
  • Manage stress by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and staying active.

If you have specific questions about your immunosuppressant, please contact your provider.