Our immune system is important in helping to protect our bodies from infections and is comprised of cells e.g. white blood cells, tissues and organs all working together. Immunosuppression refers to an impairment in part of this immune function; and can result for various reasons such as certain medication and diseases. Individuals with immunosuppression are not thought to be at an increased risk of contracting COVID – 19. However if they were to become infected , they are at a higher risk of becoming unwell from the virus. Examples of conditions that can cause immunosuppression include HIV or certain cancers; and of medications include steroids and chemotherapy.
It is important to continue immunosuppressant medications such as steroids; unless otherwise instructed by your doctor – as a sudden reduction in these might be unsafe and could cause a flare of the underlying condition for which they are prescribed. Should an infection be suspected or confirmed whilst taking immunosuppressant medication a decision might be made by your doctor to change or stop this medication; and so it is important to contact the team responsible for your care and NHS 111 should you develop a continuous cough or high temperature. The same advice would apply to individuals with conditions causing immunosuppression.
The NHS classifies patients with a reduced immune system as people with an increased risk or most at risk of COVID – 19 – and specific information can be found here on their website as to what some of these conditions are and how to proceed in order to keep safe.
This article was written by one of our Clinical Research Physicians, Dr Kirsty Drew.