COVID crisis and effective management of thalassemia

Unprecedented changes caused by the COVID pandemic have been giving far tougher time to the people living with co-morbidities or other severe diseases. The changing pattern in hospitals and rapidly evolving healthcare scenario due to the COVID crisis has so much to do with non-COVID patients as well. In the process, a thalassemia patient is no different. Due to the COVID crisis, many people have refrained from donating blood which in return affected many patients’ health living with several blood disorders including thalassemia. Apart from that their treatment procedure is deeply affected. This is unfortunate when a study suggests that over 1 lakh thalassemia patients across the country die before they turn 20 due to lack of access to treatment. Along with that unfortunately while in fear of infection many patients with other diseases refrained from going to hospitals, which only added to the severity of the diseases. Social and economic constraints also determine a thalassemia patient’s wellbeing.

Due to comparatively weak immunity and health conditions, a thalassemia patient is prone to the severity of the COVID; as a result, they need more care in regard to COVID as well as thalassemia disease itself. Hence COVID crisis is not merely about the rapid infection spread and rising COVID death toll, rather its diverse effects are widely disturbing other patients as well.

First of all, thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that generates less haemoglobin. It results in anaemia and with continuous treatment the blood level is maintained, especially blood transfusion plays a key role for the same. According to WHO (World Health Organisation), over four million individuals in India are suffering from the disease. Hence in the COVID crisis, a major part of this section is being affected on multiple levels. There are some major points to be considered as far as thalassemia as a disease in prevailing times is concerned:-

Blood transfusion and Thalassemia: 

Voluntarily blood donations play a major role in many thalassemia patients’ survival. Unfortunately during this COVID crisis, the procedure of blood donations has been deeply affected. While the entire country is challenged with the COVID crisis, blood donation camps cannot be conducted as they may add to the gathering of people and the risk of COVID infection spread will be high which is also right. Along with that many people are refraining from coming to the hospitals to donate blood due to the fear of infection. Hence thalassemia patients have more chances to get affected by the lesser availability or unavailability of the blood units.

Although many social workers are working in this regard more NGOs and other social bodies working for thalassemia patients should make a collective effort and promote more blood donations with COVID appropriate behaviour at this time.

Thalassemia patients from the poor background: 

As mentioned poor living conditions also determine a thalassemia’s patient’s physical and mental health condition, ensuring COVID appropriate behaviour is far difficult to maintain in poor areas. Especially in some of the rural sections where lack of awareness and access to proper healthcare is also an issue, we all should come together and help them. For that matter, many NGOs and government bodies can be contacted and help can be sent. Overall in prevailing times, more awareness is needed to be spread in regard to thalassemia. People need to come forward and support thalassemia patients coming from a poor background.

Thalassemia patients and COVID crisis:

  • First of all COVID appropriate behaviour is the key. As mentioned being prone to the severity of the COVID infection thalassemia patients should take extra care. Follow all COVID related precautions strictly.
  • Keep your medicine stock ready. Considering unprecedented times ensure the availability of medicines.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. As per the doctor’s suggestion make a proper diet and exercise pattern. Priorities your mental health as well. This unprecedented time is giving tougher time to everybody, hence stay in touch with your loved ones and friends, keep sharing your discomforts and consult a psychologist without hesitation if mental health seems at stake.
  • Keep the right information about the authentic blood transfusion sources, and be in contact with your concerned doctor in this regard.
  • Parents or guardians should be extra cautious of their children living with thalassemia in this regard.

Department of Haematology & BMT, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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