Choosing Caution Over Fear Amid the Coronavirus Panic

Choosing Caution Over Fear Amid the Coronavirus Panic

More than 90 percent of people with sarcoidosis have lung involvement, which makes it hard for me not to worry about the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 a global pandemic. We are being bombarded daily with reports of new infections and efforts to prevent its spread. All of which has left me feeling the same way I do after a record snowfall — with a strong desire to call off work and hole up at home.

Balancing concerns with fear

It’s no wonder I feel that way. In the past week, a travel ban was instituted, the NBA, NHL, and MLS all suspended their seasons, and the NCAA canceled March Madness tournaments. Social distancing also became the new norm as well as bans on large public gatherings. Sporting events took place without fans in attendance and television talk shows and game shows aired without live audiences.

For now, I’m squashing the temptation to panic as I continue to rely on hand soap and sanitizer to protect myself just as my doctors have advised. 

Keep calm and wash your hands

News of COVID-19 drew my attention due to my pulmonary sarcoidosis diagnosis. I contacted my former pulmonologist, Daniel Culver, to ask for his opinion about the risks.

“The risk from a virus like this falls most heavily on the elderly and those with severe underlying organ damage, such as chronic lung disease with scarring, heart failure, poor liver function etc.,” Culver, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Interstitial Lung Disease Program, explained in an email to me earlier this month.

“I think that, for most individuals, this will manifest as a viral syndrome, annoying but not life-threatening. That does not mean it should not be taken seriously but also implies that the case fatality rate and the risks to most individuals are not remarkably high.”

When coronavirus cases began emerging closer to home, I reached out to my physicians to discuss my increased risk of infection at my part-time job and how to best protect myself. Doing so not only gave me peace of mind, but also kept me from panicking and taking unnecessary measures, such as wearing gloves or masks out of fear. I strongly urge others with concerns to do the same. Your health status and risks differ from mine, and your doctor is best placed to advise you on preventive action.

The cost of panic

Going through life with sarcoidosis can be a struggle at times, but I try not to worry or fear the worst. At every turn, I’m reminded of the cost of panic: lives driven by fear instead of reason. This includes healthy people using masks that don’t protect them from infection, which creates a critical shortage for those who need them most.

It includes store shelves that are empty of products such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, over-the-counter medication, and food. This is happening despite it being repeated over and over that most people will experience only mild symptoms from the coronavirus.

Living cautiously, not fearfully

I believe the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better. In the past week, I’ve received emails from airlines, retail stores, hotels, banking institutions, and even a storage facility assuring me that they are taking safety measures amid the outbreak.

Organizations such as Medicare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research have posted information and prevention tips online. My recent digital detox helped me end my love affair with my cellphone, which is a magnet for germs.

But I still could get the coronavirus, even with the protective measures I am taking. If things continue to get worse, I may have to make additional changes to how I live my life. But for now, I’ll follow the advice of my physicians, wash my hands, and hope for the best.


Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

Athena, a former journalist and Pennsylvania native, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2002. She’s admittedly addicted to books, Marvel, and football. She tackles life with humor, passion and curiosity, and hopes to reach others through her writing.
Athena, a former journalist and Pennsylvania native, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2002. She’s admittedly addicted to books, Marvel, and football. She tackles life with humor, passion and curiosity, and hopes to reach others through her writing.
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  1. Trena Whitcomb says:

    Panicking is the worse thing we can do, people are going crazy in my area buying everything off the shelves and some even taking advantage by reselling products for way more than the original price. I have Sarcoidosis and I’ve been around people but I mostly stay home and take normal procations that I would with the flu or any other health threat.
    I’m not afraid, if things happen then that’s life and I am spiritual so that helps a lot too. God bless us all!

    • Athena Merritt says:

      I agree. This crisis has resulted in bad behavior by not only individuals but some businesses in my area – such as non-essential businesses that are keeping their doors open ignoring a state mandate to close. We all have to work together to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If selfish behaviors driven by panic, greed or other reasons continue it will not only prolong the crisis but result in more fatalities. Be safe! Thank you for reading.

  2. Teresa says:

    I am trying not to panic. I have stage iv sarcoidosis and I am not sure if I’m doing enough. Please keep us informed if there’s anything we can do. thank you

    • Athena Merritt says:

      You are not alone, it’s very difficult not to right now. Thank you for reading and please be safe and be sure to reach out to your physicians with your concerns.

      • Antoinette Sanchez says:

        I’m trying not to be fearful as well but every time I cough at work I have to keep telling people I don’t have the virus. And if I did I wouldn’t be at work putting them and myself in harm.

        • Athena Merritt says:

          So many are battling fears right now unfortunately because of the times we are in. Try to remain calm (as hard as that might be) and stay safe!

  3. Abby says:

    I’m glad I found this article! I have sarcoidosis with lung involvement but no symptoms! I have been searching the web looking for articles that would help Me know how much more at risk I may be.

  4. John says:

    I have sarcoidosis lung and have hunkered down in rural home. Low population here but no healthcare our only treatment is isolation

    • Athena Merritt says:

      That’s a scary situation, my heart goes out to you. I was just watching a news report last night on this very issue. I’m glad you are staying in and being safe. Remember to be careful with any deliveries you receive as well. Wash your hands after handling them and wear gloves (if you have them) when opening them.

  5. Conor says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have stage 4 lung sarcoidosis. I’m 41, but I am very nervous and I am filled with worry. I want to keep powering on at my job and worry about getting laid off if I tell them I concerned about my safety. I need strength to do what’s right and make the right choice

    • Athena Merritt says:

      You’re welcome. Thank you for reading and taking time to comment. We draw strength from each other during times like these. Keep in touch with your physicians about what’s the best course for you. I would encourage you and others to have more than one conversation with them because what is known about this virus and how it is spread is changing as more studies and information are being made available. Stay safe!

  6. Bernadette says:

    I also have Sarcoidosis, with nodules in my lungs, liver and spleen. I worry every day I head out the door to go to work that I might be infected. I also live in the Seattle area, which has been hit very hard.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      Please take extra care while you are out and be sure to discuss with your physicians whether you should continue working or self-isolate. Also remember when you get home to not only wash your hands but to disinfect the many items that you brought in with you that may have picked up germs during the day, like your cell phone, keys, etc. Stay safe!

  7. Cee says:

    My wife works as a home care nurse. I am staying at home but she sees about 6 patients a day in their homes. I am not sure what the risks are for us / me when she gets home. If you can have the virus and not have symptoms but yet still be contagious…. how do you deal with that deliemia? If you have the virus and no symptoms yet, are you just as contagious as the person who has symptoms.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      What a difficult situation to be in. I wish I had answers for you. I encourage you to reach out to your physician. If you do not have a physician that you can speak to please call your local health department or a coronavirus hotline for guidance. Remember, you have a community here to lean on. Calmness, strength and safety will get us all through.

  8. Beth Smith says:

    I have sarcoidosis in my lungs and liver. I have not been on any medication now for about a year and otherwise am in good health but this virus is very scary. I am washing hands and trying to be careful. Hoping for a vaccine. I usually do not catch things like the flu but this seems different.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      Try to remain, calm, hopeful and keep being safe. This is new and caught us off guard, but many efforts are underway to develop a vaccine and find an effective course of treatment. Remember you have a community here for support.

  9. Michael says:

    Hello, I had Sarcoidosis about 10 years ago. I went into remission and have doctored with my Pulmonologist since the diagnosis. I have had no other flareups since. I DO have issues with my lungs due to scar tissue. I feel fine now. I have been off from work for a week and have only been in public twice and kept a safe distance, washed my hands, etc.

    My concern is that my partner works in a grocery store and is required to work during this pandemic. He is concerned that if he comes in contact with COVID-19, he will pass it on to me, which will get me sick and I will have a really bad case due to Sarcoidosis and my lungs. Is this true? Am I at a greater risk? If I get COVID-19, will I most likely have a more serious case due to my history with Sarcoidosis? Sorry for all the questions. My family and friends are making me a little crazy about all of this. Thanks!

    • Athena Merritt says:

      I wish I had answers for you. I encourage you to discuss your concerns with your physician. You and your partner have already taken the most important step, which is taking the risk seriously and exercising caution. Remember you have a community here, some of which are in similar situations, to lean on. We may not have the answers, but we are here to listen and share in your struggle. Stay safe, stay calm and stay strong.

  10. Sandy Lamb says:

    I am 63yrs and I’ve had pulmonary sarcoidosis for 12 years and I’m also a Nurse. So when I ask my employer/supervisor about self quarantine and not working for a short period of time;I get a response like I just don’t want to work. I am concerned if I would be exposed to this virus.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      What a difficult situation to be in, my heart goes out to you. Please reach out to your physician, if you haven’t already done so, as soon as possible about whether it is safe for you to continue to work and whether you should remain home. Thank you for being on the frontlines during this crisis, but please be safe, protect your health at all costs and do whatever your physician(s) decide is best for you.

  11. Deeks says:

    Hi guys, I have stage 4 sarcoidosis, fibrosis, and disabling fatigue, breathlessness, and an irritating tickle in my throat for the last few days, and I am pretty scared. I am in the UK. Stay indoors. Self isolate. Cease all contact.
    God bless and good luck.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I’m sending prayers your way. Please be sure to get plenty of rest, take care of yourself, be safe and try not to worry — hopefully it is just a cold or you just need rest. Remember you have a community here just a keyboard away. I’m glad you found us. Keep in touch.

  12. Chris says:

    Thank you very much for your reply. You are doing a great service with your articles and columns. Be safe and be healthy.

  13. Kenrick Everett says:

    I have Sarcoidosis and I am considering volunteering in an inner city hospital to help with disinfecting surfaces and taking temp of entrants. I will be given ppe. I usually volunteer there But this is very different. I’m actually praying about it cuz I know my family will object strongly. I do wear a mask when I’m shopping cuz I’m afraid someone will sneeze near me and pass the illness. It seems to spread so easily.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      That is very brave and kind of you, so much help is needed right now. Please be sure to check with your physician before making a final decision. Also I’m hearing volunteers are needed in administrative and other positions at overflow sites going up for non-COVID-19 patients which could be another option. Wishing you the best. Be safe!

  14. Matt B says:

    I have sarcoidosis with mostly lung involvement but have been feeling really good for past two months. Back in February I had a terrible cough and slight fever that I chalked up to my seasonal flare up but I’m wondering if I had corona. I haven’t gotten checked but I’m thinking I should. If it came back that I had covid, does that make me immune?

  15. Nollie says:

    I am 65 and had sarcoidosis for years. I had lung and lymph node involvement. I’ve been doing really well. They said I have a lot of lung scarring. Does that make me more vulnerable to the Covid-19?

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