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Tips for managing chronic illnesses during COVID-19

By Blue Cross NC | April 24, 2020 | 3 min read | Healthy Lifestyle

Have a chronic disease? Here’s how you can continue to manage your illness and take care of yourself.

Nurse case managers at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) are working hard to help members with existing health conditions stay safe. Four of these nurses—Roanne Ray, Ebb Olwell, Cary Holt, and Grace Denton—compiled a few tips for protecting yourself and staying healthy.

Make a plan for getting groceries and essential items

Because people with chronic illnesses are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, they should avoid stores except when necessary according to the CDC.

Consider getting groceries delivered, if you can, or asking a friend for help.

If you have to go to the store, try to go early in the morning or late in the evening, when stores are less crowded. Stock up on several weeks of food at a time.

Wash your hands with soap and water before and after putting groceries away.

To avoid extra trips to the pharmacy, ask your doctor to order a 90-day prescription of your maintenance medications. Blue Cross NC has waived early medication refills, so members can have the medicines they need on hand.*

Take advantage of telemedicine

Telemedicine is one of the best ways to protect yourself against exposure. Instead of walking into a clinic, call your doctor’s office and ask about virtual care.

As we all navigate the pandemic, Blue Cross NC has expanded the types of virtual access available to primary care doctors, specialists, behavioral health providers and other licensed providers in North Carolina. We’ll cover virtual visits the same as in-person visits according to your health plan. Telemedicine visits vary based on your plan. To learn more about telehealth, see our COVID-19 telehealth update.*

Just like with a face-to-face visit, you can follow up online with any questions for your doctor.

If you need to see a doctor in-person for testing, ask your physician if you can safely push the appointment to a later date.

Practice good hygiene

Wear gloves when you are pushing a grocery cart, pumping gas, or touching surfaces outside your home.

Wash your hands frequently throughout the day. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially before eating.

Be diligent about not touching your face.

Protect yourself with a face mask or any facial covering when you are in a public area. Dispose of the mask or put it in the washing machine when you return home.

If you smoke, there has never been a better time to quit than now

The CDC is reporting that smoking and vaping make you more susceptible coronavirus and to more serious symptoms of the disease.

The good news is that QuitlineNC has your back! They offer free, 24/7 support to quit, including free nicotine patches and gum or lozenges, for most Blue Cross NC members. If you’re not sure if your plan covers QuitlineNC, call the number on the back of your insurance card.

Call 1-844-8NCQuit (1-844-862-7848) any time, or register online at Get telephone, online and/or text help to quit. Your lungs start healing very quickly after you quit smoking.

Take care of your overall mental and physical health

In addition to taking all your medications and staying in contact with your doctor, remember to take care of your overall well-being.

You can do that by:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting outside for a walk while staying at least six feet away from others
  • Staying connected to your support system and building resilience
  • Calling a friend or family member every day
  • Seeking out mental health support as needed

Ongoing care is more important than ever. For members with access to Health Line Blue, nurses are here to answer your calls free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Health Line Blue nurses can answer medical questions on almost any health issue. They’ll help you decide the best place to get care based on your symptoms.

For up-to-date COVID-19 information, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 webpage.

*All announced COVID-19 measures apply to Blue Cross NCs fully insured, Medicare Advantage and Federal Employee Program members. Drug coverage and pharmacy changes apply to Blue Cross NCs Medicare Part D members. Self-funded employer groups have the option to include the waiver of costs and prior approval for testing in their employees plans.

Telehealth services are subject to the terms and conditions of the member’s health plan, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Telehealth services are not a substitute for emergency care. Decisions regarding your care should be made with the advice of your doctor.

QuitlineNC is an independent company that is solely responsible for the services it is providing. QuitlineNC does not offer Blue Cross NC products or services.

Blue Cross NC offers the Nurse Support Program for your convenience is not liable in any way for the goods or services received; results are not guaranteed. Decisions regarding your care should be made with the advice of your doctor.