Tips for pancreatic cancer patients and their families to stay safe during winter 2020

Winter can be one of the most joyful seasons of the year. Hot cocoa, cozy sweaters, family, friends, holidays, celebrations of a new year.

But like many milestones throughout 2020, this winter will be impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Along with wintertime merriment this year will come fewer opportunities for outdoor gathering (since being indoors in groups isn’t safe), concerns about travel and the looming flu season.

In addition to risk and fears we’re all experiencing, those with pancreatic cancer may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, especially those who are on treatment like chemotherapy.

Below are some tips from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) for staying safe and healthy during this winter season.

  1. Keep a close eye on local, state and national guidelines. Which businesses are operating in your area? Are there limits to the number of people or households who can gather? In addition to strict mandates and rules, watch for recommendations from the CDC and state and local governments. Make sure you’re following all appropriate guidelines.
  2. Stay outside when possible and keep your distance. Evidence has shown that risk of coronavirus transmission is decreased when people are outside. Weather permitting, try to make your in-person time with family and friends outdoors, while wearing masks and still keeping six feet or more of distance between members of different households. And if you can’t, it may be best to get your facetime via FaceTime (or Zoom, Google chat, etc.) to catch up and visit virtually.
  3. Travel safely – and only when necessary. Wintertime – and especially the holidays – is often a chance to bring families together from across the country. This year, it may be safer for everyone to stay put. If winter travel is in your or your family’s future, watch guidelines and rules carefully. Be sure to stay masked and check your airline or other mode of travel’s restrictions and what precautions they’re taking to keep passengers safe. Also pay attention to numbers of cases and restrictions in place at your destination and along your journey.
  4. Get your flu shot if possible. Although the flu shot will not protect you from the coronavirus, reducing flu incidence can spare already-overcrowded hospitals and health systems from additional patients. Also, people exhibiting flu symptoms may need to quarantine from loved ones because the symptoms can be quite similar to COVID-19.
  5. Stay connected. Seasonal affective disorder – also known as the winter blues – may be more prevalent this year with the pandemic, physical distance from loved ones and other societal challenges. Please keep your family members and friends in mind – especially those with pancreatic cancer or other health struggles. Check in via video chat, send notes, cards and gifts in the mail and, if possible, drop off goodies on their porch. Virtual winter cheer can go a long way to boost someone’s mood, especially this year.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression beyond the winter blues, please seek medical care immediately. PanCAN’s Patient Services can help connect pancreatic cancer patients and their caregivers with mental health resources and information about support groups and healthcare professionals who can help.

You can also reach out to your local PanCAN volunteer affiliate for information about upcoming virtual meetings and events. Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges can be comforting. Your local PanCAN volunteer community may also be able to help if you are a patient who could use a little extra support this season.

And remember – hot cocoa, cozy sweaters, good books and nostalgic movies are safe and can be therapeutic, too!

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PanCAN is here to help. Contact Patient Services for personalized disease information and resources.