The 2020 pandemic has had medical experts advising people with compromised immune systems to stay indoors. While that is generally sound advice during pandemics and epidemics, this doesn’t mean that most people with weakened immune systems cannot leave their homes at all. As a matter of fact, staying indoors for long periods can be unhealthy in other ways.
Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to make use of sunlight. Sunlight is necessary for our bodies to synthesize Vitamin D, which is an important nutrient for staving off respiratory infections, among other things. Exercising outdoors can also help boost one’s mood, which has benefits for the immune system as well.
Unfortunately, if your immune system is compromised, to begin with, there will always be some level of risk involved one way or the other. Fortunately, there are several ways we can reduce that risk to acceptable levels. Here are some ways immunocompromised individuals can still enjoy the outdoors.
1.) Invest in Good-Quality Protection
The first thing an immunocompromised person should do if they want to enjoy the outdoors is to get personal protective equipment (PPE). In particular, a high-quality anti-microbial face mask and hand protectors should be prioritized, as well as a face shield and anti-mosquito gear if the risk warrants it. Any fabric masks and protectors should ideally have HeiQ viroblock technology or similar tech that actively destroys pathogens that come in contact with the material. While you can search for disposable face masks for your friends and family to wear while with you, making sure you use the highest quality mask you can find should reduce any exposure to dangerous germs.
While other protective equipment such as disposable masks and gloves may provide adequate protection under some circumstances, they feature some downsides. The lack of active antimicrobial properties means that users have to be especially conscious about everything they touch. This increases the risk of cross-contamination, should one encounter infected people or contaminated surfaces.
2.) Always Assess the Risk of Exposure
There’s a huge difference between reducing risk and tempting fate. Even if you do have the safety gear available, it’s best to not take unnecessary risks. Going to concerts or political gatherings where you can expect to be elbow to elbow with other people does not present the same risks as going out for a stroll by a sparsely crowded forest path or beach. By the same token, using public transport may be riskier than using your own car.
Context matters a lot as well. The risks for an immunocompromised person with pollen allergies may be different from one who is currently suffering from seasonal affective disorder. In the latter case, leaving the house may boost a person’s immune system. In the former, leaving the house may be potentially deadly on days with high pollen counts.
In any case, you may want to reconsider your plans for going outdoors if your reasons may put you at unreasonably high risk.
3.) Discuss Your Options with Your Doctor
If you seriously feel the need to be outdoors, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor so that they can give specific recommendations or treatments. The reasons for having a weakened immune system can vary wildly, making it difficult to recommend a one-size-fits-all solution for a patient.
Patients should not make the mistake of assuming that all forms of immunocompromisation are the same. A chemotherapy patient, for example, will not necessarily have the same set of risks as someone who has a weaker immune system because of their age. Some people are also only mildly or temporarily immunocompromised, perhaps from allergies, a lack of sleep, smoking, or other easily-remedied underlying conditions. Your doctor should be able to give you options that will help you maintain an enjoyable quality of life without severely impeding your recovery.
4.) Always Choose Places with Fewer People
Regardless of the cause of your weakened immune system, chances are that it’s other people’s germs that pose the biggest threat. While the odds of getting sick by being in contact with any single individual is comparatively low, the cumulative risks increase the more people you come in contact with.
If you have the option, you should avoid places such as malls, shopping districts, popular restaurants, or any spot where you can expect large numbers of people. Instead, choose sparsely crowded spots such as nature trails or less popular public parks and beaches. Make sure to take an anti-microbial face mask and other appropriate PPE with you to further reduce your risk of infection.
Immunocompromised people do not necessarily have to stay indoors unless ordered by a doctor. However, if they are to go outdoors, precautions need to be taken to ensure that the risk of contracting a serious infection is reduced. By investing in the right protective equipment, rationally assessing risks, and taking the advice of a qualified medical professional, even immunocompromised patients can enjoy a better quality of life beyond the walls of their homes.