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Coronavirus and autoimmune thyroid disease

I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Does having an autoimmune disease increase my chances of experiencing serious complications from the virus if I get it?
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Avatar universal
Hi Jenn1302,

I was hoping someone else would answer this, because I too am curious what they mean when they say people with autoimmune diseases may be more at risk for serious complications.  I am not a medical professional in any way, so please know that below are just my thoughts on this.  (And I googled this looking for an answer as well, but couldn't find anything definitive at the time)

I am assuming when they say people with autoimmune diseases, they are referring, to people who are on immunosuppresive drugs to treat their diseases, since many of these drugs with suppress the entire immune system to some degree, slowing down or preventing an immune response.  There are so many different autoimmune dieases, and some might make the coronavirus worse, including ones that cause damage to the lungs or respiratory tract, ones that cause underlying health conditions like diabetes, ones that affect the whole body like lupus.  

If you are taking medication for Hashimoto's, it is usually synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, which is not an immunosuppressive drug, just something that is restoring your thyroid hormone to "normal" levels, so should not impact your immune response.

I have noticed with my Hashimoto's, I've had many more seasonal allergies than the average person (e.g. my family members who also have seasonal allergies but no thyroid issues), but since my seasonal allergies started around 2006 when I was 25 years old, I've had a lot fewer colds and flus than I did when I was younger.

I "think" my immune system, especially my respiratory tract immune response is tuned way up, but this could just be because I'm a woman, and women tend to have stronger immune responses than men, and we now have a flu vaccine which lowers my risk of getting the flu, I'm not in school getting exposed to viruses as often, etc.

But, all people are different, and just because one part of the immune response (Bcells producing antibodies against the thyroid) is overactive does not mean the entire immune system is overactive, and people with Hashimoto's should still take the same precautions as everyone else.  Wash hands, minimize contact with other humans, social distancing, etc.

I live in Ohio, and I am currently trying to avoid all trips outside the house except for groceries and pharmacy (and running), because I want to minimize my chances of getting the virus as well as preventing spread if I have been exposed, to minimize the burden on the health care system.  

I do still go on a run (by myself, just like every other day since my last race in October 2019) almost every morning, because that helps keep my energy levels higher throughout the day (I'm assuming this has something to do with hypothyroidism, and on days I do not run I feel so much more fatigued) and it is good for my mental well being and mood control, and brings some normalcy to this whole thing for me.  

I hope you are doing well and hope you stay safe and healthy.
2 Comments
Thank you Sarajogs. I tried to google this and it seems like we may be at risk because this condition affects our immune system but most healthcare professionals don't seem to know. I'm not sure what to think.

I've had allergies my whole life. They started long before I had Hashimoto's. I didn't realize people with Hashimoto's are more likely to have allergies but it makes sense. I also have mild asthma (very mild). I wonder if that's related somehow.

I take this pandemic very seriously for everyone's safety. I don't want to get infected or infect anyone. Those videos from Italy are absolutely horrifying. I mostly stay at home. I only leave the house to work out and I make sure to disinfect my hands and anything I touch. I only go to places where there are very few people (I go out of my way to keep my distance, at least 6-10 feet, and don't talk to anyone face to face except for my roommates). Yesterday, I went to one of those park gyms (all the indoor gyms are closed here in Ontario) and made sure to disinfect the pull-up bars and rings with alcohol based sanitizer before using them.

I hardly ever get the flu (not complaining). I don't even bother getting the shot anymore (haven't had one in 4-5 years) but I probably should. I don't know if that's a Hashimoto's/overactive immune system thing. I do get colds though.
I did come across one website about vitiligo (an autoimmune disease that attacks skin cells) that suggests in most cases, patients with vitiligo are not at a higher risk for getting COVID-19.  I couldn't find a similar site about Hashimoto's, but it talks about the immune system and how it functions, and some parallels can be drawn for Hashi's.

https://www.umassmed.edu/vitiligo/blog/blog-posts1/2020/03/coronavirus/

I do not know if people with Hashi's are more likely to have allergies, I just feel like that is why my allergic response is so strong.   (I just googled this and apparently a study showed that 16% of people with allergic rhinitis had Hashimoto's, so I guess this is a thing).

https://www.verywellhealth.com/allergic-rhinitis-thyroid-disease-3233154

I'm glad to hear you are getting out and able to visit park gyms.  Since last Friday, I've been out in public once to go grocery shopping (and took a shower/washed clothes after - maybe a bit excessive but I'm trying my best to avoid getting sick).  I'm hoping that people in my area are taking this very seriously.  I'm in Ohio, and they closed schools starting Monday (4 days ago), restaurants and bars on Sunday (5 days ago), didn't hold the scheduled primary election on Tuesday, closed gyms and hair salons (sometime this week in the last couple of days), but I'm not sure if they acted fast enough, even here where there were very few cases a week ago.

Three days ago, we had zero cases in my county.  Two days ago, one positive case from a nursing home in the county north of here.  Yesterday, potentially 9 more cases at that same nursing home, as well as one now from my county (I think someone who had visited that nursing home).  Today, they are saying that 32 people including 16 residents from the nursing home have now tested positive for coronavirus (I think these numbers have to be verified by the cdc before they become "official").  Testing in my area has only been on people showing severe symptoms (although they probably tested most people regardless of symptoms in the nursing home), so there are probably many, many people walking around infected who just don't know at this point.

I'm hoping that limiting interactions will reduce the amount of people infected at one time, and I'm really hoping that the governor acted fast enough to limit the spread.  I really don't want to see the hospitals overrun and people die because they can't get access to ventilators that would help them.  It is stressful and heartbreaking to hear what is going on in Italy and know that it could and may happen here as well.



649848 tn?1534633700
COMMUNITY LEADER
From what I know about this, Sarahjogs is right that Hashimoto's wouldn't make us a whole lot more susceptible to the coronavirus than many others, but of course, as noted, we're all different, so what might be true for me wouldn't be for someone else.  

When they talk about immunosuppressed people, they mean those whose immune system are really weak.  One example would be a sister of mine who is remission from lymphoma and leukemia.  The chemo she required to accomplish her remission destroyed her immune system and she now requires immunotherapy to live.  If she were to catch this virus, she would not survive.  People with heart, lung problems (such as another sister with lung cancer) and those with diabetes (my son) are typically the main ones who are susceptible but of course, others, such as my daughter with Lupus would be very susceptible because Lupus attacks the entire body, which weakens the whole immune system, whereas Hashimoto's is confined to attacking the thyroid.  

If one of us with Hashimoto's (or myself with Pernicious Anemia also, which gives me 2 autoimmunes) called our doctors and asked for the test for coronavirus due to our autoimmune conditions, they would, most likely tell us we can't get in line yet unless we meet the criteria for having the virus.

There are other autoimmune conditions that would weaken one more than some others, but the antibodies that cause autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto's and other diseases that attack our own bodies are not the same as how our bodies attack viruses and bacterial infections that we get.  

When we get a cold/flu or possibly this virus, our white blood cells ramp up and try to knock it out because we don't have antibodies against something we've never had before or been vaccinated for.   It's my understanding that we will produce antibodies against this virus once we've had it, so we would, in effect produce an immunity against it, but that's not something they're 100% sure about.  Some of the doctors are saying our immunity might be short term or long term... they just don't know that yet.

It's all pretty complicated and I've totally simplified it, but I hope this helps a little bit.  

The main thing is, as has already been noted - wash your hands often, disinfect the surfaces you touch often, maintain your social distancing and practice all the precautions you can to protect yourself.  Last, but not least, listen to what the authorities are telling us to do so we can slow down the spread of this thing.
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