articles masthead backgorund image
blog-post-masthead image

Mental Health

Covid-19 and Spinal Cord Injury: What You Should Know

If you are a spinal cord injury survivor, you may be at more risk than most to the effects of the Covid-19 virus. Understanding the risk factors and how to prevent them is key to remaining healthy.

by: KMT May, 2021 5 min read

The Covid-19 virus presents challenges for us all. In light of the unique circumstances that spinal cord injury survivors must face, it is particularly important to understand how the virus may affect them and know the precautions necessary to protect oneself.

Anyone with a spinal cord injury has at least some level of impairment in respiratory function. SCI weakens the breathing muscles, therefore reducing the patient’s ability to both inspire air maximally and forcefully expel air in the form of coughing. The body’s ability to manage respiratory secretions is key to controlling the risk of Covid-19, which is a respiratory virus.

However, there are other Covid-19 risks related to SCI as well.

Quite often, SCI survivors experience secondary health issues as a result of their spinal cord injury. Cardiovascular disease and the higher body mass index associated with SCI may also increase one’s risk of developing a more serious case of Covid-19. Plus, those SCI patients who require assistance from carers are unable to socially distance themselves, therefore increasing their risk of exposure.

Until a vaccine and effective treatments are widely available for Covid-19, the best method for SCI patients to avoid exposure lies in taking precautionary measures on a consistent basis. Many of these are the same precautions any person should take to avoid exposure, but considering the added risks for the SCI patient, they take on an even greater importance:

-          Practice physical distancing; avoid large groups and stay home when possible.

-          Clean all surfaces regularly with soap and warm water or antibacterial solution.

-          Wash your face and hands after being in public or having in-person conversations.

-          Wash clothes after each wear; separate indoor and outdoor clothes.

-          Learn about home delivery options for food items, pharmacy, or essential services.

-          Keep 30 day’s medication and/or medical supplies on hand.

-          Ensure the caregivers who assist you practice Covid-19 safety protocols.

It’s also important to maintain a clear respiratory tract. Some ways to help you do this include but are not limited to: staying hydrated to keep lung secretions thin; changing body positions frequently – use gravity to help clear your lungs; practicing deep breathing and coughing exercises to strengthen respiratory muscles; and eating heathy, well-balanced meals to boost your immune system.

Of course, Covid-19, like many viruses, can exist on surfaces as well. For the SCI patient, this means it’s important to try to always keep equipment, such as your wheelchair and its various parts, clean.

-          If possible, you should avoid contact between your hands and your tyres when pushing–and if using gloves, remember to wash them frequently.

-          Remove your pushing gloves and put disposable gloves on before touching or cleaning your chair.

-          Use antibacterial solution to clean wheels, brakes and push rims.

-          Wash your hands prior to transferring and avoid touching your tyres, if possible.

-          For power wheelchairs, use antibacterial solution on a cloth to clean the joystick and/or other controls, armrests or headrests.

For those who use ventilators or respirators, precautions similar to the above can help prevent exposure to Covid-19, but this equipment, by its nature, suggests that additional actions should taken. Whether you are a patient or carer:

-          Wash hands before and after working with the ventilator.

-          Ensure carers wear a mask or eye shield when suctioning secretions.

-          Clean and disinfect medical equipment accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

-          Change filters according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Although much is not yet known about Covid-19 and how it affects SCI patients, the steps and precautions laid out here offer a great start in helping you avoid exposure to protect not only yourself, but those around you.

Related Articles


Previous Article

Employment after a Spinal Cord Injury: Things You Should Know

Next Article

The road ahead: Adapting to life after a spinal cord injury

Try the Navigator Membership Portal

You can only chat with a Navigator if you are logged in or you can try it now

Oh, no! Something went wrong