First and foremost, we at the NSDA extend our heartfelt wishes that you and your families are as well as can be expected during this situation surrounding COVID-19. We know these are uncertain times that are impacting all aspects of our daily lives.
It is important to remember that the situation remains fluid as public health authorities assess, analyze and attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. To keep up-to-date on COVID-19, visit the website for the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some of you have reached out to us with questions, so we wanted to respond with the most current information available along with some resources that might be helpful. They are summarized below:
How do you get COVID-19? Does having a voice disorder make the risk the higher?
This summary is from Dr. Emily Landon who specializes in infectious disease at the University of Chicago Medicine: This virus is really transmissible and can spread easily from person to person even before a person develops symptoms. It’s carried on respiratory droplets when we talk, sneeze, and cough and these can land on surfaces or in someone’s mouth or nose. When it comes to respiratory droplets, 6 feet is the magic distance. That’s how far these tiny, infected droplets can travel. Being within 6 feet of someone who is sick can get you or your personal space contaminated with COVID-19. When droplets land on surfaces, we can pick them up with our hands and transfer them to our eyes, mouth, and nose when we touch our faces. Respiratory secretions (like snot and sputum) can also be infectious.
This makes it doubtful that having a voice disorder makes a person more or less at risk than the general population since transmission is the same for anyone that breathes or swallows or touches their face. However, the CDC has stated that people over 60 or those who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for COVID-19.
Am I at greater risk if I go for my botulinum toxin injection right now?
In regard to safety, clinics usually take universal precautions with patients during their appointment, including using gown, gloves, and facial protection as some patients cough. Some otolaryngologists are recommending that if you are older or immunocompromised (and therefore in a higher risk group), it might be better to wait a month or so before getting an injection to reduce the possibility of exposure to the virus. In some patients, the ability to cough productively (bring up mucus) can be reduced after a botulinum toxin injection. This can impact cough strength which is important for managing respiratory illnesses. If this is a common side-effect for you, it might warrant postponing an injection at this time. As always, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider to determine what is best for you.
How does COVID-19 impact my treatment options?
The biggest challenge right now might be getting an appointment as offices of some healthcare professionals are closing for the health and safety for both patients and providers. This may delay the ability to schedule a botulinum toxin injection or a surgical procedure. Voice therapy may be available via telemedicine. Please contact your healthcare provider directly to find out if the office is open. Remember this is an unprecedented situation and changes are occurring daily. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals may not have a choice in temporarily closing their clinics, especially in hospital or university-based health systems. We know this can be incredibly frustrating especially when the need for treatment can be great.
Also, the American Academy of Otolaryngology has issued a statement on COVID-19 with this recommendation for practices: The need to flatten the curve of transmission and preserve critical supplies and equipment for those who need it most necessitates limiting care at this time to time-sensitive and emergent problems and the routine use of appropriate PPE when treating patients in all age groups.
In addition, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has an update page on COVID-19.
How can the NSDA help you?
Educate. Have you been asked if you were sick because of the sound of your voice? This may increase even more when people are nervous about illness. The NSDA has cards and buttons that are very helpful explaining what is with wrong your voice. You can email us at NSDA@dysphonia.org to order them or download this PDF file that can be printed out and used immediately.
Learn. You can explore the newly launched NSDA website. Plan to join us on Saturday, May 2, for the NSDA virtual symposium. This event will be free and open to anyone who wants to join. The presentations will also be recorded and available to view at a later date. You can watch videos from previous symposiums on NSDA’s YouTube channel now.
Connect. While some of our local support group meetings have been canceled, you can still connect via email to a local leader of a group or an area contact person. Go online with the NSDA bulletin board or social media. We will be exploring additional virtual options over the next few weeks including online support group meetings.
Here are some additional ideas:
- Unplug when necessary. The continuous influx of news stories and social media posts can be overwhelming.
- Take this time to knock out some to-dos on your list, learn a new skill, or binge watch that show you have been wanting to see.
- Test out text-to-voice apps and then share your results with this evaluation form.
- Contribute your voice to an online research project.
- Take a walk (while practice social distancing). Sunshine and fresh air can help make you feel better.
Please reach out if you have questions. Take care of yourself and each other. We are all in this together!