Crohn’s , COVID-19, Errands and the Same Old Challenges
Last updated: December 2020
Florida is still experiencing high daily rates of people testing positive for COVID-19. Even though we still have a high positivity rate, dermatology, vision, and dental offices have reopened. We are currently trying to knock some of these appointments out.
I figured I could run some errands while my husband was at an eye doctor appointment. While running the errands, it became clear how Crohn’s and COVID-19 presents the same yet slightly different challenges.
Similar challenges of Crohn's and COVID-19
Even during my younger years, my day centered around managing symptoms from Crohn’s disease.
It didn’t matter that I was a young child. I realized early on going anywhere with my parents meant skipping meals, trying to curb hanger, and pretending I was okay. I skipped meals out of fear for needing a restroom while away from home. Worse yet, was when we were on a road trip and all that was available were rest stops that came up every 30-to-50 miles.
One road trip when I was a kid still haunts me. I needed to stop at every rest stop during the drive. A 60-minute road trip clocked in at around 2-hours. I felt embarrassed. That road trip in particular set a pace with how I mitigated my symptoms in the future, even as an adult. At least bathrooms were available and an invisible virus wasn’t prevalent.
A few years prior, I experienced a similar situation needing to use the restroom frequently. I was maybe 7 or 8 at the time. My dad tried to get several restaurants and stores to allow me to use the restroom and the answer was no. It was either “employees only” or the excuse of they weren’t open to the public yet for dining. Finally, the movie theater nearby allowed us in.
To say that I was lucky to not have messed myself is an understatement. I know many others who faced similar circumstances and weren’t as lucky. You may be wondering where I’m going with this.
New worries with COVID-19
For those of us living with inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or medications that cause gastric upset, we live with worry. No matter how healthy you are currently, memories like the ones I listed above can haunt you. They can set the pace with how we navigate being away from the safety of our homes. COVID-19 adds a new layer of complexity to the situation making it that much more difficult to access public restrooms when needed.
Where I live, we are not under stay-at-home orders, but we are not fully reopened either. Restaurants are allowing people inside again and filled to 50% capacity. Grocery and big-box retailers are allowing people inside using all of their facilities in a business as usual manner.
Interestingly, coffee shops around here are take-out only. The ones without a drive-through option may not let you inside to order. They will meet you at the door with your order which is sent via an app. One shop allowed people inside to order and pick up, but that was all. Need a restroom? Go somewhere else, it’s for employees only.
Unable to use public restrooms because of COVID-19
Coincidentally, a patient in one of the Crohn’s groups I’m in posted a very upset message about how a coffee shop in her area wouldn’t let her use their facility. She had a medical card explaining medical necessity. The employees wouldn’t budge.
Some people in the group commented on how it was illegal. However, she did not live in a state with Ally’s Law (right to use a bathroom due to a condition).
I do not envy either party’s position. She was suffering at that moment and needed a restroom. The employees are already operating under the threat of this invisible virus, and now they have to bypass empathy by following orders.
Restroom facilities are already difficult to come by for those of us in the Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis community while we are out and about. COVID-19 isn’t presenting an exactly new challenge; it’s just creating a deeper complexity to the ones we’ve always dealt with.
What can we do?
Preparing for the worst with an emergency kit
Recently, a friend posted how she needed an emergency ostomy kit and a change of clothes for the first time in years. She used to carry an emergency kit in her car and stopped. Honestly, we don’t need something until we need it. I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve kept an emergency kit in my car.
There’s no shame in having a kit. If anything, it’s being prepared for anything under present circumstances.
Another thing I recommend doing is carrying cleaning wipes, but they are still hard to come by. You can do this on your own by making a travel-sized spray bottle of your favorite household cleaner or making your own wipes.
Have you had difficulty accessing facilities since reopening began in your state?
Does living with IBD impact you financially?