Crohn’s Disease and COVID-19: What to Know
This article examines the potential risks of having Crohn’s disease and developing COVID-19.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that Crohn’s disease can increase COVID-19 risk. However, the two conditions may influence each other in other ways.
Treatments for Crohn’s disease often focus on reducing inflammation by controlling an overactive immune response. Specific medications include:
- Immunomodulators: These drugs suppress the immune system to help the body fight inflammation.
- Biologic drugs: These are human-made proteins that target specific parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation.
Though these medications can relieve Crohn’s disease symptoms, they might also reduce overall immunity. This, in turn, may affect how the body manages COVID-19 disease.
Research is ongoing to establish the relationship between Crohn’s disease and COVID-19. In the meantime, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends that people with IBD continue to take their medications unless their doctor says otherwise.
Learn more about 10 drugs commonly prescribed for Crohn’s disease.
COVID-19, like Crohn’s disease, can produce an inflammatory immune response. COVID-19 can also trigger effects that may worsen intestinal inflammation.
In fact, COVID-19 and IBD can sometimes cause overlapping symptoms, such as:
Having inflammatory bowel disease may increase the risk of hospitalization and adverse COVID-19 outcomes. However, further research is needed.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for most people 18 and older with autoimmune disorders.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation also notes that people with IBD react similarly to the COVID-19 vaccination as people in the general population.
Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines
While COVID-19 vaccines are generally safe and effective, they may cause side effects. These side effects are usually mild, temporary, and can vary from person to person. People with IBD and the general population can all experience side effects.
Side effects may include:
If you have concerns about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, discuss them with a healthcare professional.
COVID-19 cannot cause Crohn’s disease. However, COVID-19 may trigger the onset of Crohn’s disease symptoms. This can occur during a case of COVID-19 or after you have recovered. It is unclear why this happens, but the COVID-19 immune response may be involved.
Crohn’s disease is not preventable, but there are steps to protect yourself against COVID-19. Some protective measures include:
- maintaining adequate ventilation in your surroundings
- wearing a face mask
- washing your hands regularly
- observing physical distancing
- getting tested if you think you may have been exposed
- keeping up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations
Learn more about ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.
Saurabh Sethi, M.D., M.P.H., reviewed the answers to these common questions about Crohn’s disease and COVID-19.
Does Crohn’s disease make you vulnerable to COVID?
There is no evidence that having Crohn’s disease alone can raise your risk of developing COVID-19. However, some of the treatments for Crohn’s disease, like medications that influence the immune system, may increase the risk for severe COVID-19. Further research is needed.
Should people with Crohn’s get the COVID vaccination?
Yes, unless your doctor says otherwise, people with Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune conditions are recommended to get the COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccines are generally safe and effective.
There is no proof that Crohn’s disease can raise the risk of developing COVID-19. However, some IBD drugs may raise the risk of severe COVID-19 in people with Crohn’s disease.
These drugs include immunomodulators and biologic medications. Further research is needed to establish the exact link between IBD and COVID-19 risk.
Talk with your doctor about ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.