I have been getting a lot of questions about Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) so I decided it was time to create a post dedicated to this topic. In this post I discuss different tips for dealing with Coronavirus or COVID-19 as well as the steps we all must take in order to help prevent the spread of this virus.
First of all I hope that all of you are staying safe and healthy. It is a crazy time right now around the globe with the coronavirus/ COVID-19 outbreak and there is so much uncertainty which I know is making everyone very nervous.
Being a physician, things are also changing rapidly for me. We don’t know how many doctors will end up getting sick or quarantined and so the ability to come in at a moments notice is critical.
I know that many of you are probably very scared and nervous right now and so I wanted to share some tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe during this time. We can’t control everything, but there are certain measures we can take to try and limit our chances of getting infected, and unknowingly spreading the virus to others. This virus is highly contagious, and many people spread the virus without even knowing they are sick. That is why it is so important to be careful and do your best not to unknowingly infect others. I cannot emphasize this point enough. COVID-19 is highly contagious, and we must all do our part to limit its spread as much as possible.
For most people, getting coronavirus leads to a mild infection, but for some (especially the elderly, immunocompromised, and those with underlying health conditions) the virus can be deadly. That is why we all need to do our best to prevent the spread of this disease as much as possible. Many of our hospitals are already at capacity due to the flu season, so the ability to handle many critically ill people is just not there. As well, many countries (especially Canada) do not have enough ventilators to look after a high number of critically ill patients, so preventing the spread of infection as much as possible is the best strategy to save as many lives as possible.
I also want you to be cautious during this time. I have seen many posts and online advertisements for “natural ways or products to prevent or cure the coronavirus”. Please don’t fall for these scams. Sadly there are people who pray on the vulnerable and will try to take advantage of people’s fears during this time by trying to sell you certain products. There is money to be made off of fear, so please be cautious.
I have also seen some popular vegan influencers telling their audience that “eating plant based and avoiding meat will help protect you from the coronavirus.” Spreading misinformation like this is not helpful for anyone and will only lead to confusion during an already uncertain time. It is especially important during this time that you get your information from reputable sources.
Staying reasonable and calm during this time is also very important. Mass hysteria does not help anyone. I know it can be frightening, but if we all do the best we can to limit the spread of this virus we can help prevent it from becoming as severe as it might otherwise. Try to keep a normal routine for you and your family. And if you have kids at home, plan home based activities for them and keep them stimulated. This will help both you and them get through this period in the most positive way possible. You can still be productive and have fun at home! It will just take some creativity and thinking outside of the box.
With all of that being said, here are some tips to help protect you and your loved ones during this COVID-19 outbreak:
TIPS FOR CORONAVIRUS (OR COVID-19)
1. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: WASH YOUR HANDS REGULARLY
This is one of our best defences against spreading coronavirus. This virus is spread by droplets, so if we cough or sneeze on our hands for example, we could then infect others with the droplets on our hands or the surfaces we touch. So washing your hands is the best way to prevent spreading the virus to others (either through touching others or by touching surfaces which others can come into contact with). The most important thing is washing your hands properly. This means washing your hands for 20-30 seconds, ensuring that you wash all surfaces of your hands, including in between your fingers, your thumbs, and wrists.
The good news is that this virus is easily killed be regular hand soaps. You don’t need medical grade soaps to kill coronavirus so don’t worry about finding special soaps during this time.
2. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: IF YOU CAN’T WASH YOUR HANDS, USE HAND SANITIZER
Whenever you are out in public it is important to travel with hand sanitizer. Your hands are constantly touching surfaces (grocery carts, payment systems, door handles, gas pumps etc) that could be contaminated with coronavirus. The virus can live on a surface for hours to days so anytime you touch a surface please use a hand sanitizer as soon as you can. I know that many places are sold out of hand sanitizer right now but I will link the one that I use and love as well as a post that shows you how to make your own if you need to.
3. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH OR SNEEZE
I know this may sound basic, but again, this virus is spread through droplets. So when you sneeze or cough, the droplets that come from your mouth can potentially infect others. Be sure to cover your mouth as much as possible when you cough or sneeze. Just be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer on them as soon as you do, so that you don’t touch any surfaces or people with those droplets.
4. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: CLEAN SURFACES REGULARLY
One good piece of news about this virus is that it is easily killed by regular home cleaning products and anti-bacterial wipes. You do not need medical grade cleaning products to kill this virus. By wiping down surfaces that are touched as often as possible this will help prevent the spread of the disease. This goes for surfaces in your home and in public. Try to wipe down your countertops, taps and other surfaces in your home that get touched frequently on a regular basis. And if you are in public, wipe down any surface that you can before touching it.
5. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: TRY NOT TO TOUCH YOUR FACE
I know that this is easier said than done but if you can try to limit touching your face as much as possible that will help prevent you from getting the virus. If your hands come into contact with infected droplets, and then you touch your face (especially your eyes, mouth or nose) that is how you can get infected from the virus. So by limiting face touching you will greatly decrease your chance of getting the virus.
6. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING AND AVOID GROUP GATHERINGS
I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. This is a crucial step for us to avoid spreading COVID-19 even further. The best thing you can do right now is to stay home as much as possible. Only go out for essentials (groceries, doctors visits, and work if you are required to go in). You can still go for walks and do activities outdoors, but just ensure you aren’t doing them in groups, and ideally do them alone.
And when you are out in public, try to maintain a personal space of at least 2 meters or 6 feet between people. This also includes avoiding things like hand shakes, hugs, kisses etc. when greeting others. Social distancing is our greatest defence against this virus and we all need to do our part in practicing this as much as possible. If we don’t practice social distancing, within 1-2 weeks we will have an outbreak that is just as bad as they are seeing in Italy and other countries. Our health care system cannot handle an outbreak of this size. If it happens, many people will die as we just don’t have enough ventilators to save everyone. It’s a harsh reality and something that is hard to hear which is why it is paramount that you listen to the recommendations and stay home as much as possible. You truly will save lives if you stay home as much as possible during this time.
This graph from a recent Globe and Mail article shows just how quickly COVID-19 is spreading in Canada. To put this into perspective, on February 25 Italy had 229 cases, on March 3 they had 2000 cases and by March 15th they had 21,000 cases. Italy saw an average increase in cases by 27% per day. In Canada we are currently seeing an increase of approximately 34% per day. If this trend continues, within two weeks we will have almost 23,000 cases. Approximately 5% of people who get coronavirus require ICU admission and ventilation. We only have 3100 ICU beds in Canada and many of them are already full. This is why it is paramount that everyone practice self distancing and stay home as much as possible. If we don’t, many people will die from this virus like we are seeing in other countries, as we do not have the ICU capacity to save everyone.
Remember, coronavirus is very contagious, and many people that have the virus only have mild symptoms (or no symptoms at all) so if you do choose to go out you are potentially putting hundreds, if not thousands of other people at risk by potentially infecting others. This is why EVERYONE must practice self distancing and stay at home as much as possible.
7. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: IF YOU HAVE TRAVELLED, YOU MUST SELF-ISOLATE
If you have travelled by plane recently, especially from outside of Canada (although I would consider this even if your travel was within Canada as we are seeing many cases from Canadian air travel) you must self-isolate yourself for 14 days. This means that when you leave the airport, you go directly home. You do not stop for groceries or for any other errands. Most of the COVID-19 cases that we are seeing here in Canada are still travel related, and to prevent an increase in cases through community spread it is of utmost importance that you follow these recommendations. if you choose to ignore them you are potentially putting hundreds, if not thousands of other people at risk. I am not trying to scare you, but I have seen many people ignore these recommendations which is unacceptable.
8. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: HELP THE ELDERLY, IMMUNOCOMPROMISED OR THOSE WITH UNDERLYING CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS
We know that the elderly, immunocompromised and people with underlying chronic health conditions are most at risk of getting severe coronavirus infections. With that, trying to limit their exposure to the virus as much as possible is crucial. If we can all do our best to help these people as much as possible this will help keep them safe. Get groceries for them, pick up their medications, bring them meals etc. Anything you can do to help them avoid others who are sick will be a huge help!
9. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: IF YOU GET SICK, CALL HEALTH LINK
If you get coronavirus you don’t want to spread it to others so it’s important to follow the procedures put in place by your local health region before just going to the doctor or hospital (where you could potentially infect others). If you are in Alberta, it is recommend that you take this symptom survey before calling Health Link for further directions. Please check with your local health care providers to see what procedures are in place for where you live.
10. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: IF YOU ARE SICK, STAY HOME
The best way to prevent a huge outbreak of coronavirus is to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible. Again, this virus is highly contagious so if you do get sick, please self-isolate yourself and stay home to prevent the spread of infection to others. For most people, the symptoms of the virus are mild, so even though you may not feel that unwell, the virus can become deadly in certain people so please do your part to limit the spread to others who could develop a severe infection.
11. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: AVOID ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS
France’s health minister has recently announced that taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen may worsen the coronavirus infection and the WHO just announced this morning that they agree with this recommendation.
Obviously this has not been well studied at this point, but if you can avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (also known as Advil), during this time that would be wise. There are many anti-inflammatory medication on the market, but some other commonly used ones include naproxen, indomethacin, Celebrex, Motrin, and aspirin and it would be recommended that you avoid all of these medications if you can.
Tylenol does not have the same potential risk, so if you need to take something for pain control that might be a safer alternative depending on your other health conditions (of course always run things by your doctor if you are looking to make any medication changes).
12. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: IF YOU GET SICK, AVOID HERBS OR SUPPLEMENTS THAT BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
In some patients, the way that COVID-19 becomes deadly is by causing something called a cytokine storm. Basically what this is is an over-activation of your immune system. Think of cytokines as messengers of the immune system, and if there are too many of them, your system gets overwhelmed and can’t function properly. And this overwhelming response of the immune system becomes so strong in some patients that it cannot be turned off. Another way to think about cytokine storm is as “hyperinflammation” and this article goes into more detail regarding it’s relationship to COVID-19.
Many supplements that are known to “boost” the immune system actually work by increasing cytokine production. Herbs and supplements like elderberry (also known as sambucol), echinacea, Chinese herbs, quercetin etc. So if you do get coronavirus and take these herbs, there is potential for them to contribute to this cytokine storm phenomenon. Now, this virus is so new that none of these herbs have been studied yet, but given how deadly this cytokine storm can be I personally wouldn’t take that risk and would avoid taking immune boosting supplements or herbs if you do get sick.
13. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this COVID-19 infection, and how severe the outbreak may get. That uncertainty can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. To help decrease this stress I suggest controlling the things that you have control over as much as possible and maintaining your general health as much as possible. This includes things like eating healthy, exercising, getting good sleep and decreasing unnecessary expenses. If you are on prescription medications I also suggest getting at least a one month supply of your medications in case you end up being quarantined or house bound so that you are not left panicking.
Another thing I am personally doing is meal prepping. I don’t know if myself or family members will get sick, and if we do I know we may not be able to cook during that time. So I have been making larger batches of freezer friendly foods to freeze to have on hand for a later date. Some of my favourite recipes that freeze well include:
- Whole30 Cream of Potato Soup
- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- Banana Muffins with Chocolate
- Paleo Waffles
- Beef Curry Stew
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Whole30 Sloppy Joes
- Paleo Chili with Blueberries
- Almond Flour Biscuits
- Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins
- Paleo Cornbread Muffins
14. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: STAY UPDATED, BUT DON’T OBSESS AND STAY POSITIVE!
Staying up to date on the news and updates on the virus is important, but please try not to obsess about this. Yes this is a scary and uncertain time, but trying to maintain a sense of normalcy is also important. Especially if you have kids at home.
Try and be productive. Continue to do the things you enjoy that you can still do. Use this time to tackle those projects that you have been putting off. Get your kids involved in the kitchen and test out new recipes. Come up with new games that can be played at home. Read that book you’ve been wanting to read. Help those around you who are struggling or need assistance.
If we are able to turn what could potentially be an extremely negative time and experience into something as positive as possible we will all be better off. I have already seen so many acts of kindness come out of this crisis and if we all ban together and do the best we can this will help all of us handle this situation in the best way possible.
15. CORONAVIRUS TIPS: SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES
With many people being isolated or staying home much more than usual, sadly, local businesses are going to struggle during this time. Many businesses are already surviving week to week or month to month and this virus may be what puts them out of business. So if you are able, try and support your local businesses as much as possible. Shop at your local grocery stores or farmer’s markets. Get your meat from local farmers. If you do need to shop, choose local vendors and order their products online (remember, you should be self isolating and not doing things like going to the mall right now). Anything you can do to help your local businesses will be greatly appreciated during this time.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you aren’t already following me on Instagram I am providing daily tips and updates on there as the situation is changing rapidly and I want everyone to have the most up to date information possible.
Stay safe everyone!