Staying Home and Healthy during the COVID-19 Pandemic

As physicians, nurses, other healthcare workers and first responders are working very hard across the globe to help contain and fight this virus, you may be overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of cases and the uncertainty. The uncertainty is distressing. It alone can cause the diarrhea, the knot in your stomach, or the slight tightness in your chest as you’re tensing up whenever the virus is the topic these days.

Many of us, if not all, are stressed during this time. We have only known about this virus for less than a handful of months and therefore are learning more and more about it as the days pass. Unfortunately, this virus is now among us in our very community and continues to infect more and more people daily. This virus, which is believed to have come from bats, is new to the human host. It mutated once or twice before being spread to humans. As it is new in humans, it doesn’t necessarily know how to act. It is doing a great job of spreading very fast yet it is killing its hosts. A virus doesn’t survive without its host, therefore, it will eventually learn how to live with its host and mutate in order to do so. However, we don’t know when this will be.

What can we do?

  • Staying home and socially distant. If this has not been stressed to you enough, please please please stay at home! Only go out if you must for absolute necessities. Nowadays most grocery stores actually deliver, and for free. This is not a snow day if you are not sick. Parents please don’t take your kids to work and don’t let them out to the park to play with their friends.
    • ***We must flatten this curve. As I started writing this post, United States has surpassed China as the leader in reported positive covid-19 cases. Don’t wait for your city to enact a stay-in order. Take charge of the situation and order yourself and your family to stay-in. This is a social responsibility and we must all do our part in this. I’m not asking for a very difficult assignment. If this was a test and all you had to do was stay in to get an A, you would do it , right? If no, then how about staying inside to prevent further cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in your community? It is drastic but is the very truth and seriousness of the matter we are facing today.
    • Even if you think you’re young or without any previous health issues such as lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, or any conditions or medications that suppresses your immune function, the reports of the virus affecting such a variety of people regardless of age or gender is surprising and unpredictable. Again, the virus really has not learned how to live with our bodies yet. Therefore, if contracting the virus is inevitable, you absolutely want to contract it as late as possible, hopefully after it has mutated and lived long enough within our bodies for there to be a vaccine for it. Again, this is not to scare you but to drive home the point the importance of staying home.
    • Have groceries delivered to you. This virus can survive in the air for 3 hours. You do not need to be walking by the same lane someone sick might have coughed into in the last few hours.
  • Washing hands religiously. Wash with antibacterial soap and for about 30 seconds. If you can’t, then use hand sanitizer with at least 70-80% alcohol. Do not touch your face. Cough in your elbow, not your hand. Clean and disinfect daily the frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, keyboards, light switches. We touch our phones so many times a day so please clean it with an alcohol swab or a Clorox wipe.
  • Taking care of yourself. What does this mean? If you do contract the virus, you want to make sure your immune function is at its best. The only tool you naturally have. Besides avoiding catching the virus by staying home as we just discussed, how can you make sure your immune function is at its maximum?
    • Get Adequate Sleep. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep daily. Yes, the uncertainty of how many new cases will be reported tomorrow and whether it is someone you KNOW or have been exposed to is distressing. It can interfere with your sleep. For example, watching the news or using covid-19 trackers on your computer or phone just before going to bed does this in two ways— exposes yourself to anxious thoughts right before trying to go to bed and exposes yourself to blue light, which interferes with your natural sleep clock.
    • Minimize Stress. Stress weakens our immune system. When one is stressed, the ability of a person’s immune function to fight off diseases weakens and makes us more susceptible to catching illnesses. Stress can lower our body’s lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight infection.
      • Make time for yourself. Make sure to exercise, either inside your house, patio or drive way. There are a lot of videos online, even including exercises that your very own local gyms are posting. At the very least, download a free 7-minute exercise app and run through it at least 2-3 times/day.
      • Take time to meditate. Do it at least 10 or 15 minutes several times a week. There are a lot of videos online. A lot of your local yogis are also posting exercises online.
      • Phone a friend. With such advanced technology in the palm of our hands, we can connect with one another from our houses. Take advantage of this and support one another.
      • Take an hour before bed to calm down and relax. Try meditating. Read a novel to help get your mind off of things.
    • STOP smoking. This virus attacks your lower or upper respiratory systems. We already don’t know how severely it may affect every single one of us. By continuing to smoke, you damage your lungs and this further gives the virus a good head start to more easily cause disease. We already know that smoking increases risk of death from pneumonia. So please, stop today. As something foreign is introduced to our body, one of the immediate defenses of our respiratory system is making and clearing more mucous, which reinforces the cells of our skin barrier. Smoking interferes with this skin barrier.
  • Eat healthy – Eat a lot of citrusy fruits and green-leafy vegetables. You can get a lot of healthy, protective nutrients from them. You have a lot of time at home now. Take advantage of this to cook healthy meals from scratch. Look at it as a way to improve your cooking skills or try new recipes.
  • Beneficial supplements – It is always better to get your nutrients from foods directly. However, during this time, it would not hurt but would actually benefit to take a vitamin C supplement daily (would suggest 500mg to 1500mg daily), a vitamin D supplement, and possibly daily elderberry and pelargonium sidoides root extract (Umckaloabo) in addition to your daily multivitamin. You want to boost your immune function as much as possible so that if you do ever contract it, you got the best shot against it.

Take care,

– Dr. Efe Sahinoglu with Birmingham Direct Primary Care

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