We're all in isolation but what can you do to prevent spread of disease?
Isolation people. This is the big one. The more people interact with one other, touch each other, touch the same surfaces, breath the same air, and get all up in other people’s business, the more we transmit germs. We do this every day. Some germs (meaning bacteria) are good and we actually need them for our bodies to function properly. But we’ll discuss that more in another episode. Covid is bad. And in the case of covid, sharing is not caring. So stay isolated as much as possible, even after the bans are lifted.
Sanitize surfaces. Surfaces are a major part of disease spread. Think doorknobs, cell phones when you hand it to your friend to look at a photo, the countertop you touch at the store, handing off your credit card, grabbing a receipt. All surfaces that can transmit germs. A great way to prevent transmission is to just sanitize surfaces often. We actually have an announcement in our hospital where every few hours, someone on the intercom reminds us to sanitize our work area.
Wear a mask. While there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding this issue, but the CDC now recommends covering one’s face in public. For the general public, this means a cloth mask. It is important to preserve N-95 and surgical masks for medical personnel. If you are using appropriate social distancing procedures and you are not going within six feet of other people, you don’t need an N-95. Save the medical masks for medical workers but please do use cloth masks when going outside in public.
Don’t touch your face. This one is harder than it sounds. We touch our faces hundreds of times a day. Every time you scratch an itch, adjust your hair, fix your makeup, eat, smack a bug, you are touching your face. Try not to do it. Wearing a mask can help as a reminder to not touch your face. We all struggle with this one.
Cover your cough. Dear God. Please cover your cough. I was on a mountain climbing expedition recently and one of the climbers not only didn’t cover his cough, but would cough directly onto all of the food sitting on the table. Not only is this absolutely disgusting but is horrible for infection control. It is preferable not to use your hand to cover your cough but instead to use the crook of your elbow, your sleeve, a handkerchief… anything you can use that is not the same hands you use to touch everything around you.
Don’t share linens, toothbrush, cups/plates with others. This one is tough if you’re in a household with lots of other people. It is really important to use good infection protocol and make sure you wash linens, plates, cups thoroughly before other people use them. Regular detergent and soap is fine. You don’t need bleach. And please, please, please don’t drink bleach. I have to say it because it happens…
Hydrate and get proper nutrition. Hydration is really important for preventing illness. When you are sick, the last thing most people want to do is eat and drink but it is critical for keeping your blood pumping and organs functioning. It is no mistake that patients who are sick with sepsis (or very serious infections) get 30cc/kilogram of body weight. For most people that is around 2 liters of IV fluid in a couple hours. I’m not suggesting everyone goes out and drinks two liters right away, but I am suggesting you keep a good baseline of nutrition and hydration.
Don’t to the ER begging for a test. And this comes with a caveat because obviously, people who are really sick do need to go the emergency department. However, we still see a lot of people come into the EMERGENCY department with non-emergency conditions. Things you need to watch for with covid are shortness of breath, blue lips, high unrelenting fever, altered mental status (or people not acting normally, hallucinating, or are less alert than normal), breathing really fast for more than a few minutes, or anything else that seems concerning or potentially life threatening. Things that might be better to call your primary doctor for include mild cough, nasal congestion, mild ear pain, anxiety, or anything that you would normally handle through your primary doctor outside of a pandemic. If you do come to the ER with mild symptoms, you might not have covid and you put yourself at risk of getting infected. If you don’t have severe symptoms, at this time, you probably won’t be able to be tested for covid even if you do come to the ED and even if you want to be tested.
Avoid stress. What? Avoid stress in a pandemic?! Yes, I’m serious. There is plenty of evidence that supports that psychological stress can decrease immune function. Do what you need to do to stay relaxed. Read a book. Binge a new TV series. Go for a run (if that is allowed where you live and you can stay distanced). Do a home workout. Write a book. Do yoga or mediation. Whatever it is you need to relax, do it. Your body will thank you later.
Wash. Your. Hands. Seriously guys. This is super super important. Wash your hands. Use soap and water for 20 seconds and good scrubbing motion or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. It is a simple and ancient practice and it will do you, and the rest of the world, a lot of good.