A Doctor Shares the Biggest DOs and DON'Ts of Life in the Age of Coronavirus
Chances are, your life looks very different today than it did a month ago, and that can be a very confusing thing.
With so much information coming in all the time, it can be difficult to know what to trust and what to disregard. What should we really be doing in the age or coronavirus? We wanted to sort the good from the bad, so we called up Dr. Susan Raschal of Covenant Allergy & Asthma Care to discuss and uncover the biggest DOs and DON'Ts.
DO Recognize the Symptoms
Many aren't fully informed when it comes to the symptoms of the coronavirus.
"This virus doesn't just affect the head," Dr. Raschal explains. "It affects the entire body."
Symptoms include muscle aches and pains, tiredness, a cough, and elevated temperature–usually of 100.4° or greater. It can also cause diarrhea and difficulty breathing in severe cases.
Dr. Raschal says the most important thing amid everything that's going on is not to panic. Instead, you should try to be informed enough to make good decisions to protect yourself and others.
"If you're concerned about COVID but you don't have any symptoms, you shouldn't go to the doctor's office," she says. "That decision is motivated by fear, rather than logic, and it overburdens the system."
After all, you probably won't be able to get tested if you're asymptomatic, and you don't want to prevent people who actually need help from getting it. And even if you are sick, telemedicine calls with your doctor might be a better option. Understanding the numbers may also ease many people's fears.
"We shouldn't be afraid of a virus," she says. "The vast majority of people are recovering from it. The media focuses on the deaths and the people infected and affected by the disease. They don't focus on the number of people who have recovered, or who have mild disease. Don't be overcome by fear. Fear is not healing."
In fact, she asserts that there are likely a lot more people out there who have the disease, but are seeing mild effects, or are asymptomatic, and that the number with the disease is larger than what's being reported.
DO Take Precautions
Of course, not being afraid doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful. Dr. Raschal recommends staying at least six feet away from others if you have to go out to grab the essentials, avoid hanging out in groups, and wearing masks.
"We also can't overestimate the power of good hand-washing," she adds. "All those things will prevent the spread of all viruses, including COVID."
DON'T Be Selfish
It's critical that we look past ourselves when it comes to the coronavirus.
"Unless they have chronic illness, it's not the young people who need to be worried," Dr. Raschal explains. "It's really about risk to their parents and grandparents."
Just because you're not sick, and the people around you don't look sick, doesn't mean you can't still carry and spread the disease, she explains. Don't be reckless just because you're young and likely to recover, because someone you care about might not be so lucky.
DO Use This Time to Get Healthy With Family
As we practice social distancing, Dr. Raschal says this is a great time to really get acquainted with family in a new way.
"That should include conversations about being healthy and what that looks like," Dr. Raschal says. "Many of the at-risk folks with chronic disease have ailments that could have been prevented if they would have done a better job taking care of themselves when they were younger."
Lifelong health starts with eating healthily, avoiding processed foods, drinking plenty of clear fluids, and taking part in family activities like baking and cooking together. It can also be beneficial to try an indoor exercise program, and take supplements if you don't get the nutrients you need from your food. If you can do so safely, you should also try to get fresh air by walking around the block.
DON'T Believe Everything You Read
Because anyone can post anything online, we have to be skeptical of what we read on the internet and take any unsourced information with a grain of salt.
"When you go to any source, you want to make sure it's reliable," Dr. Raschal says. "People shouldn't just read everything willy-nilly because there's a lot of information on the internet that is not accurate."
Dr. Raschal gets much of her statistical information from Worldometer. She says other reliable sources include the CDC and Johns Hopkins. Most U.S. states also have a health department, such as the Tennessee Department of Health in Dr. Raschal's home state.
DO Listen to the Experts
When we spoke with Dr. Raschal, Worldometer was reporting that there were about 284,000 active cases, and about 271,000—or 96% of those cases—were mild. Only 4% (12,5000) of the cases were serious or critical. Beyond that, more than 100,000 people had recovered from the disease.
"That's good news," Dr. Raschal explains. "Right now, there's a higher than normal mortality rate, but that's only because of the high number of active cases. A majority of people haven't recovered yet because they're still in the active phase. When the dust settles, we'll be able to get a better idea of what the actual recovery rate is."
She says one of the biggest concerns about COVID is that since it's new to humans, there's no history, and there are a lot of unknowns.
"Nobody has immunity to it, yet, and we don't know all the factors," she says. "For example, influenza is a seasonal virus that doesn't do well in warm conditions, so it usually goes away during warmer months. Unfortunately, we don't know that about COVID.
However, extrapolating based on the coronavirus numbers out of China, where the disease originated, Dr. Raschal projects we might see a plateau in the number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. during April and the start of May.
"If we implement the same precautions and strategies China did, we will likely see a plateau in the number of new cases," she says. "In that case, there are probably two or three weeks more before it does. In China, that number leveled off for a couple of weeks and then came down."
While we don't know the extent of those precautions in China, they included shutting down borders to the Hubei province, containing Wuhan, where the virus originated, bringing healthcare workers from around the country to combat overburdening the healthcare system in certain regions, using gloves and masks, and stopping travel.
DO Remember the Healthcare Workers
"Right now, we should remember the medical providers who are out there in the trenches putting themselves in harm's way to help try to combat coronavirus," Dr. Raschal says. "They don't get paid extra to do that. In fact, many doctors are seeing decreased reimbursement, making it that much more difficult. They're in harm's way. They're the heroes, but they're barely getting recognized."
It can be hard to see the silver lining, particularly when many of us are stuck indoors, but Dr. Raschal believes things are headed in the right direction.
"Antiviral medications are being developed and vaccines are being tried," she says. "Know that it can take several months, maybe years, before something gets approved by the FDA so it can be used—but the medical field is working on it."
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