COVID 19: what to do?

Maureen MinchinGeneral News

What can you do about the virus?

Simple: what you’re told by health authorities, which will change over time. Above all at present, stay at home and don’t go out unless necessary; don’t invite people around; observe social distancing; pay attention to what you touch, and clean your hands often; avoid touching, or clean before touching, surfaces that others will have recently touched, such as screens and door handles. 

But what can you do at home to possibly reduce your risks of developing severe symptoms?

Some suggestions and comments and links follow:

1. Drink hot liquids: coffee, soups, teas, warm water.  In addition a sip of warm water also keeps your mouth moist, and may wash some oral virus  into your stomach where the gastric juices will neutralise it. We all know this eases sore throats.

Comment from a trusted source: It is always good to keep hydrated. But being protected by drinking hot fluids and washing virus away is an internet myth, not a sure way to get rid of any virus in your throat or to protect you from getting the virus. 

2. Gargle with a safe mild antiseptic in warm water (vinegar or salt or lemon). [Give children breastmilk if you’re lactating.] This won’t prevent all infection of course, but dentists and grandmothers alike recommend such gargles  for mouth comfort and cleanliness.

3. The virus attaches itself to hair and clothes. Any detergent or soap kills it, but take a bath or a shower when you get in from the street –  avoid sitting down anywhere, and go straight to the bathroom. If you cannot wash your clothes daily, hang them in direct sunlight which also neutralises the virus,

Comment: The virus can absolutely survive on surfaces for some period of time so if you feel that virus may be on your clothes (someone sneezed all over you, eg), this is reasonable advice. Washing clothes will eliminate virus. However, hanging clothes in the sun to neutralize the virus requires direct exposure to UV-rays together with temperature (30°C or so) and thus hanging your clothes in the sun inside a window has little effect. 

4. Wash metallic surfaces carefully because the virus can remain viable on these for up to 9 days. Take note and be vigilant about touching handrails and door handles etc when out. Within your own house you can make sure that you are keeping those clean and wiping them down regularly.

Comment: Keeping surfaces clean is good advice, as indicated by the CDC (especially surfaces you touch often, such as door knobs and your fridge handle, but also your cell phone, key pad,  and personal items). Data just published indicate that the virus can survive in the air for about 3 hours, on cardboard for about 24 hours and on plastic or metal for around 72 hours. If you compare these number with what is know regarding the similar viruses SARS or MERS, the survival on metal surfaces may well be longer (up to nine days). However, the number of viable (=infectious) virus particles will decrease over time and even the risk of being infected depends on the initial “dose” of virus in the air or on the surface and the time. A small amount of virus on a surface may not be enough to infect anyone after 24 hours, even if a few virus particles survive for 9 days

5.  Don’t smoke. Always good advice for any respiratory disease as it inhibits your mucous flow and prevents cilia from doing their job and also decreases immunity.

6. Wash hands thoroughly using any soap that foams, and for 20 seconds, after being outside, and before eating or touching your eyes or working with anything that will go into anyone’s mouth or eyes. Washing with soap and water works better than hand sanitizers.

7. Eat fruits and vegetables; try to elevate your zinc levels not just Vit C.  Vitamin D levels might be important too, so get some sunshine if you can. A good overall diet based on a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables is never wrong and will keep your immune system in better shape. There is no real evidence that supplements help, and some, like zinc, can be toxic in excess, so check out any you take for safety levels.

8. Animals do not spread the Covid 19 virus to people, it is person-to-person transmission. However, a dog has tested positive, assumed to be infected by a human. Do not allow animals to lick your face, and wash your hands after handling them and before eating. Animals can carry disease to humans: after all, this virus is thought to have originated in a mutation from an animal.

9. Try to avoid getting any other respiratory virus, cold or flu and avoid eating and drinking cold foods; traditional Chinese medicine has always stressed this. Most Covid-19 infected people get only upper respiratory symptoms. 

10. If you feel any discomfort in your throat or a virus coming on, attack it immediately. The virus generally remains for three or four days within the throat before it passes into the lungs. Rest and look for symptoms such as fever and cough. Someone that gets lower respiratory symptoms may develop shortness of breath and fatigue as well as high fever, and should act according to the advice from local health authorities.

11. Take your temperature to learn your normal base levels, which an vary a bit over the day, while still well. This could be anywhere from 35-37 degrees Celsius. Do not worry about small temperature rises from your normal, they may simply indicate immune activation needed to combat a challenge, and occur more often than most people realise; they are often triggered by allergens. Learn to know your body and respect its power to respond to threats and stabilise with good food, water and rest as needed. 

12. Do not instantly use any drugs that claim to  reduce inflammation for hours,  unless you have a high fever, in which case you should seek medical advice. Shedding some clothing combined with evaporative cooling can lower body temperatures without depressing immune responses. A tepid shower or bath, or sponge bath may be enough to manage a fever down to tolerable levels. But monitor your progress – see next points.

13. Pay attention to possible Covid 19 diagnostic symptoms: fevers and dry cough and tiredness, or sudden changes in taste or smell. Some people experience nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, aches and pains. All these symptoms can be triggered by many things, so don’t assume it’s COVID-19, but get tested, especially if lungs are being affected and you are becoming short of breath. Mention if you have been recently in high risk areas like airports or regions where the virus is spreading. The UK National Health Service (NHS) identified the specific symptoms to look for as: 

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back 
  • a new continuous cough – you’ve started coughing repeatedly

14.  Always catch any cough in tissues or cloth [ if tissues are scarce, a single sheet makes lots of washable re-usable hankies] and then deal with these appropriately, and wash your hands. A scarf or vest or loose clothing can catch a cough, but needs to be washed and ironed later.  A scarf can also be used when opening doors etc. A simple reusable pleated mask can be made form a large handkerchief and two hair ties or similar loops. https://blog.japanesecreations.com/no-sew-face-mask-with-handkerchief-and-hair-tie

15. If possible, always nose breathe; try to find a way to prevent your mouth dropping open and mucosal surfaces drying when you sleep, to prevent a dry sore throat waking you. Saliva contains immune factors too.

16. If you are breastfeeding, continue to do so as normal. If you are infected, wash your hands often and cover your mouth and nose when in close contact with baby, to lower or prevent any infectious droplet dose if you cough. Breastmilk has been shown to protect against enveloped viruses (this is one), so you may well be immunizing your baby, though we don’t yet have proof of that  specific to Covid 19. Breastfeeding or feeding fresh (not heated) expressed milk is at present the only source of safe anti-viral factors for your baby. Changing your baby to formula will end the immune protections only you can provide, and may result in an unhappy stressed infant, more prone to ill health. The milk of healthy survivors is likely to be the only source of specific anti-viral factors until a vaccine is created. The survivor mother’s body is likely to have expanded the immune memory to be passed on to future children. Lactation is an active mammalian protective system, responding to pathogens in the gut and respiratory tree, causing sensitized cells to travel to the breast to make antibodies secreted into milk. But follow this issue via the ISRHML site below, and look for WHO advice. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

17. Try not to get paranoid about this or any infectious disease. Most people will have a mild case of COVID 19 and survive it. Some will not even know they have been exposed, as the dose was not high enough to cause problems, or their immune system dealt with it efficiently. From that exposure, and from the breastmilk of healthy survivors,  herd immunity will develop for the next generations. Take extra care if you are at high risk, and take every precaution to prevent yourself from infecting others who may be in the high risk group. But don’t think that this is a contagion so deadly that every exposure threatens your own life. Keep a sense of perspective and do whatever helps you stay calm, from yoga to meditation, singing to reading, chatting via screens, patting your pet – whatever. Life will go on, though seriously disrupted. Focus on what you can do, and on practical coping, not on the threat.

Links that deal with some of the issues raised:

World Health Organization on coronavirus 
General information from the European CDC:       https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china/questions-answers  
General information from the US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html  
Corona virus and breastfeeding, evidence-based resources: see the ISRHML website: https://www.isrhml.com/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3368
https://www.livescience.com/how-long-coronavirus-last-surfaces.html  (A link describing the survival on surfaces that was just published in New England Journal of Medicine)
https://globalnews.ca/news/6708708/food-myths-coronavirus/ (listing of some myths regarding hot liquids and vitamins etc)

This blog began with a voice recording of a Spanish nurse, supplied by Hanny Ghazi, and has changed with its input from others. It is basically sensible self-care advice. It is no guarantee of total protection, but it may reduce severity of any illness and make you feel more comfortable.  Knowing something you can do that might help is good for stress levels. 

Contact me with any suggestions to add to or subtract from this list.