I'm a Doctor and Here's How to Avoid COVID Right Now
As a doctor—and a human being—I was devastated to see that on November 19th, the US reported one million COVID-19 cases in the previous seven days. This was the highest number of cases in a week, since the pandemic began. At the same time, 80,000 Americans are currently in hospital with the virus, hospital services are overwhelmed, the death rate remains high, and 250,000 US citizens have died from the virus. Now, following Thanksgiving and as we approach Christmas, the authorities are worried about a surge in cases, and even a surge upon a surge.
It seems to me that if you haven't had COVID by now, you're doing pretty well! You probably know plenty of people who are either currently infected or have had it. What can you do to beat the surge? How can you be the one that never gets COVID? Are there any tips or tricks? Read on and find out, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Wear a Mask—Please!
Thirty-seven US states have now made mask-wearing mandatory. Can you guess why? Because they work.
I have to ask the question, why on earth is it so difficult for some people to accept wearing a mask? If you wear a mask, and you prevent just one case of COVID-19, surely this makes it worthwhile? Remember wearing a mask is more likely to stop you passing the virus to other people than it is to stop you from becoming infected yourself.
If 80% of American wore masks, numbers of COVID infections would plummet. This is the conclusion of a new computer-based study using a maksim simulator—a cleverly-designed computer program which allows specific details about the virus, viral transmission and masks, to be entered, and can forecast the likelihood of viral transmission.
If you want evidence that wearing masks prevents infections, look at Japan, for example, where mask-wearing has long been an accepted part of daily life. Despite life carrying on as normal during the pandemic, with restaurants, bars, and clubs open, and people continuing to travel using public transport, the death rate from the virus in Japan is less than 2% of that in the US.
One recent Brazilian study questioned 1,578 adults and found that those who refuse to follow infection control advice, including mask-wearing, are more likely to show traits of personality disorders—such as lack of empathy, callousness and deceitfulness. Does this sound like you? There's no excuse for the vast majority of the population—please wear a mask, and thank you.
Avoid Large Gatherings—No Weddings, Funerals, Parties, Christmas Events, or Indoor Sporting Events, Theatres, or Cinemas
You might think that if you go to a large gathering you will just keep yourself to yourself and be careful and all will be OK. But large gatherings increase risk of COVID transmission.
So why is this? What are the facts?
If 10 people are infected, and each then attends say a wedding of 100 people, that's potentially 1,000 people who could now be infected.
However, if those 10 infected people each attended smaller gatherings, say a wedding of only 10 people, this means potentially only 100 people might be infected.
For the nation, there will be less COVID infections if large gatherings are forbidden.
For you as an individual, attending a large gathering is high-risk because these are crowded, you cannot safely keep a good six-feet away from other people, if it is indoors there may be poor ventilation and air filtration, some people may not be wearing masks, plus you are having to share facilities including restrooms.
For now, you need to understand that attending large gatherings is high-risk. Most people who have the virus have no symptoms and are unaware they have it, yet are infectious and can easily pass it on. Different countries have different rules, but in the UK for example, a maximum of 15 people are allowed to attend a wedding. You need to know the risks and make the decision for yourself, but to stay safe—stay away from large gatherings.
Always Prepare and Plan Ahead
The days of grabbing a coat and heading out the front door are sadly over. Now, you need to make a positive decision each time you leave your own home.
Firstly, have you prepared your home? Take a look at the CDC checklist for the steps you can take to be prepared at home and stay safe. If you plan to head out, or travel, you can find a list of COVID restrictions in every state here.
Always wear your mask anywhere you can't safely stay six-feet from other people and keep washing your hands regularly. If you do decide to go out—perhaps to the supermarket, the gym, or a restaurant—look them up online first and check it is COVID-safe.
The vaccine is on its way—if you are patient now, you can resume these normal activities in a few months.
Learn to Say No if the Risk is Too High
Maybe you, like me, have found yourself in an awkward spot with friends right now. You, or they, may have planned an event which now you feel you cannot go ahead with or feel it is not wise or safe to attend. However, you don't want to cause any upset.
Things are extraordinary right now, so when these things happen, take a breath, and let it wash over you. We are all in different situations and each person has to do what's right for them. It's not worth losing friendships over this.
Don't Believe the Myths
There have been so many myths about COVID-19. Last night on the radio, a woman phoned in who doesn't believe in the virus at all. She thinks all the hype is just due to "toxins in your body." I was astounded.
Just to be crystal clear—the virus is alive and very real. You can see the COVID-19 virus through an electron microscope with its characteristic spike proteins. How can anyone refute solid scientific evidence? COVID-19 antigens and antibodies have been identified. Questioning the existence of the virus—after 64 million cases worldwide and nearly 1.5 million deaths—is an insult to the global scientific fraternity, and to those who have lost their lives.
Read all about debunking COVID-19 myths from the World Health Organisation.
Instead of wasting time beating about the bush, accept the facts. This is a serious, dangerous virus, at least three times as likely to kill you as the flu, and far more likely if you have risk factors, such being male, being older, being overweight, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or and come from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) background.
Follow the Science
Medical trials and scientific experiments have reported a lot of factual information about the COVID-19 virus. We now know a lot about how it is transmitted, and which treatments are effective. Scientists have achieved what was thought to be unachievable, and developed three COVID-19 vaccines, in record time. Science is fantastic and we are indebted to these brilliant scientists who have done such outstanding work.
However, scientific facts then need to be interpreted and used to create policies. That's where you and I come in. Once the experts have reviewed the data and interpreted it, they can make sensible guidelines and regulations to help keep us safe. It's up to you and me to respect the data, and the decision-making process, and comply. Surely, we should be working with scientists and politicians, and not rallying against them
I liked this quote: "Believing in things which cannot be falsified or testified—is religion," to quote Medpage today.
Ask yourself, if you were President, how would you handle this pandemic? Where would you go for answers? How would you advise the nation to ensure all your citizens stayed safe? There's only one answer – you would follow the science.
Keep Busy at Home
Life, as we knew it, has disappeared. Now, every day is the same and we are sitting in these four walls wondering what the future will bring.
Think back to when you worked frantically and longed to get home, crawl into bed, and stay there! Now you have the opportunity to do just that! So, make the most of being at home.
There is so much to do at home that just never gets done:
- Decluttering, DIY, and decorating, cooking, keep fit, and housework.
- Leisure time? Now we have bucket loads of it—time to read; maybe fiction, or poetry, or even non-fiction if that takes your fancy. Perhaps learn a new skill or take an online course.
- Get out in the garden—grow vegetables, or if you don't have a garden, create window boxes or an indoor garden.
- Listen to music, learn to relax, get enough sleep.
- Catch up with old friends. Be kind—try volunteering. Being kind is a real feel-good thing to do.
Stay Healthy—Look After Your Body, and Your Immune System
One of my friends has been following the Michael Mosely Fast 800 diet meal plan since August and has lost 56 pounds! He stuck to the diet rigidly and cycled every day on an indoor exercise bike. He knew he was an overweight, over-50, male, and as such in a high-risk category if he got COVID. Now, he will have greatly reduced his risk of serious infection.
It's up to each one of us to look at our risk factors for severe infection and do what we can to modify them. You hold your own destiny in your hand.
- Eat healthily. Try to eat less red meat and more chicken, fish, and pulses. Eat more fruit and vegetables – these are full of antioxidants which support your immune system. Get more fibre in your diet. Plan your meals. Drink more water. Reduce salt in your diet.
- Drink less alcohol. Alcohol sales have been booming in the pandemic. Try to cut down on your drinking. Limit yourself to only one or two drinks a day. Stay within you 14 units per week, and have a couple of alcohol-free days in between each day you drink
- Exercise more. Make sure you get 5 x 30 minutes moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be 3 x 10-minute bursts per day. This means exercise such as fast walking which makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty. You can do this at home, taking phone calls while walking around the house, or running up and down the stairs several times, for example.
- Lose weight. By eating healthily and exercising more you will lose weight. Aim to lose 5-10% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 100Kg aim to lose 5Kg (11 pounds). If you can lose 1 pound per week, this will take 11 weeks. Losing weight and keeping it off is one of the best things you can do for your health.
- Manage chronic diseases better. If you are diabetic for example, when did you last have a check-up? How good are your blood sugars? Is it time you asked for help? Diabetes is a risk factor for severe COVID, and you need to be managing this the very best you can. There is help out there. Don't delay.
Take Action—Prevention is Better Than the Cure
Fortify your body by taking the following steps:
Take Some Vitamin D — Since the start of the pandemic, low levels of vitamin D have been noted in association with severe COVID infection. A recently published study (27th October 2020) reported that 82.2% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 infection had Vitamin D deficiency (defined as serum 25OHD levels <20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L). The study also found men to have lower levels of vitamin D than women, and that low levels of vitamin D were associated with raised inflammatory markers – such as raised ferritin and D-dimer levels.
The authors recommended that people at high risk should have vitamin D supplementation – this would include the elderly, and people with risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
Vitamin D deficiency is more common in the winter months when the days are shorter. Vitamin D plays a vital role in the immune response. The UK Government currently recommends everyone should be taking 10 mcg (400IU) of vitamin D, although this dose has recently been challenged, and higher-risk individuals may requite 10 times this amount at 10,000 IU per day.
Get Your Flu Shot
Even if you have never had a flu shot before, this is the year to have one. Why should this be? Because:
- Influenza is also a dangerous virus, we are now entering the flu season, and the last thing you want to do is find yourself infected with COVID and flu at the same time.
- By having the flu vaccine, you are stimulating your immune system, and keeping your immune system alert and ready for action.
- Having a flu shot helps avoid a flu pandemic
- If not enough people have a flu shot, medical services will be overwhelmed.
- The flu shot is safe, effective and takes 12=14 days to be effective. Don't delay – have yours today. To find out all about the flu vaccine click here.
Get the COVID Vaccine
As I write this, no COVID vaccine has yet been approved in the United States, However, the MHRA has approved the Pfizer mRNA vaccine for use in the UK.
I would like to say that as a doctor, and having lived through this pandemic like everyone else and seen the devastation it has caused, I will be first in the queue to have it, along with my husband who has cancer.
I read that only 21% of Americans plan to be vaccinated – this is very sad news indeed. The most common reason for not having it, is concern over side effects. I can say with absolute certainty that if you have a COVID infection, this will be far riskier than having the vaccination.
Side effects reported from the use of the COVID vaccine in clinical trials are mild and serious side effects are very uncommon.
Final Thoughts from the Doctor
One thing in life is sure: What goes up, must come down! We will get through this pandemic, but how amazing it will be to see a surge down, instead of the unstoppable surge up – happening just now.
The virus cannot jump up and infect other people by itself. It needs humans to provide the vector for transmission. As a species, we just have to be cleverer than the virus.Take heed of all the points in this post and stay safe. If you haven't been infected so far, you must be doing something right! But get informed, stay up to date, and follow the science, and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Dr. Deborah Lee is a writer for Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.