There’s a lot of disinformation, incorrect information and just plain silliness out there. Let’s ask and answer some of your questions about how best to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting sick.
What can I do to reduce the chances that I will get COVID-19?
Stay healthy! That means getting enough rest, eating properly and exercising. Do not exercise to exhaustion. Do follow your normal exercise routine. Get outdoors and take a walk. Maintain social distancing. Do not get closer than six feet, except for the people you are already living with.
Don’t babysit the grandchildren unless they’re prepared to stay with you for 14 days (the incubation period of the virus). Don’t invite someone over for supper. Do phone or video-conference to stay in touch and remove some of the negative effects of not being in contact with friends and family.
We’re lucky that we have so many options to stay in touch without having to be physically close. Do wash your hands often.
I’m often asked if packages, parcels, mail etc. can carry the virus.
They might, but if you wash your hands after handling the package the risk is gone. Similarly for your clothes. If you’ve been out on the bus or the subway or you work in an environment where you are dealing with others — for example as a cashier — then, when you come home take off your outside clothes, wash your hands and put on something fresh.
Wash your clothes using a washer with hot water (80 degrees Fahrenheit or the hottest temperature that the clothes can be safely washed in). Use a detergent with bleach in it if it’s safe for the fabric. Otherwise use your regular detergent. Similarly, use the dryer if it’s safe for the clothing. All these measures will reduce the risk that any virus on your clothes survive.
If you use a commercial laundromat don’t worry. There is less risk from using a communal washer/dryer than there is from the loss of social distancing. So maintain that distance and wash your hands after loading and setting the washer and the dryer and before you remove your clothes from the machines.
Are there any foods, supplements, etc. that kill the virus?
There are none. If you want to use ginger, garlic or gargle with vinegar, you can but there is absolutely no evidence that any food, supplement, herb or essential oil works on this virus at all.
The most important things that work and will protect you are isolation, hand washing and social distancing. If you’ve travelled, stay at home for 14 days. Don’t go out to shop or fill a prescription. Have what you need delivered. Stay at least six feet from people. If you wear gloves to protect your hands from picking up the virus, change them when you go from one task to another and wash your hands immediately when you take them off. That’s what I do in the emergency room. I glove up, mask and gown before I see a patient. When I finish I take them off and wash my hands before I go on to the next patient or my next task.
Following these guidelines we have the best possible chance of limiting the spread of this virus and keeping everyone safe. We have it within our power to stop or at least slow the virus’ spread within our communities. I know it’s not easy not to be with people, to self isolate for 14 days and to remember to wash your hands as often as is required, but when you consider what’s happened in China and how the situation is developing in Spain and Italy it helps to put this all into perspective.
Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong — in spite of early and significant exposure — were all able to contain the virus without large numbers of people getting sick and even more importantly dying. They did it this way. If they did it, so can we
Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.