There’s a lot of information and speculation going around concerning the coronavirus or COVID-19, as it is known. As a retired registered professional nurse, it is a topic that I have not written about because the information is changing at a rapid rate. The supposed authority where the information is normally disseminated, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), is eerily silent except for information provided on the website.
At this time, we know the US government has taken a more reactive response than a proactive one, meaning individuals who have contracted the disease but not yet exhibited symptoms could be going about their lives as normal not realizing they have the disease. Likewise, with the limited testing the US has engaged, it is not necessarily prudent to think because it isn’t in your state or community that it hasn’t spread there. And, with a few cases being reported now in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina, to name a few, one has to consider who those individuals have come in contact with and who those that contacted the sick or exposed individuals are coming into contact. It creates an exponential factor for transmission.
Also, take into consideration there are Americans returning from pleasure trips overseas to some of the countries experiencing infections that have traveled by ship or plane, then could have used some type of public transportation in the US, made trips to the grocery store and other retailers. Could they have been exposed? That’s unknown. But, remember, individuals are normally contagious before exhibiting the symptoms of a virus. Incubation periods have been indicated at around 14 -21 days – the amount of time the virus is in the body before exhibiting symptoms.
Now, what do or should you do to help protect yourself? There are plenty of unknown variables as we have seen. Therefore, one needs to be proactive, not reactive, particularly if you are at high risk or have family members who are at high risk.
Make sure you have adequate tissue to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue afterward without touching the surface on which you coughed or sneezed. Handkerchiefs are notorious breeding grounds for bacteria. You can cover with a sleeve, just be sure to wash and dry the item afterward. Don’t touch your face with hands that have not been thoroughly washed. Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, handling dirty clothes, and other items with warm soapy water, lathering for at least 20 seconds, making sure to wash all surfaces, under the fingernails and at the nail bed including the wrists. Dry your hands thoroughly. Change out hand towels and towels used for wiping hands regularly.
Other disinfectants – Chlorine bleach, Hydrogen Peroxide – careful, it kills good tissue as well as bad tissue and bacteria, betadine iodine.
To make a chlorine bleach disinfecting solution, you mix one part of chlorine bleach to nine parts of water. This would equate to ¼ cup of bleach to 2 ¼ cups of water. You can then place in a spray bottle for the disinfecting spray. When mixing, be sure the area is well ventilated and wear old clothes to prevent discoloration should you spill any. It is advisable to pour the bleach in first. This can be used to spray countertops, faucets and handles, toilets and toilet seat and shower and bathtub. If being used in food preparation areas, be sure to rinse the solution from the surface after letting the spray sit 10 minutes.
Do not mix ammonia with any chlorine bleach or product that contains chlorine bleach. The combination produces toxic fumes.
Consider an area in your home to leave your shoes. The soles are dirty and can be vectors for disease that could spread it into the home. The tops could be contaminated as well.
When out in public, keep hand sanitizer handy and use it often. If you cannot get hand sanitizer, the bottled alcohol on a paper towel will work as well. Stop shaking hands. And stop with the kissing on each cheek. Keep a good distance from others. Avoid touching your face with your hands while in public. Avoid hugging.
Disinfect items used often – cell phones, computer keyboards, computer mouse, steering wheels, door knobs, etc. You don’t have to purchase alcohol wipes. You can keep regular 70% -90% bottled alcohol on hand, apply it to a paper towel then wipe down the items. Alcohol evaporates rapidly so should not hurt your electronics. You should rub the surface using a bit of elbow grease. Disinfectant sprays work on a multitude of surfaces, but don’t spray on electronics.
Avoid crowds as much as possible. Then keep a good distance, about 6 feet, from others, if you have to be in a crowd. Limit your activities accordingly – skip that concert, festival, airplane trip, bus or train trip and definitely avoid overseas travel. Do not travel by airplane, bus or train. These methods of transportation place people in close proximity in enclosed spaces. Use your personal vehicle.
Be mindful of family members and other who are at high risk – weak immune systems, heart problems, respiratory diseases such as COPD, asthma, etc., diabetes, kidney problems, etc. High risk individuals should limit their outings. Individuals with high risk family members should be ready to assist them if they become ill. Practice good handwashing and hygiene before coming in contact with high risk individuals.
Ultraviolet light is known to kill the coronavirus so items exposed to sunlight for a about 30 minutes to one hour should eradicate the virus if any is on the object. Objects may need to be rotated to expose all surfaces.
Heat is another good bacteria and virus killer. Dishcloths and sponges used in the kitchen, as well as washcloths, can be placed in the microwave for 60 secs on high to kill the bugs. Likewise, placing items in the dryer on high heat will kill germs but you have to wash the items first. On high heat, drying items at least 28 minutes should do the trick. Also, you can hang clothes to dry in the sun – it kills germs remember – 30 minutes on each side if the clothes are dry is enough to kill the pathogens. The sun can also fade clothes so be aware of that. And, be sure to run a wash cycle using bleach after washing clothes to disinfect the washing machine. Don’t use fabric softener as it can coat the clothes trapping germs.
Lots of clothing items these days cannot take a lot of heat or high washing temperatures because the items will be damaged. Plus, most home water heaters are not set high enough to kill all pathogens or dust mites. In this case, using an additive to sanitize your laundry works well. One cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle will kill bacteria. I tend to avoid hydrogen peroxide because it can bleach out certain fabrics. OxiClean is a good sanitizer because it relies on oxygen to sanitize. Borax added to your regular detergent will provide sanitizing benefits as well. If you do not have cats, one cup of a pine oil product in the wash works (the higher concentration of pine oil, the better). Always test a small amount on inconspicuous areas of clothing to make sure no harm will come to the fabric. There is also Lysol Laundry Sanitizer for the wash but it can get a bit pricey. Most of these products you should already have in the home. If not, they are readily available. There are some essential oils that can kill pathogens, but those are not always readily available or affordable for some.
Keep in mind that just because the appropriate amount of laundry detergent is good doesn’t mean more is better. The excess detergent can actually trap pathogens since that excess creates a film on the clothing.
Be sure to have adequate food, medication, and other supplies, particularly for your pets. Make sure you have adequate amounts of first aid supplies – antifebriles, antibiotic ointment, bandaids, cough medication, antihistamines, etc. If you are on city water, you can use a filter to remove the particulates suspended in it if it becomes necessary. You can also fill plastic bottles with water and set them in the sun for six hours to “sanitize” the water. Individuals using their own private water source in the form of a well should not have to do anything extra. However, our household does filter the water to remove particulates.
If you need to disinfect your drinking water, you can add 1/8 teaspoon of chlorine bleach (unscented) to one gallon of water. Let it sit for 30 minutes before drinking. If you have a filter, you can pour the disinfected water through the filter to remove the chlorine molecules. Be sure to disinfect the container before filling with water using 1 teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water, shake well making sure to coat all sides, then let stand for 30 seconds. Pour out solution and let air dry.
Consider using pick up services or home delivery for as many things as possible – pet food, medications through mail order, groceries. It will help reduce your exposure to crowds. You can also use drive through pharmacy services. Make sure you use hand sanitizer afterward, disinfect the steering wheel and other surfaces in the car that can be touched, and wash your hands when you get home. Do not touch your face until after you wash your hands.
If you do not have storable food supplies, such as MREs, you can find sources online to get those. However, these food supply entities are experiencing a high volume of orders. Some sites indicate an 8-10 week delay in shipping from the date you place your order. It is indicated on one site that only 10% of orders will ship in 1-2 days and everything is on a first come, first serve basis. Get in line now if you want or need storable food.
It is possible that supply lines could be disrupted so be sure to prepare for that. Keep a full tank of gas and get some cash from the bank to have on hand. Be prepared to stay home if you are sick. And, high risk individuals should stay home as much as possible. If it is announced there is a case of coronavirus in your community, be prepared to shelter in place for extended periods of time, particularly if you reside with a high-risk individual.
Boost your immune system naturally through black elderberry, mega doses of Vitamin C – it’s water soluble so it is safe to take mega doses, Vitamin D – only within the recommended doses because it is not water soluble and can build up in the system, and eat a variety of foods and protein sources to get all the nutrients needed. If you choose, you can also take a multi-vitamin. However, before taking any type of supplement, check with your physician first to make sure it is not going to interact with anything you are already taking.
Mainly, don’t panic. Be prudent and mindful. Remember, not everyone is going to do any of these things taking the mindset that it’s okay because it’s not in their neighborhood. You don’t know where everyone in your town or county has been, who they have come in contact or who their contacts have been in contact. Moreover, as supply chains are still in operation, you have no idea where anything has been or who has come in contact with it.
Being that this time of year is in the middle of cold and flu season, plus there are numerous individuals who have allergies (me included), not everyone who coughs, sneezes, or blows their nose has coronavirus. Treat this time of year as you do when avoiding cold and flu viruses.
The question about gloves and masks always follows. If you are going to wear a mask, it has to be at least an N95 type respirator that has to have a solid seal around the nose, face and chin. Remember, the mask gets contaminated on the outside so if you touch the outside of the mask, use hand sanitizer and/or wash your hands. Being that masks can be hot, uncomfortable, claustrophobic for some, and inhibit some air exchange, I would reserve those for more extreme circumstances.
People get careless sometimes wearing gloves. Gloves are clean when you put them on, but the minute you start touching everything, those gloves pick up the various “dirty” things on objects. If you wear gloves out, say in the store, you should remove them without touching the outside, and discard them in the trash before getting into your vehicle. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands. Disinfect interior car surfaces.
If you do get sick, the body’s natural defenses will activate. Fevers are beneficial, but, don’t let the fever get too high. At temperatures of 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, the body is doing its work. Plenty of rest and fluids, keeping warm, and eating if hungry will help the body work. If the fever gets above that, antifebrile medication, tepid baths, and a phone call to the doctor is warranted. You can take cough medicines that help to loosen those secretions to cough those up, if you have a cough. Spit into a tissue and discard without touching the surface containing the secretions. Decongestants are good to clear stuffy noses. If you have high blood pressure or another condition that limits decongestant use, check with your physician first. Always make sure that over-the-counter medications are not going to interact unfavorably with any current medications you are taking. Limit contact with others.
When discussing these measures, this is geared toward adults. If you have children, seek the advice of your pediatrician.
Let me say that by no means is this all-inclusive or meant as any type of instruction. It’s prudent measures we should take to be proactive in staying ahead of the curve with this virus. Also, don’t forget to clean your house regularly. Our grandmothers were right when they told us to let in the sun because of its sanitizing effects. So, open those blinds and curtains. None of this means you won’t get ill, but it does provide you with means to help limit your chances. As always, have plenty of ammo on hand for home and self-defense needs.
If you would like to keep abreast of what is happening with coronavirus (countries affected, number of cases, number of deaths, etc.), check out Dr. John Campbell on YouTube. He is creating daily content on the virus.
As this coronavirus progresses through the US, any of these measures could need to be altered. Updates will be forthcoming should things change but it will depend on the area of the country that you reside, number of people infected, etc. that will determine your prevention needs. As it stands, these are prudent proactive measures for all to take at this time.
There is a phone app called “PlushCare” that individuals can use to contact a US medical doctor for primary care if needed to get medicine such as antibiotics, antivirals should one find oneself limited in the ability to leave home to visit their own physician.
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