Update: This post was originally written on March 6th. This is a fluid situation with new recommendations and warnings coming frequently. Never rely on a blog post or social media for vital health information. Keep up with the latest accurate information via WHO or CDC websites. I have edited this post to reflect my current understanding of the situation on March 16th. But again, this is strictly my interpretation of the situation as of this time.
Unless you are living under a rock you are no doubt aware that the coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing widespread concern. The World Health Organization has stopped short of declaring it an official pandemic but that could still be a possibility. Update: It is now officially declared a pandemic.
As more cases of coronavirus pop up around the world people are understandably worried. I don’t watch television news and have been limiting my online news intake during Lent. When my mom mentioned something about not being able to get masks I was doubtful. I pulled up my Amazon account and was stunned to see that the prices had skyrocketed to the point that they might as well not be available.
I’ve since started paying a bit more attention and have discovered that people are stocking up on certain supplies to the extent that store shelves are being cleared out. People are starting to panic and that is never a helpful response.
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So what IS a reasonable response?
Should we be paying exorbitant prices for masks? Do we need months worth of freeze dried buckets of food? Do we cancel vacation plans…keep our kids home from school…move to a cabin in a remote, wooded area?
First of all, we need to take a deep breath (but not next to someone who is coughing). Spend a bit of time reading about how the virus is transmitted, the symptoms and who is most at risk. Then assess your own and your family’s situation in light of these facts.
My dad is 82 years old with multiple health problems. He is at high risk for serious complications so it is reasonable for him to avoid public places for the time being.
On the other hand, my 36 year old son is healthy and it wouldn’t make sense for him to go hide away from the world. Update: The situation has evolved and now everyone is being asked to exercise social distancing. We are all being encouraged to limit exposure, telecommute if possible, avoid travel, etc. Keep an eye on the CDC website for up-to-date information and recommendations.
I have asthma, hypertension and an autoimmune disease, as well as being in my late 50s. My risk of complications with the coronavirus is higher so I’m exercising more caution.
What about stocking up?
Honestly, I’ve long felt it wise to keep a minimum of two weeks worth of food and other essentials on hand at all times. There are any number of reasons why this is a good idea, aside from current concerns about the coronavirus.
FEMA recommends maintaining a two-week supply of food and water. Here are their recommendations, along with helpful storage tips, cooking tips, and other emergency supplies recommendations:
Note: There is no reason to stock water specifically for coronavirus; that’s just a general recommendation for the possibility of natural disasters. For this current situation your money is better spent elsewhere.
Here is some good information on stocking up:
What about masks?
Leave the masks to medical personnel and first responders. Here is why:
So what SHOULD I do?
- Wash your hands. Seriously, this it the most important thing you can do. Wash very thoroughly with soap and water, paying special attention to finger tips. Do this before eating or handling food. After using the restroom. After being in public places or around anyone who shows signs of illness. And then wash them a few more times a day just for good measure. When you don’t have access to soap and hot water, use alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain your distance. Pretend you are from a country with a large personal space requirement and keep extra distance from others when in public. Six feet is the recommendation.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These are entry points for viruses you might have picked up on your hands.
- Cover your mouth/nose when you cough/sneeze. Your mother likely told you this countless times as you were growing up and you should listen to your mother. But there is a correct way to do so. Please don’t cough into your hand and then want to shake mine. Cough or sneeze into your bent elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, promptly throw it in the trash and thoroughly wash your hands.
- If you don’t feel well, stay home. If you develop a cough, fever AND difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Call ahead first so they can be prepared to help you minimize exposing others, as well as making sure you are directed to the proper facility to treat you.
Update: We are now being officially asked to exercise social distancing here in the United States. Here is what that means…
What am I personally doing?
I went to the store yesterday and did what I jokingly referred to as my “Coronavirus Shopping”. What did I purchase?
Well, part of the haul looked like my grandma’s usual groceries – Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers and grape juice. The soup and crackers are for an easy to prepare and easy to digest meal. It’s not a bad idea to keep these on hand during any cold and flu season.
As for the grape juice, there is some evidence that it has antiviral properties but even if it’s not significant, it does have a good amount of vitamin C.
Speaking of vitamin C, I also bought a couple of cans of frozen orange juice and a bag of mandarin oranges.
I bought a 12 pack of ginger ale, helpful in the case of upset stomachs.
I bought a bottle of bleach, one of rubbing alcohol and another of hydrogen peroxide. I already had two large bottles of vinegar. All of these liquids can be used in various ways to kill germs. It’s important to know how to use them properly, however.
I’ll be gradually adding a few other things such as extra boxes of tissues, pain relievers, and even a couple of rolls of paper towels, something I don’t usually use. However, if someone in our household becomes seriously ill I may choose to use paper towels to dry hands.
It’s also wise to have extra prescription medications on hand. I’m going to ask my doctor if he can write a prescription for my asthma medication in such a way that I can refill it when I have two weeks left rather than just a couple of days.
What about vitamins, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies and the like?
Keep in mind that I am not a doctor and nothing I share here is intended to be taken as medical advice. Always do your own research and check with your own doctor.
But having said that, here are a few things that I believe may help boost the immune system.
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
When taken as directed these supplements are generally safe but again, check with your own doctor, especially if you have any chronic illnesses or take prescription medications. When in doubt, just try including foods high in these nutrients in your diet. For most people, adding fresh oranges, some quality yogurt, fatty cold water fish, legumes and shellfish to your regular diet is a perfectly safe way to increase your intake of these nutrients.
And do as your mother told you – eat your fruits and vegetables.
Note: While elderberry supplements may be helpful for colds there is some emerging evidence that it may contribute to cytokine storm, a serious complication of COVID-19.
Get plenty of sleep and reduce stress.
Lack of quality sleep and/or high stress levels have an adverse effect on our immune systems. I’m making an effort to go to bed earlier and when I’ve had a poor night’s sleep I am allowing myself to go back to sleep for a little longer in the morning. I’m lucky that I don’t work outside the home so I can do this but do your best to get adequate sleep.
I’m also trying to meditate daily and taking other steps to control my stress levels.
In other words, I’m taking the advice of health professionals, making reasonable preparations and then doing my best not to freak out. I urge you to do likewise.
For more information on Coronavirus I believe it is essential to seek out reliable sources rather than relying on those who may not know what they are talking about. I recommend:
For a more personal look at the situation this article is excellent. My brother is a doctor and I sent him the article, asking what his thoughts were. He said he agreed 100%.
I enjoyed this blog post for its calming focus on the home:
I like Deepak Chopra’s balanced view and the focus on the body, mind and spirit as a whole.
Finally, this video includes my favorite substitute for shaking hands or hugging:
If you keep a stock of food and other emergency supplies it’s important to know what you have on hand and to rotate food stocks so they remain fresh. This can get a little complicated without a good system. The Seed to Pantry School is currently offering a $5 discount on their Preparedness Planner and Record Keeper.
The coupon code (to take $5 off): FOODSTORAGENOW
The price after discount is $19.97.
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*The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content on this site is for informational purposes only. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this web site with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.