A Doctor’s Tips for Staying Safe from COVID-19
Living in the US, we usually have enough medical care to go around. The novel coronavirus is changing that for the time being—and doing your part to “flatten the curve” of transmissions is critical to all those working on the front lines of this pandemic. As a doctor, I want to offer the following pieces of advice.
Note that this list is not intended to be complete. You should follow your own physician’s advice as well as common best practices such as those detailed here.
1. Avoid exposure
While thorough hand washing is important to removing COVID germs you might have encountered touching surfaces, according to the CDC, person-to-person exposure is by far the way most people have been infected with COVID-19. It is also known that people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease. Given these two facts, the best way to significantly reduce your risk of contracting coronavirus is to limit direct contact with others.
By not going to the pharmacy, grocery store, hardware store, etc., you can greatly decrease your risk of encountering the virus. Secondly, you should avoid having people enter your home. Here are some ideas for getting what you need while avoiding exposure:
- Get groceries and food delivered. Food delivery will help you maintain social distance. While you should still follow best practices, no COVID cases have been connected with food or food packaging to date. For groceries, you can get delivery via Instacart or Amazon—or you might also ask a friend or family member to shop for you. If you would like fully prepared meals delivered, place an order through a local restaurant delivery service such as Takeout Central or Kickback AVL. (Many favorite local restaurants are still offering meals via delivery.) Whatever options you choose, avoid a direct hand off: request that they drop the food off outside the home. You can bring your items in after the delivery person has left.
- Get medications via the drive-through at your pharmacy. If your favorite pharmacy does not have a drive-through, call and ask about options for a touch-free hand off. You may also be able to get a 90 day supply of your medicine to avoid extra trips.
- Socialize only via technology—or in the outdoors, following the 6-foot rule. From online Bridge groups to Skype or FaceTime with the family (you can even play games), find ways to interact with your friends and loved ones online. If you prefer socializing without screens, catch up with neighbors outdoors. It’s easier to keep a safe social distance of 6+ feet, plus you’ll get a dose of fresh air.
2. Keep in touch with your physicians
While online advice can be helpful, you need to make decisions with the input of your primary care provider and any other medical specialists involved in your care, especially if you have ongoing health conditions. Many doctors have set up telemedicine so you can benefit from their advice without exposing yourself to COVID-19. If you haven’t yet gotten in touch with your doctor(s), make a point of touching base.
3. Boost your immune system
Shoring up your own defenses is an especially good idea right now. Your immune system is complex and body-wide, so boosting immunity is synonymous with good health. Here are the primary things you can do every day:
- Exercise daily. Exercise “is an immune system adjuvant that improves defense activity and metabolic health.” North Carolina’s current stay at home order allows for socially distanced exercise outside. Another option are workout videos; Asheville Community Yoga has pre-recorded yoga classes for all skill levels, and YouTube has everything from vintage workouts to Tai Chi.
- Eat your greens and plenty of healthy food. While supplements are popular, your overall diet has a larger impact on your health. Plus, healthy food offers additional benefits for your system beyond its specific vitamin profile. Brighten up your meals with immune-boosting superfoods such as salad greens, berries, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, or almonds.
- Limit alcohol consumption. It has long been known that alcohol can increase susceptibility to pneumonia and, given COVID-19 kills via lung infection, it’s important to watch the amount you consume. Substitute other festive and flavorful drinks instead. Try a spritzer of sparkling water with a splash of juice or mix up a fun mocktail (here are 40 recipe ideas from Town & Country). Many well-known beer brands also have non-alcoholic versions.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep has a strong regulatory influence on immune functions. If you are having trouble, Harvard Health has a list of great ideas to help you sleep more soundly.
4. Find ways to contribute to the community
Many of us enjoy spending a portion of our time giving back to the community or have newfound time on our hands. However, given the need to limit the spread of coronavirus, you may have to get creative. Here are some ideas:
- Make face masks for others. There are numerous YouTube tutorials available for correctly making masks. Here’s a video that shows how to use air filter material to make your own mask; if your materials are more limited, consider this paper towel-based option. If you have fabric and quilt materials and can sew, try this tutorial.
- Buy then share gift cards for local restaurants and businesses. You’ll be helping a small business owner and staff get through this time by buying a gift card. Then, by passing it on to people in need such as furloughed hospitality workers, you’ll double the amount of good. Some businesses offer digital options, but others can mail cards. This spreadsheet of Asheville restaurants with contact info is updated frequently.
- Safely help out a neighbor. One idea is to help with yard or garden work. Whether it’s pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, or planting some seeds in a pot for their family to enjoy, gardening is a wonderful way to bring joy to others.
- Foster a pet. If you’re feeling in need of companionship, fostering a pet during this time is a great way to help! Contact one of our local organizations, such as the Asheville Humane Society, Blue Ridge Humane Society, Mountain Pet Rescue, Furever Friends Animal Rescue, or the TAAG (Transylvania Animal Alliance Group), to learn more.
I hope this list of ideas proves helpful as we all stay at home for the time being. My team and I wish you all the best and we look forward to seeing you at the practice when things return to normal!