Taking care of yourself during COVID-19 pandemic

This post gives details about how women can protect themselves, their families, and children against corona virus disease (COVID-19) during lockdown in India.

What is Corona Virus?

Corona Virus or novel corona virus is the term that is being used to refer to the particular infectious disease (COVID-19). This name was given World Health Organization (WHO) on February 11th, 2020. This disease is caused by the virus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which belongs to a family of infectious positive single stranded RNA viruses which are classified under Nidovirales order. These are responsible for illnesses ranging from common cold to much more severe forms of illnesses. The virus has a crown like structure, and thus the name corona.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic  in 2020.

So what are the stages of a pandemic?

Stage 1:

When the disease is brought into a country from a country of the disease’s origin (in the case of COVID-19 this was Wuhan in China).

Stage 2:

When the disease starts getting transmitted locally from identifiable sources (sources being patients who have been infected by the disease). India is currently in this stage of COVID-19 outbreak.

Stage 3:

This is the dreaded stage when community transmission starts. In this stage the source of transmission cannot be identified, and the disease spreads in a much rapid pace after that. Indian central and state governments are trying to take all possible measures to prevent COVID-19 outbreak from going into the third stage in India.

Stage 4:

In the phase the disease reaches epidemic proportions with no end-date in sight. It can resurface anytime of the year.

History of COVID-19

Previously Coronavirus infection was found in animals. But in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in Hubei province of China, the first cluster of patients displaying severe respiratory symptoms was found.

This disease, which caused pneumonia by affecting the lower respiratory tract of a person, spread to other people, and caused thousands of deaths in Wuhan alone. The disease  then spread to other countries and has now been declared as a global public health emergency.

Transmission of COVID-19

The Reproduction Number (RO) or the average number of people who can be infected by a person infected with COVID-19 is around 2-3 currently. So imagine, 1 person infects 2-3, each again can infect 2-3, and the graph spikes up in an exponential growth pattern without even realizing.

Let us take Italy for example. In Italy there were 3 cases in 15th Feb,2020. This shot up to 69,176 on March 24th,2020. The government of Italy had tried to take all possible measures to stop the spread of the disease, but by then it was too late.

India has a population of 1.3 billion people. The Government of India had announced a nationwide lockdown as only drastic measures can flatten the curve and prevent the infected count from spiking in India as it did in Italy.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently transmitted through person to person contact, through respiratory droplets, or contact with an infected person or infected surface. The virus attaches to the host’s cell through the spikes on its structure.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A person infected with COVID-19 might not show symptoms till about 14 days of exposure. The average time for symptoms to show is 5-9 days.

When symptoms start showing it can be

  • dry cough,
  • fever,
  • fatigue,
  • shortness of breath,
  • sore throat,
  • headache,
  • pains
  • diarrhea.
  • nasal congestion,
  • sneezing,
  • or runny nose

In severe cases the patient can suffer from pneumonia, decreased white blood cell count, lung inflammation and congestion, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and damage to the cardiovascular system.

The disease can turn serious for 1 out of 6 people, especially for senior citizen, pregnant women, and people with history of other medical illnesses like heart disease, cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s Disease, Diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) patients suffering from COVID-19 can be classified into mild, moderate, severe and critical based on intensity of symptoms.

Differentiating between flu, allergy and coronavirus

In spite of having similar symptom pattern there are few minor differences in the symptoms of flu, allergy, or corona virus.

The hallmark symptoms of corona virus are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Sneezing and runny nose are very rare in Corona virus infection, but is common in flu or common cold. Corona virus generally presents with fever, which might not be present in allergies, in spite of having shortness of breath.

Vaccine and Medication

Unfortunately no vaccine has yet been discovered for COVID-19. Research is being conducted on around 20 different vaccines. One such research group has skipped animal trial and has moved on to human trial directly to save time. Different researches are coming up with the finding that the virus is mutating very fast which is making the process of creation of vaccines more difficult.

A post is doing the rounds in social-media where COVID-19 testing kit is presented as vaccine for the disease. Do not believe such false reports.

How to protect yourself from COVID-19?

Since COVID-19 is passed on through respiratory droplets and person to person contact there are certain measures one can take to protect oneself from infection.

Social Distancing

Practice social distancing by not going out of home until and unless there is an emergency.

Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.

Precautions For Going Out

If you have to step out wear full sleeved dresses, tie your hair, use a cap to cover your hair, do not use jewellery, makeup or cream.

If you have a cold, or are going to places which are slightly more crowded use a proper mask (N95 mask being the ideal choice). Replace or disinfect the mask every 6 hours.

Avoid public transport.

Don’t touch anything with bare hands. Use a tissue to cover your fingers if you have to touch anything. Crush the tissue and place it in a bag before disposing it.

Avoid touching cash.

Do not touch your face. If you have to cough or sneeze do that in the crook of your elbow.

Disinfecting Self After Coming Back

After coming back home directly go to the washroom. Keep your bag, keys and other things in a safe place on your way in. Undress completely and soak the clothes in hot soapy water. Take bath in hot water with soap, your hair as well. If you can’t take bath then wash exposed parts with soap and water.

Disinfect places you touched while entering your home with soap water or sanitizer having at least 70% alcohol.

Pet Care

If you take your pets out for a walk ensure that they don’t brush against any object. Sanitize their paws after return and give them a bath with soap water.

Caring For Self And Others At Home

Wash your hands multiple times a day with soap water or use sanitizer with 70% alcohol.

Do not handle any packages brought from outside (bread or milk packets, e-commerce delivery packets, etc.) without first disinfecting them.

Child Care

Teach children the basic rules of hygiene that they need to practice.

Children can understand that there is some sort of emergency going on. It is very important that you stay calm. Spend time with your children and reassure them that if safety measures are followed then all can remain safe from Corona Virus.

Getting Updates From News And Social Media

Get only necessary information. Do not panic or overburden yourself with barrage of information flowing in through social media or word of mouth. Follow government guidelines. Also, do not post or share anything about COVID-19, or incidences of cases without first verifying it as spreading fake news that spreads panic is a punishable crime.

Caring For Family Member Diagnosed With COVID-19 At Home

If you have a family member diagnosed with COVID-19 at home designate a separate area for him/her. Do not go within 6 feet of that person, that too go with mask on. Ask the person to wear a mask, and not to touch anything outside of the designated area. The person must remain in isolation and the rest of family members must be quarantined to see if they show symptoms. Inform the local COVID-19 helpline.

In Case Of Pregnancy Or During Menstruation

If you are pregnant or on your periods the same rules apply to you.

Myths and Facts

Children can not catch Corona Virus

Coronavirus has been diagnosed in many children throughout the world. However, their symptoms seem to be milder than that of the elderly.

Bring infected with Corona Virus means sure death

In about 80% of cases diagnosed with COVID-19 the symptoms remain mild. People who have a pre-existing health condition are more prone to develop severe symptoms. Mortality rate for the disease is about 2-4%.

Pets like cats and dogs can transmit Corona Virus

There is not evidence which shows that dogs and cat can transmit the virus to another person.

Corona virus will disappear in hot weather

Incidences of COVID-19 are being reported throughout the world. This shows that the prevalence rate of the disease does not depend on climate.

Wearing a face-mask can protect you from the disease

Cloth or disposable masks do not provide protection from COVID-19. In fact wearing a mask can lead to increased levels of face touching. Replace specialized masks every 6 hours as the moisture from their breath can make the mask a magnet for viruses.

Drinking hot water, gargling with bleach, consumption of alcohol kills the virus

The common myth circulating in social media is that the virus SARS-CoV-2 remains in the throat for 4 days which is not true. Drinking or gargling with hot water, bleach, or alcohol can not kill the virus after infection.

Antibiotics kill Corona Virus

Antibiotics only kill bacteria and not viruses.

Drugs like Hydroxy-chloroquine can act as prophylaxis

There is not significant research backing to support the fact that medicines like hydroxy-chloroquine can prevent COVID-19. In fact, self medication using this and other drugs are leading to death in some cases.

Coronavirus does not infect celebrities

Corona virus spares no one. Even celebrities like the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, renowned Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Prince Charles, and many others were not spared by the disease.

Mental health care during lockdown

The situation all around is very tense. Staying at home in lockdown for a long stretch can be very boring and depressing. The social media news feeds only add to the already high levels of anxiety in everyone. This generation of youth has never faced a lockdown of this severity and duration before. This time can be very challenging for all, especially those who have preexisting mental health problems.

So what are the Do’s and Don’ts of mental health care during this period?

  • Use the time at home to spend quality time with family. Teach new skills to your children. Take their help when you do house chores. This can be a great learning time for kids.
  • Make a list of activities and hobbies that make you happy. Circle the ones that are possible for you to do at home like embroidery, cooking, baking, reading etc.
  • Select this period to learn a new thing, or brush up on skills that you have long forgotten. Some suggestions are graphic designing, cooking special dishes, do-it-yourself (DIY) crafts, some new language, particular songs or dance steps etc.
  • In your hectic life you hardly get time for yourself. This can be an ideal time to take care of your hair and skin at home, exercise and get in shape. Think of it in this manner – you will present to the world a better looking version of you after the lockdown is over.
  • You can catch-up on watching web-series or movies which you were wanting to watch for a long time. You can take up a subscription of Netflix or Hotstar or something else.
  • While you are trying to find out external methods to keep yourself happy don’t forget to focus on your inner-self. Take up a self-development course or a course on meditation.
  • Play games with family members. Remember the times before mobile phones came to rule our lives. Group activities at home can cheer everyone up.
  • Most importantly, dedicate a particular time to get latest updates about Corona Virus. Do not keep following social media throughout the day. Fake news, and constant discussion about COVID-19 and lockdown will end up increasing your stress level.
  • Those who have preexisting mental health condition like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or anything else try to keep in touch with your Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologist via phone or online. Do not forget to take your medicines.

Food and essential items

One family member can step out from 9am to 12 pm with proper protection to buy essential commodities. Do not panic buy essential items in excessive quantities. Just buy enough to last for the time being. Those who take regular medication keep a stock of medicines with you.

Try living simply with no wastage. Eat simple. Ration out food and other essential items to last you through the lockdown period.

To Summarise

There is one rule that we must keep in mind to protect your family and society from COVID-19: Prevention by social isolation is the best remedy. Follow directives given by Ministry of Health and the Government. Don’t rely on news from social media.Better be safe than be sorry. United we can beat this disease before it is too late.

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