A Pharmacist’s Advice: Tips on Keeping Ourselves and Community Healthy During the Covid-19 Pandemic

March 23, 2020

By Alicyn Magruder, PharmD

Over the last few weeks, our world has dramatically shifted from the normalcy we once knew. Things are changing daily. Our schools are closed, our churches are online and many businesses have had to make changes to remain open. As a pharmacist, both your mental and physical health are important to me, so here are tips you can follow to stay happy and healthy during this trying time.

1. Stay Informed: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Most cases of COVID-19 are mild to moderate, like the common cold, but it can be more severe in older adults and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and heart disease and those who are immunocompromised. The virus is most likely to be spread from person to person by droplets when coughing and from contact with surfaces where those droplets have landed. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC says you should seek emergency treatment if you experience trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse.

2. Be smart, not panicked: Staying home helps slow the spread of the virus. When you have to be in public stay at least 6 feet from others. At the time of writing this, there are no positive cases in Monroe or the surrounding counties. However, due to the long incubation time( the time it takes from being exposed to developing symptoms) and the fact that testing is being limited and has at least a few days turnaround time for results, means that we should treat the virus like it is here. You don’t have to be scared to take action. Waiting until there is a positive result close to home to make changes will be too late since the person would likely have been contagious many days before the positive result is announced. You can follow these recommendations from the CDC to stay healthy:

• Practice” Social Distancing” which means stay away from others by at least 6 feet when you are in public places.

• Wash your hand for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water frequently, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• If you must go in public places, try to avoid touching things others touch frequently. Bring your own pen for signing checks/receipts. Take off your clothes when you get home. Wipe down items you purchased when you get home.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

• Practice good respiratory hygiene, when coughing or sneezing, cover mouth with flexed elbow or tissues. Throw tissues away immediately. Avoid contact with others if you have fever, cough, or runny nose. If you need to seek medical treatment call ahead so health care workers can be prepared.

3. Take care of your Mental Health: Try to overcome the anxiety you may be experiencing with our current situation. Start with acknowledging the positive things happening around us and avoid dwelling on negatives or unknown. Look at how fast our communities have been able to adapt. Places have set up food shelves and essential item sharing boxes throughout our county. Businesses have offered their wi-fi to students. Stores have dedicated certain hours to our most vulnerable citizens. We are learning to appreciate the small everyday things we took for granted before. We are spending more time with our families. Embrace the positive. Other ways to prevent or overcome stress during this time include

• Stay informed but put limits on how much time you spend checking the news. Constantly checking news reports can contribute to increased anxiety and stress.

• Light exercise can increase your mood and decrease your anxiety levels.

• Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.

• Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest

4. Stay Connected: We are lucky to live in a world where when we must be “isolated” we have several means to still be social. We need socialization so call your family and neighbors. Reach out to friends that you haven’t had time to talk to. Make video calls so you can see others smile. Make cards and write letters to those in the nursing home. Lastly, remember to be kind. We are all in this together, and we will get through this.