1. If you recover from covid-19, when is it safe to be around older family members, neighbors or friends?
Many are asking when it is safe to come into contact with their friends, neighbors, and older family members after having symptoms or even definitive diagnosis of COVID-19. While the recent sensationalized coverage around the coronavirus and COVID-19, it’s easy to forget the basics of what one would normally do after being exposed to a virus or any type of pathogen for that matter. While coronavirus has shown a fast spread across nations, the chances of getting severe symptoms leading to death are about the same as the seasonal flu in a normal year – around 1%. The latest data from The New England Journal of Medicine is showing it may even be less than 0.1 percent and it’s encouraging to know that the likelihood of someone getting the virus and getting severely ill is much less than originally thought.
So if you’re concerned with spreading coronavirus, it’s good to remember that when you are experiencing symptoms and you know you are sick, as with any illness, it’s wise to stay away from others so that you reduce the chances of infecting them. While most spread of coronavirus is happening before someone is showing symptoms, there can be a possibility of spreading it on the back end of becoming ill. If you do come down with symptoms, (any symptom of an infection that commonly makes people feel ill and has a fever, etc, it may be a good idea to wait another week after your symptoms are gone (around 7 days) before you come into close contact with family and friends.
2. If you’ve been social distancing for two weeks is it safe to see family members?
The first question to ask yourself would be ‘have you been experiencing any symptoms of illness’. If you have, even if it’s been two weeks if you still have symptoms of not feeling well it may be best to keep yourself at a distance from others until you’ve had a week or so of symptom-free recovery.
But that still leaves the question, ‘what if I haven’t been sick? Do I still need to quarantine myself?’ Let’s discuss this from a medical perspective. Most viral infections are spread when people are not even feeling sick. This is one reason why viruses can spread so easily. For example, every year as countries go into the fall which is known as flu season, millions of people already have been contaminated with the flu virus but are not experiencing any symptoms. They are going about their daily routines and unknowingly spreading it to millions of others yet only around 1% of the millions who have been infected with that year’s strain of flu virus end up with the flu. Realistically it’s unreasonable to think you can ‘outrun’ a virus by staying in quarantine because that is simply not sustainable for the majority of people.
Those who easily become sick, those who have chronic illnesses that make them more likely to get sick from this coronavirus, and the elderly are the ones who may benefit from self-quarantine but it’s important to understand also that too much quarantine will weaken the immune system because self-isolation prevents you from exposing yourself to the millions of viruses and bacteria that help keep your immune system in normal balance. The human immune system relies heavily on exposure to its environment in order to maintain itself.
3. How safe is the six feet in social distancing? Should it be more? If it’s windy, should you be further than 6 feet apart?
There is no scientific evidence at all that says that 6 feet of social distancing will prevent the spread of this coronavirus or any other for that matter. There is much debate on whether the 6-foot distancing rule is truly effective. A sneeze, for example, can send a virus traveling up to 27 feet and contaminate everything along the way. Also depending on air humidity, airflow, and temperature, viral residues can stay in the air for hours moving along with airflow patterns.
Understanding the history of how viruses spread so easily and knowing how virulent (fast-spreading) this current strain allows us to see that it’s spread is going to happen no matter what distance you stay away from others. The question we may need to be asking instead is ‘what can we do to make ourselves more resilient and resistant to getting sick from this coronavirus’, not how do we escape it.
4. Is drinking from a public water fountain safe?
While you are likely not going to ‘catch’ this coronavirus from the public water fountain there are other contaminant exposures you may want to be aware of before drinking from your public municipal water system. We all want to believe our municipal water systems are doing a stellar job at keeping our drinking water clean, but the reality is that the national trends of public drinking water violations in the United States is astounding. And the public water fountain isn’t the only place people are getting contaminated water. Nearly one in four households across the country risk having unsafe water from their local water municipalities. The top states with the most offenses include Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia to name a few.
It’s best to get your water from a filtration system like an RO (reverse osmosis) filter, a Berkey filter or even a countertop RO system can work great. Using purified water filtration systems ensures you are not ingesting the many harmful chemicals and pathogens often found in local water municipalities.
5. Do you have to wipe down citi bikes / public transportation, like subway poles/seats? Is it safe to take an uber or taxi?
Exposing our bodies to a variety of bacteria and viruses is a big part of how our immune system stays primed to protect us. With that said, it IS a good idea to promote cleanliness and sanitation of public spaces just like we do at home. This can prevent the spread of infectious diseases like strep, staph, MRSA, cold and flu viruses, and more. Washing your hands after being in a public space has and always will be a good idea.
If you have a susceptibility to getting sick often or have a compromised immune system, or if you have the comorbidities (type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure for example) associated with making a person more susceptible to COVID-19 then you might consider working on your health, and taking extra precautions when using taxis and public spaces like taking some Clorox wipes with you so you can wipe down your space. And make sure you wash your hands after coming in contact with areas you touch.
In general for those who are healthy, getting back to your daily routine that may involve public spaces and implementing a good handwashing regiment should be adequate.
6. Should you wipe down your grocery bags? Groceries? Mail?
You may have seen information on the news talking about wiping down grocery bags and even your food items. This information that people can possibly die from a contamination of their grocery bags and mail isn’t based on any science or historical evidence, so has it been based on fear? The reality of this coronavirus, now that the information is out about its 1% or less death rate, should bring a sense of calm to the world and hopefully help people realize this virus doesn’t really act much differently than any other virus. If this information is put into perspective we can see that the idea of wiping down our grocery bags and mail is really not necessary, unless it makes you feel better and brings a sense of security for you.
If you feel better wiping everything down, consider that the overuse of toxic chemicals that are used to sanitize surfaces can cause health issues like brain chemistry imbalances, asthma, skin conditions, immunity problems, and even cancer. So if you are going to decide to wipe everything down consider using a nontoxic ‘clean’ (chemical-free) sanitizing wipe or spray.
7. Can you get coronavirus from takeout food?
Taking a look at the bigger picture of contaminants in ‘take out’ food can help bring a healthy and rational perspective when deciding whether or not to order from a restaurant. Thousands of people around the world get sick from eating out because food can be contaminated with pathogens ranging from E Coli to staph infections, to clostridium, salmonella, norovirus, and listeria just to name a few. Norovirus is the leading ‘viral’ cause of diarrhea in the U.S. and is passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items.
These other ‘infectious’ microorganisms that commonly infect people via food sources also can cause life-threatening complications, especially in those with chronic diseases (co- morbidities) who are already health-compromised. So a good question to ask yourself before you order out is whether or not you are ok with taking the risk that you may, in fact, contract any number of ‘infections’ from your take out. Another important thought to consider is where you are getting your takeout from? Have you checked their inspection reports? Have you been ordering from that establishment in the past with no health issues resulting from their food? Do they appear to maintain good standards of cleanliness? Bottom line, if you want to order takeout, do it. If you feel uncomfortable about it then create your own masterpiece at home – If you are practicing healthy eating habits that support your health, a home-cooked meal is most likely much healthier anyway!
8. Does it stay on the bottom of your shoes?
Does any infection stay at the bottom of our shoes? Of course, they do. If you theoretically were to step on a pile of germs of any kind, then yes they are probably at the bottom of your shoes. This is one reason why many people chose to take their shoes off at the door instead of walking all over their home with their shoes on. If you haven’t considered taking your shoes off at the door, this may be a good hygiene practice to pick up. You can buy a nice shoe caddy to place at the entrance to your home where you can keep your most commonly used shoes. This way you can reduce the amount of ALL germs your shoes may come into contact with.
9. Can it be spread on pet fur?
Viruses can essentially spread on any surface, including the skin of another person, and the fur of a pet. Again, this comes back to basic hygiene and making sure to wash your hands after playing with your pets — not just because of viruses, but because of the other illness that can be spread by our lovable dogs and cats. While many of these pet illnesses like heartworms and distemper can’t spread to humans — some like parasites and fungi can. The latest research on this particular strain of coronavirus is looking to determine if the virus can spread between animals and humans — so practicing good hygiene around your pets is always a good habit to have.
10. Does heat kill the virus? And at what temperature? How long does it take for UV rays to kill the virus?
When we look back at the cold and flu seasons of the years past, it’s easy to see one common trend. Cases of these viruses tend to spike in the late fall and winter months, and then fall drastically as we move through spring and into summer. But what causes this yearly pattern in the number of cases? Many attribute this to the increase in temperatures and the effect the heat has on the virus, but you also have to take into account that the warmer weather means more people are spending time outdoors instead of cramped into closed spaces as we do during the cold winter months — making it harder for viruses to spread from person to person. With this recent strain of coronavirus, the truth of the matter is that we just don’t know how the virus reacts to different temperatures and humidities. While some types of UV lights are being used in other countries to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus and showed some success during the SARS outbreak — there hasn’t been any research to show that UV rays are effective against the coronavirus. The best advice is to continue to practice good hygiene, and continue to support and boost your immune system through a healthy diet, daily exercise, quality sleep, and monitoring stress.
11. Are there any medications that can make you more susceptible to catching the virus or that can make symptoms worse?
While there are some medications that can indeed make a person more susceptible to getting ill from the virus (I differentiate ‘getting ill’ from actually getting the virus – because many will ‘get’ the virus just like they ‘get’ cold and flu viruses, but never get ‘ill’ or severely ‘ill’ from them) certain lifestyle choices and/or illness can also make you more susceptible and we want to understand these susceptibilities. Risk factors include the use of antibiotics, a high sugar diet, allergies, years of drinking alcohol, an immunosuppressive illness, the use of NSAIDs or immunosuppressive drugs, and exposure to mold and mycotoxins.
Unfortunately, this is not being discussed across mainstream media channels. Focusing on what CAN be done in terms of lifestyle and dietary changes is what many health-savvy people and health professionals are focusing on. Lifestyle and dietary changes alone can, in most instances, reverse the most common comorbidities that are ultimately causing deaths to those who get this coronavirus strain. Comorbidities like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, for example, make a person who does get this coronavirus, likely to develop into severe COVID-19 symptoms.
12. Is it unsafe to have a medical appointment right now (ie. go to the eye doctor or the dentist)?
It’s highly recommended to stay on top of your medical appointments, especially if you have an underlying condition or chronic disease. This also goes for yearly eye exams and regular dental cleanings. Doctor offices across the country have implemented extra measures in their offices, like limiting the number of people allowed in their waiting rooms, and even requiring people to wear masks or face coverings in some cases, so there is no need for concern. Staying on top of your health is the best thing you can do for yourself!