Ep. 54: Helpful Physician Secrets to Beat Covid19 Infections at Home
Surprise! The tips I am sharing are not ACTUAL physician secrets since they can easily be found online. But they are great physician tips because many people need help sorting through all the noise that is flooding the internet. Which treatments are real? Have they been proven? Which are supported by physicians and scientists because they make sense but are not proven with studies? The bottom line, we all could use some help in deciding which things we can use for ourselves or our families to beat Covid19 infections at home.
Every choice we make in life does not have to be the absolute best one, because who actually defines “best”. It could be different for different people. BUT, the choice should be made with some type of reasonable decision process. Not just a “gut” feeling, or because all the “cool kids” are doing something, or because you heard it on the news. These factors can be considered your starting point but then you should follow a process to help you decide what to do next.
Recently, I was quite surprised when one of my colleagues asked me if my goal was to avoid getting Covid19. Yes, that was a real question.
I simply replied: Well yes, that is indeed my goal. He shrugged and said that he does not think that should be the goal. He feels that a more reasonable goal is for us all to get the infection at different times so that we do not overwhelm our healthcare system. I am still stunned. But I am grateful for the conversation because it helps me understand why some people do not seem to be concerned about following the public health recommendations. They have different goals.
There is a huge range of symptoms from Covid19, and no one can predict what their symptoms will be. This terrible disease impacts both the young and the old. It also impacts healthy people as well as those with pre-existing medical illnesses. Please do not be fooled that you are immune from contracting a severe infection. We are all at risk!
I am a black woman with a family history of autoimmune disorders. And sadly, my age has recently been labeled as elderly!! These factors put me in the most obvious high-risk category for a poor outcome if I were to contract Covid19. So, heck yes, my goal is to avoid contracting the disease.
As previously stated, differing levels of acceptance for contracting Covid19 may explain the resistance by many people who opt to not follow recommended public health measures to reduce the spread of infections. For those of you who are interested in avoiding infection or being prepared to manage symptoms, this podcast is for you. (Keep in mind this post is for educational purposes only, and you should always consult with your personal physician prior to starting any therapies.)
Preparation is key
Covid19 infections may rapidly progress, so be sure to stay in contact with your personal physician to monitor your health At some point, you may be recommended to be seen in an emergency room or urgent care facility. I have previously discussed that all urgent care centers are not the same and do not offer all the same services. Now is the perfect time to add the phone numbers for your local centers into your phone.
By now, most people understand that if you want a Covid19 test, it is not always an easy thing to get. Despite an ongoing demand, there still is not an adequate supply of testing kits which would allow physicians to test patients in the way they feel is necessary. Usually, you will need to go to specific testing sites that may or may not require an appointment. Do not assume that you will be tested at your physician’s office or urgent care visit.
Also, be sure to keep in mind that physician offices and hospitals have different rules during this pandemic. Make sure you check to know what you can expect, including the visitation policy. Many people, including physicians, have been shocked to find that they are not allowed to bring their young children to visits, which is a problem for many people whose kids are home daily due to virtual schooling. None of us like to be surprised by things that we thought would or would not happen. Be prepared and make plans accordingly.
My goal with this post is to help you make a more informed decision about taking care of yourself and family members if this terrible virus invades your home. Many of these items and tips have also been useful for parents as they prepared to send their kids away to college. Treatment and prevention tips are helpful to us all. Now is a good time to consider stocking up on items that you or your family may need if a healthcare crisis occurs.
In this written post, I am highlighting areas that may be discussed in greater detail in the podcast. If you want more information, check out the audio discussion in the podcast.
Prevention is always better than treatment
First things first, we should all be doing our part to prevent catching or spreading this aggressive coronavirus. Regardless of your assumption that you may only contract a mild case of the disease, you could very easily spread the disease to a close friend or relative who develops severe symptoms. Please do your part to reduce the amount of infection globally!
The basic public health measures that have been repeatedly stressed are important for you to keep in mind:
- Wear a mask. Wear a mask. Please, wear a mask!
- Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds (“Happy birthday” song twice)
- Avoid touching your face
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow
- Avoid large social gatherings
- Keep 6 feet away from others for social/physical distancing
These are the measures that public health professionals have repeatedly told us in one form or another since the beginning of this pandemic. However, the details about some of them are not as clear and bear more discussion.
Wearing a mask is primarily important to avoid spreading the virus to other people; however, recent data suggest that wearing a mask may help protect you from catching the virus. What a nice bonus. There is a lot to discuss concerning the different types of masks; therefore, I may just plan a future podcast that only discusses. But bottom line, wear a mask. I am definitely on #TeamMandatoryMasks!
For those of you that want to nerd out and read a great post with the evidence supporting why facemasks are so effective, feel free to check it out here.
Additionally, if you have been exposed to Covid19, regardless of your symptoms or the result of your test, you are at risk of spreading the infection. Often, a test may be negative for a few days after exposure, so it is important to quarantine if you have been exposed.
What does being “exposed to Covid19” mean? Check out the post by one of my esteemed colleagues, Dr. Kristin Stuppy who penned a post about what you should do after COVID exposure. She also does an excellent job explaining what being exposed means. This is a must-read post!
Maximize your general health to beat Covid19 infections at home
Our bodies respond to stress in different ways; therefore, adopting basic health tips at all times is a great way to start your journey to beat Covid19 infections. These are the same tips that help you beat or improve all illnesses.
- Get adequate amounts of sleep
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Limit highly processed foods
- Get exercise
- Spend more time outdoors
- Monitor your temperature. Get a good thermometer for routine checks
- Keep well-child check-ups and keep vaccinations up to date
- Get your flu shot this fall and winter! Vaccines work.
Over the counter medications to help you beat Covid19 infections
Many people have these items at home for the common viral illnesses which can lead to complications that we want to avoid. But I have recently found people have run out of basics and now is a good time to check your supplies.
- Mucinex (thins mucus)
- Pepto Bismal (stomach problems occur, too)
- Cough Syrup
Vitamins and supplements can help beat Covid19 infections
I need to emphasize that I am a scientist and fully understand the treatments that I am about to share are NOT the magic bullet. They do not treat any specific illness. However, our bodies are extremely complex and require many things to work to their best ability.
Now that we have this discussion started, I want to share what many front line physicians have recommended to their patients who are sick with Covid19 infections but are healthy enough to stay home. During this recovery time, it is wise to help your body fight and hopefully stay out of the emergency room or get admitted to the hospital.
Again, these therapies are shared to help you understand how they may help your body to work better. Keep in mind that many of the severe problems occurring from Covid19 infections are due to inflammation, so it makes sense that vitamins and supplements recommended may be effective at combatting inflammatory reactions.
In general, the recommendations are based on “some” evidence that during a viral illness, these substances may reduce symptoms or the length of the illness. But they have NOT been recommended to prevent illnesses. Be sure to listen to the podcast to hear more about these recommendations, their dosing, and the way they each work. (The links included below are extremely technical and are great for scientists and physicians but perhaps not so great for most of us.)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Melatonin (And don’t forget what I shared from personal experience)
- Elderberry (Also, note that this tends to have the most potential side effects and risks)
Of course, there are many other supplements and vitamins that people take. Dietary supplements may have significant side effects or interact with medication that you are taking. And it is worth pointing out that over the counter supplements and vitamins are not regulated by government rules; therefore, the quality and amount that you may get could vary a lot depending upon the brand that you buy.
I am simply highlighting the ones that many experienced physicians actually recommend to their patients. Of course, I recommend that you discuss these with your personal physician to be sure they are safe for you.
Respiratory therapies that help beat Covid19 infections
Covid19 infections impact all areas of the body. The internet is filled with coronavirus complications that impact the skin, heart, brain, and kidneys. However, the lungs are the most commonly and most severely impacted. Respiratory symptoms often lead to hospital admissions with possible intubation and being placed on a ventilator. That is the ultimate concern.
Taking care of the lungs at home is vital, but many people do not know some simple tips that they could be doing. Monitoring oxygen saturation is important. Even when people think they are breathing fine, the virus can lead to lung inflammation that reduces the amount of oxygen available to circulate to the body.
Many physicians recommend the following tips for you to do at home to keep your lungs in good health.
- Buy a pulse oximeter which can easily monitor oxygen levels
- Stand up and walk every 2-3 hours
- Buy a spirometer
- Lie prone as much as possible
- What a perfect time to quit smoking!
- Stop Vaping
Medications your physician may prescribe to beat Covid19 infections
You would have to be living under a rock if you have not heard the vicious debates about medications touted as “the cure” and absolute miracle to beat Covid19 infections. As previously mentioned, there is no single cure for everyone. On a case by case basis, physicians decide which medication to prescribe for you. They avoid a shotgun approach, where the same medications are given to everyone.
We do not treat every pneumonia or sinus infection with the same medication; consequently, it makes sense that every Covid19 patient does not respond to the same treatment protocol. This is why it is extremely important for physicians to continue to use potentially useful medications in large controlled studies so that true value can be determined. Who is it best for? What is the best dose? When should it be given? Scientists are still discovering this type of information and need time to finish their work.
So, for those reasons, I am NOT going to jump into the fray to discuss Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir, or convalescent plasma serum. Those are higher-level discussions that I will leave to other physicians.
However, there are many other medications commonly in use for routine health problems that can also be useful for Covid19 infections. It may be helpful to you to understand what these are and how they may be beneficial.
- Asthma inhalers
- Oral Steroids
- Antibiotics…of course, they do not fight viral infections
- Baby aspirin due to the clotting impacts
- Eye drops for COVID Conjunctivitis
- Zofran for nausea and vomiting
- Tessalone Perles for severe coughing
General TLC things to make you feel well.
We know time-honored favorite tips during viral illnesses include drinking hot tea or hot water with lemon. Adding honey has a triple potential benefit. Tastes delicious, duh. It dissolves and coats an inflamed, irritated throat which causes a soothing effect. And lastly, honey has potential medicinal properties due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some physicians recommend 2 Tablespoons of honey 2-3 times per day.
*WARNING*: Never give honey to an infant (under age1) because they may develop botulism.
In general, it may be a good idea to consider a virtual visit with your physician, especially after 4-5 days. You may not realize you are getting more short of breath or worsening symptoms. Can be a good thing to check. Ask if your physician offers telemedicine visits.
Reducing household transmission
When Covid19 infects a household, all family members do not necessarily contract the disease. If possible, it is a good idea to try to reduce the spread of the disease during the home quarantining period. This can be challenging for anyone but is especially difficult for young children to remain isolated from siblings.
Some tips that you might keep in mind for infected people in a home include:
- Remain in a separate room or floor, if possible
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible
- Maintain a 6-foot distance from other household contacts
- Wear a mask when around others in the household
- Cover coughs and sneezes (great option for everyone!)
- Frequent hand hygiene
- Avoid sharing household items, such as dishes or silverware
- Clean “high-touch” surfaces with a household disinfectant daily or more if possible
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post!