Don’t just avoid COVID-19 – Defeat It!
Mark Menolascino MD, MS
Today is April Fool’s day but you could not make up a headline more fearful than the COVID-19 virus that has brought us to our new normal-no school, no work, social distancing and social isolating. A higher death toll as of today than the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001. The physical stress of social distancing and isolation combined with the emotional stress of information overload through media/social media (especially the fearful hype) may be adding to the likelihood of you getting sick, staying sick or being really sick. Let’s Flatten the Curve and You Can Do It!
I am fortunate to have close friends that are integrative medical doctors like myself and together we are sharing the verified information with you. I am committed to bringing you weekly updates from all of my resources and do the work for you sorting through the fact vs the fiction.
My goal today is to focus on your empowerment to help you be the best you can be – for yourself, your family and keep you out of the hospital, out of the ICU and never need a ventilator. Our medical system is strong and amazing-both in the technology it uses and in the quality of healthcare teams that use it. Our job is to help them never need to use it for YOU. And yes, you can do your part of being one of those COVID-19 stories that got sick but never needed the hospital. This is the key to our social distancing right now – let’s stay apart to reduce the possibility of overwhelming our medical system, so we don’t prevent others from access or overwhelm our amazing medical care teams. Please let me help share with you everything I am learning to optimize your chances of not needing to be in the hospital or ever seeing the inside of an ICU.
I want to empower you with information and ask you, encourage you, motivate you to take this time to increase your immune system strength, work on your physical health, balance your emotional health, stop those sabotaging habits and most of all take this time to connect with family, friends, even your dog. Make that call to a friend or family member you just haven’t found the time to connect with lately-pick up the phone and call them, use Face Time, maybe even write a letter! How long has that been? So, let’s make some dreams come true while the virus is trying to crush our dreams. Remember saying, “if I just had some time and the world would slow down, I would…….
Please fill in for yourself:
Read that book I never finished….
Start the piano lessons or guitar lessons I always wanted to do….
Pull out my paints or watercolors and start up my Van Gogh superpower….
Build a fort for my kids and pretend to be kings and queens for a day….
Teach my child to _________________________________…
Learn that language I always wanted….
Finish that children’s book I always wanted to write….
Paint my bedroom….
Learn yoga, meditation/relaxation/deep breathing….” So today, decide to become empowered and take back your health and reclaim your life from this virus-first of all
Even though I am an integrative, holistic, nutrition-based physician, I have worked in a big city and in a small town as an ICU physician managing ventilators for over 1,000 patients in both Phoenix, Arizona and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and have helped many people come off ventilators. We saw people we never thought would make it out of the ICU, walk out. However, I saw more people in the ICU that never left. The current data from even non-COVID-19 studies of ICU patients is that once you go on a ventilator for an infection like this, your likelihood of death of is over 60% and some studies in Europe show that number as high as 85%. The current COVID-19 data is similar-at least 85% risk of never coming off one if put on one.
Let’s all work together so those ventilators are free for people that need them and get to a spot in our health where we never need one-not just now but ever! The biggest part of this is underlying disease risk is controllable by your lifestyle choices and health choices!!
Let’s change our focus from the ICU/ventilator issue to one of encouragement to use this window of time to improve your health-especially the metabolic health that powers your immune system (see our latest recommendations: A Strong Defense is Your Best Defense) through lifestyle and nutritional changes. What do we know?
Smoking may increase your risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19 by 100-200%.
Pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease increased risk by 200-300%.
Which are reversible in many cases! SO, while we all support the hospitals and medical teams to have ventilators that are needed; instead let’s focus on keep you and everyone from not ever needing one in the first place by focusing on lifestyle changes by optimizing:
Personalize and improve your nutrition
Strengthen your immune system (View our Immune Supporting Supplements)
Get moderate amounts of exercise – just take a walk! Improve sleep (6 Steps to a Dreamy Night’s Sleep)
Develop stress management tools (Breathing Techniques)
STOP smoking and minimize or eliminate alcohol
We are all scouring the internet to find as much information to protect us and our families. Questions like: Can I trust the mail? If you lose your sense of smell do you have the virus? Should you wear a mask? Is 6 feet far away enough from others? Does social distancing make a difference? How long is this going to last…
What I have found for you:
“I think if you start thinking about money and mail and things like that, you can almost sort of immobilize yourself, which I don’t think is a good idea,” Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Recent studies say 2019-nCoV (the technical name of virus stands 2019-nCoV for New in 2019, Novel Corona Virus) lives on cardboard approximately 24 hours yet on plastic and steel up to 3 days. The mail appears to be safe and most letters and package contents were packaged more than 24 hours ago. But let’s be smart without being over paranoid is my plan. I pick up my mail, let it sit in a box in my garage for 24 hrs. then open it then immediately wash my hands just to be sure. Packages sit the same amount of time in the same place with the same hand washing strategy-open the box, put in recycling and wash your hands right away with soap. This seems just plain smart and seems like for all of us when we have a plan and do it-our stress is less.
Interestingly, loss of sense of smell can be one of the first signs of early dementia or simply a simple cold starting. There is data to suggest that many people with COVID-19 do have a loss of their sense of smell at the start of the illness which makes sense as the nasal passages is where it all starts – the reason you should not touch your face before you wash your hands.
Should you be wearing a mask?
The data says there may be a benefit and Dr. Perlmutter showed yesterday a graph during a Facebook live that showed a marked ‘flattening of the curve’ in countries that wore masks-and even a homemade mask may protect all of us against the people who are infected and not showing symptoms and cutting down their ability to spread the virus. The former head of the CDC, Scott Gottlieb came out last Sunday recommending the use of masks, scarf or bandana when out in public. This is because many people can have the virus for several days before they show symptoms COVID-19 and be contagious, so it protects all of us.
I wear a dual ‘buffy’ type of scarf or bandana-several layers of cotton- when I am exercising on the bike path here in Jackson Hole to protect myself and my community. I feel if we didn’t have a shortage, we would all be recommended that. Several of my family members have been sewing masks for healthcare teams to use as additional barriers to their protective gear. If you make one for your family, make 6 more and give them to your neighbors. The University of Nebraska Medical Center, a leader in the science and medicine of COVID-19 and my alma mater, has evidence from patients that were there of possible airborne spread by finding viral particles inside and outside in the hallways of isolation rooms.
As I mentioned try not to touch your face, especially when at the grocery store or doing non-home essential chores-but it is really hard not to touch your face throughout the day! The mask/scarf/buffy scarf may prevent this-it sure does for me when I am out exercising or grocery collecting-collecting not hoarding!
Again, some things just make sense and there is still nothing more important than washing your hands – the right way for 20 seconds with a good soap.
Is 6 feet away enough? We believe it is the droplets from infected people from a cough or sneeze that is the way the virus spreads. A study yesterday suggested 24 feet is the ideal distance and was soundly discredited by many. The airborne data above may change this, but the six feet rule makes sense, as long as there aren’t 10 people packed around you-numbers do matter which is why we have the stay-at-home orders in 20+ states-reduce contact to reduce the spread.
We are not hugging or shaking hands-I am Italian, so I hug everyone in clinic, and it was hard last month not to and caught myself doing half hugs, but even fist bumps are not good. And that elbow bump, what is someone just coughed into their sleeve? I just recommend no physical touch or contact except your crew you are at home with for now. And yes, having sex is safe with your partner and encouraged for your mental health!
As hard as it is, social distancing does work, the data is very clear on that. And I feel that when you combine social distance with good hygiene/hand washing and wearing a mask (make one yourself and have fun with it!) when with others out of the house reduces exposure for everyone. I have always said that getting healthy is a team sport and lets all share ideas together to stay healthy, get stronger, bond together and be united in our love and care for each other.