How to Prevent COVID-19 Infection & its Related Pains
by Dr. James Fricton
As top Twin Cities Persistent pain specialists, we want to help as many people as possible to avoid becoming infected with COVID-19.
For nearly 30 years, the Minnesota Head and Neck Pain Clinic has followed the core values of providing high quality safe care to our patients. Thus, the safety of our patients and staff is of the utmost importance as we face these challenging times with concerns to prevent COVID-19 infection with the coronavirus. We are closely monitoring the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health agencies for the latest updates and information. Here is a brief summary of how to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
What is novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is rapidly spreading around the world with the potential to infect millions, killing many, and disrupting our lives and economies. The World Health Organization (WHO) named the virus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and named the disease that it causes COVID-19. The primary symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease are at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illnesses and are twice as likely to have serious illness if infected.
Does anxiety decrease immune systems’ effectiveness if fighting coronavirus?
Panicking, anxiety, fear, and over-reaction in the face of pandemic is a problem. These reactions may not only decrease your immune system but also make responding to the coronavirus outbreak worse for everyone. We should all take rational precautions to avoid infection with COVID-19 and also protect others in the community who are at higher risk of illness and chronic pain. This includes people with a serious illness or who may face death. Give extra consideration to elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.
We encourage you to be aware and up to date of all of the recommendations of the CDC and WHO organizations to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
How can we prevent the spread of Coronavirus infections?
Here are 7 major recommendations to prevent the spread of Coronavirus infections and serious COVID-19 illness:
- Be knowledgeable
- Know the early symptoms
- Boost your immune system naturally
- Stay clean
- Stay away from infected people, when possible
- Use protection when close to those infected
- Prepare for and At-home Healthcare needs & pain treatment
We’ll cover each protective measure more in-depth for you. The COVID-19 infection is painful and serious. These steps are proving effective across the globe.
1. Be Knowledgeable to Flatten the Curve of Coronavirus Infections
We can slow transmission and spread of the virus by slowing each wave of the infection to “flatten the curve” of infections. This refers to minimizing the severity and prevalence of infections by spreading them out over time with social distancing.
There is clear evidence that COVID-19 will stay here in the immediate future but evidence suggest that quick public health action to avoid spread by knowing who is infected through COVID-19 testing and then social distancing to those infected can dramatically reduce the impact of COVID-19. Each wave of the virus becomes less severe where most cases are mild and children will be minimally affected.
Thus, we need to understand the spread of the coronavirus:
- The virus is spread through virus-laden droplets in the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. When someone sneezes or coughs, it takes about 10 feet before it drops to the ground and dies. This virus is not heat-resistant and will die with direct warm sun and a temperature above 80.6 Fahrenheit.
- If the virus does enter your mouth by touch, drinking, or breathing, you can drink water or other liquids, particularly if warm, to wash them down the throat and into the stomach. Stomach acid kills the virus.
- Drinking lots of water will help prevent the virus from entering the lungs and lead to pneumonia.
- Make sure your mouth and throat are moist and never dry. Take a few sips of water every 15 minutes.
2. Know the symptoms of COVID-19 Infections
The Coronavirus may not show signs of infection for up to 14 days after you are infected. This is when you are most prone to spreading the infection. Here is some information to detect possible infection and prevent it from spreading.
- The incubation period for coronavirus between when you contract a virus and when your symptoms start is somewhere between 2 to 14 days with average of 5 days after exposure with Coronavirus. 97 percent of people infected show symptoms within 11.5 days of exposure.
- The virus will first cause a sore throat and dry cough with no runny nose after the infection begins. These symptoms lasts for 3 to 4 days.
- If you have a runny nose and sputum, you most likely have a common cold.
- The virus enters the nose and blends into the nasal fluid, the trachea and then the lungs, leading to possible pneumonia. This takes about 5 to 6 days after the sore throat.
- The nasal congestion is not like the normal kind. If you feel like you’re drowning, it’s good to seek immediate attention with a healthcare provider.
- Get a lab test for COVID-19 if you have any of these early symptoms.
- If you develop pneumonia, you will have a high fever and difficulty in breathing. Bacteria can complicate the COVID-19 pneumonia and can be prevented with Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23 immunizations.
- By the time you have a fever and cough and go to a hospital, the lung may be already 50% compromised with the possibility of fibrosis and scarring.
- To determine if you have pneumonia and fibrosis beginning, you can take a deep breath and hold it for more than 10 seconds every morning in an environment with clean air. If you complete it successfully without coughing, discomfort, stiffness or tightness in your lungs, there is no infection and fibrosis in the lungs.
3. Boost your Immune System Naturally to Prevent Severe COVID-19
Even the healthiest of people get the flu and colds occasionally. However, by improving your healthy behaviors, you will support your immune system’s defenses against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that cause these conditions including the coronavirus. Here are some simple steps to follow that are included in our on-line PACT for PAIN self-care program:
- Anti-oxidant and Anti-inflammatory Diet. Use a diet rich in antioxidants to support your immune system such as fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (such as the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil), flaxseed, garlic, ginger. and others. These antioxidants combat free radicals that are chemical byproducts known to suppress the immune system. Follow a diet designed to prevent or reduce low-grade chronic inflammation which contributes to health problems and disease. The typical anti-inflammatory diet focuses on low sugar content and high in natural fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
- Avoid nutrient deficiencies. There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies, such as deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E may alter immune responses. Vitamin C, magnesium, and other supplements have been shown to reduce cold and flu incidence.
- Exercise. Regular moderate-intensity exercise including both aerobic, stretching, and strengthen exercises provides several benefits to the immune system by increasing immune system cells to defend the body against pathogens. Those who regularly engage in this type of exercise have fewer illnesses and less systemic inflammation and less deterioration from the effects of aging.
- Good Sleep. It is important to get a full eight hours of sleep each night to maintain a healthy immune system Research has found that those who slept less than six hours per night or who had a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea and snoring were more likely to have colds and other respiratory infections.
- Stress Reduction. Prolonged stress can have a negative impact on immunity. While short-term exposure to stress factors can heighten your immune defense, sustained stresses will wear down the immune system and increase your vulnerability to illness. To address stress, includes a relaxing calming practice like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing into your daily routine.
- Calm negative emotions including anxiety and fear. Negative emotions are threats that can increase pain, reduce immune system, and interfere with recovery. Creative activities such as decorating, fashion, music, art, gardening, cooking, writing, setting up a business and many other activities have been shown to shift negative emotions to positive ones. CALMING practice also helps by spending a few minutes practicing a relaxation meditative exercise with deep breathing to calm negative emotional reactions and shift from anxiety and fear to calm and acceptance.
4. Stay Clean to Limit Microbial Life Forms
The CDC suggests that simply keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent colds and flu.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds using warm water and soap before preparing food or eating, as well as after coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom, or touching public surfaces.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will help.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes, especially when out in public. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something to itch.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw away the tissue. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your arm to prevent airborne spreading of the virus.
- Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places, like elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, and handshaking with people.
- Clean and disinfect your home to remove viruses. Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and cell phones.
- Disinfect your cell phone and computer by using an alcohol disinfecting wipe on the screen, surface, and keys. Dry it well and keep it clean.
5. Social Distancing Reduces Chances of Spreading the Coronavirus
Others may carry the coronavirus but may not be ill. When someone sneezes or coughs, it takes about 10 feet before the virus drops to the ground and dies. These airborne viruses can infect your and others who are close to you. This makes your efforts to prevent COVID-19 infection important you to and those who come in contact with you.
- Follow common sense social distancing practice to avoid being in close contact with those who may be infected.
- Avoid large crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
- Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts and use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options when possible.
- Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put you at increased risk of infection.
- Avoiding crowded places and non-essential travel such as long plane trips and cruise ships.
- Stay home and safe if possible. Work at home for the next month until the pandemic settles down.
- Keep the entire household at home if someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus.
6. Protect Yourself from Others who are Infected with Coronavirus
When we are around others that are ill, we need to take any and all necessary precautions to avoid getting ill ourselves with COVID-19.
Summary of CDC guidelines if someone close to you develops a COVID-19 infection:
- The CDC guidelines does not recommend the general public wear a mask to prevent COVID-19.
- Those who are infected should wear a mask and avoid close contact with others to prevent further spreading of the virus.
- If you are in contact with someone who is contagious, face masks are recommended to be worn as single use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Surgical masks are used as a physical barrier to protect the user from hazards, such as splashes of large droplets of blood or body fluids for healthcare providers and workers to prevent accidental contamination of patients’ mucus and saliva or sprays of blood or bodily fluids.
- Surgical masks will not necessarily prevent the inhalation of small airborne contaminants and viruses because it does not seal tightly against the user’s face. During inhalation, potentially contaminated air can still pass through gaps between the face and the surgical mask.
- Gloves should also be used by workers to keep contaminated fingers and hands away from the mouth and nose.
7. Prepare for and At-home Healthcare Needs & Pain Treatment if COVID-19 Occurs
We are all at risk to some extent to develop an illness such as the flu or colds. If you do get an infection, most people will be able to recover at home. Being prepared to care for yourself will allow you to recover faster and avoid spreading.
- Have over-the-counter analgesics and flu medication to treat fever and other symptoms
- Have adequate medical supplies including toilet paper, tissues, clean water.
- Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you’ll be prepared to stay at home for a 2 to 3-week period of time. As noted, most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
- Avoid demanding diagnostic tests from health care providers if you are well and have had no known contact with a sick person. The U.S. has a shortage of testing kits, and priority should be given to those showing signs of illness or with documented exposure, not to nervous people. Avoid trying “miracle cures,” such the drinkable silver concoctions, caffeine enemas. Currently, there is no cure for the flu except to let it run its course.
- Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you’ll be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
We are all prone to developing COVID-19 infection. Thus, we all must work to prevent it from happening using these basic steps. If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home and call your doctor to discuss:
What symptoms you have and how severe are they.
Whether you have had contact with someone who has it in your daily life, been around large groups of people, or have been traveling abroad.
If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
If you need to be evaluated as an older adult, severe symptoms, or underlying health conditions. Please take care of yourself and prevent COVID-19 infections.
Web references to Prevent COVID-19 Infection:
• Minnesota Department of Health
• U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• World Health Organization
• Coronavirus.gov is the source for the latest information about COVID-19 prevention, symptoms, and answers to common questions.
• USA.gov has the latest information about what the U.S. Government is doing in response to COVID-19
James Fricton DDS, MS is a Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota and a Pain Specialist Minnesota Head & Neck Pain Clinic