Standing at the lectern to explain what the next phase of lockdown was going to entail, the spin doctors had come up with the slogan ‘ Stay Alert’. But alert for what?
Those of us who self-isolated during medical treatment know what this is. We’ve done it before – here is what worked for us.
With a very compromised immune system during cancer treatment, living in London I worked out NEVER go on the tube, fly in ‘cattle’ class on a plane or take a bus – either I cycled to an appointment, upgraded to Business Class (so there was room between seats) or took a black cab. Expensive? Yes, but I reckoned my health was more important. And keeping away from others, I had less chance of catching their bugs.
Now I’ve moved to the Thames Valley, it is interesting to see that the local Ambulance service is currently using iconic London black cabs as a safer way of taking us to hospital.
Repeating what we should be doing
If your immune system is suppressed, you may develop an infection with a bacteria or virus that doesn’t ordinarily cause illness. We are exposed to microorganisms every single day without knowing it because our immune systems do their job. So keeping a safe distance’ away from other potential carriers is common sense.
Yet another risk, is that the microorganisms you are exposed to in a clinic or hospital setting can be harder to treat. These resistant “bugs” have developed ways of surviving even strong antibiotics. If you’ve ever been asked about “MRSA” this is an example. Antibiotic resistance is becoming more of a problem each year as the “bugs” get smarter. Hence why we are advised to use antibiotics only when necessary.
We probably have the worst skincare of any nation in Europe (only half the dermatologists or less for the population), yet skin is our largest organ. Sores, wounds, cracks, etc. make it easy for microbes and nasties to enter our bodies. So make sure you use appropriate skincare all over your body, to zap the cracks.
One of the more common risks of infection occurs when people are in close contact with others. Doctors recommend avoiding crowds and any close contact with others.
Hence the advice to keep your distance – currently in England this is suggested as leaving 2 meters (6.5 ft) distance.
Refrigeration slows or stops the growth of most microbes, so refrigerate foods within two hours of preparation.
- Avoid raw meat. Order red meat well-done. Eat only fully cooked seafood, e.g. no sushi until you are done with treatment, no steak tartare, no raw tuna, etc..
- Wash all produce carefully.
- Eggs should be fully cooked. Avoid eggs cooked sunny side up and order eggs benedict only if raw eggs are not used.
- Avoid honey. Just as infants under the age of one should not eat honey due to the risk of botulism, honey should be avoided by those who are immunosuppressed as well.
- Be careful of cross-contamination. Don’t use the same cutting board to cut raw chicken and vegetables.
- Inspect all fruits and vegetables for signs of spoiling.
- If you eat out, avoid buffets where food is left out and also has the potential of being contaminated by people who cough or sneeze. So hopefully this will mean an end to those giant package holiday buffets with food spread out on tables for hours.
- Avoid cheeses that are meant to be mouldy, such as brie and blue cheese.
Pets – especially cats
Currently there are just rumours about potential dangers from pets, but it is worth noting that if someone infected has patted or hugged a pet, there is a chance they could carry the virus. Make sure if you handle cat litter, clean out a birdcage or pick up poo, that you wear gloves.
Hugs and kisses
What is it with people on TV who hug and kiss others the moment they are introduced? Is it because they think this is ‘TV etiquette’? Anyway, kissing people, especially those whom you have never met before, is a definite No-no for the moment.
- Use an electric shaver instead of a razor
- Bathe or shower daily
- Use a soft toothbrush
If your doctor recommends wearing a mask, make sure it fits well and seals properly. Remember that a mask may decrease exposure but does not prevent exposure to all bacteria and viruses.
Carry antiseptic wipes so you can wipe down supermarket trolley handles, light switches, gates on public paths, etc.
It’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves when doing a supermarket shop, etc., then pull gloves off inside out before throwing them away.
Washing your hands
This is real ‘teaching Granny to suck eggs stuff’, but I tend to prefer washing my hands with soap rather than use antiseptic gel, as good soap is kinder to hands. Surgeons scrub their hands with soap and water before operating – not antiseptic gel. Don’t go for the cheapest soap brand on offer – look for upmarket brands as they aren’t expensive just because they smell nice. They really are kinder to hands. And last longer.
If possible dry hands with a disposable paper towel. Although as a little girl, I was always taught that a special pile of Belgian lace linen hand towels was kept for visiting doctors, and washed and boiled after use. So the doctor always had a smart clean towel solely for their use. I still do this – I like to think this shows any medic who visits is very welcome.