Who’s Ready to Get Out of the House?
But First Let’s Check on your Body and Mind Readiness! Prevent for Defense!
So here we are, living life under quarantine because there’s a new virus in town. It’s called COVID-19 and it’s highly contagious and currently without a vaccine or treatment. We’ve been instructed to stay home in order to slow the spread of this serious virus. Needless to say, we are all feeling quite vulnerable. Readers, we are hopefully, fingers crossed, heading to the downside of this historical pandemic quarantine and a show of hands as to who’s ready to get out of the house and show off that beach body? Because, after all, the beaches are reopening. We, the Rollin’ RNs, have been seeing the posts about binge-watching on Netflix and the jokes about wearing pajamas seven days a week. How many of you are guilty of this while devouring “stuff” you would have consumed in moderation before? You know, that “high calorie, high sodium, high carb comfort food”? And how’s that physical exercising on the couch working out for you? Last question and we will stop…how many have been on a scale since the middle of March? That said, this virus has been most dangerous for older adults and people of ANY age who have serious underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, severe obesity, or are immunocompromised. And for those of us with a spinal cord injury (SCI) we may be at added risk if we are not able to produce a cough strong enough to clear the mucus from our lungs. Afterall, this is a serious virus that attacks the respiratory system. And what if we’re battling a pressure sore, a UTI, or any number of other issues that go with this SCI life? Any of these issues can put our immune system under stress leaving us more vulnerable to the virus. Many of the serious underlying conditions listed above are preventable. But that topic alone is the subject for another article at another time. Right now, we need to focus on what we can do to stay healthy and if we do come face to face with this nasty virus, what we can do to build up the strongest immune system possible to fight it right now. After all, it’s just a matter of time before the quarantine will be lifted and we will be back out there with that invisible bug. So, here are some things you can do for yourself:
Snooze so you don’t lose! Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins that can boost your ability to fight infections. Adults should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. We are aware how elusive sleep can be for many of us with SCI but attempt to get some uninterrupted shut eye.
Exercise regularly (not on the couch) and participate in activities that you enjoy. Moderate exercise improves blood circulation which gives a boost to the immune system and releases those “feel good” endorphins. And don’t forget to include some stretching daily. For those of us with a SCI, this may help to calm spasms, reduce swelling in our legs and feet and make us overall more comfortable sitting in our wheelchair for the day. A big plus for both your physical and mental health.
Remember to laugh. Comedy movies and light-hearted shows offer a nice distraction as long as they don’t continue for hours. Start each day with a joke. Ask Alexa or Google Home to “tell me a joke.” Laughter is the best medicine!
Manage your stress level. If stress drags on for a long time, it exposes your body to a steady stream of stress hormones that suppress the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to illness. When possible, take a break from the stressor. You will feel less overwhelmed. Deep breathing, yoga, exercising, laughing, meditation or talking with a friend are other activities that may help lower your stress levels.
Drink, drink, drink! Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance and body functions, focus, and mood. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness. To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Avoid sugary drinks and sodas. Water is recommended because it’s free of calories, additives, and sugar.
Eat healthy. Focus on foods with nutrients that can help boost your immune system. We know, grocery shopping is difficult right now but at least, make an attempt to get to those outer aisles at the grocery store to find those items that can give you the edge you need to be healthy.
Examples include: Vitamin A can help regulate the immune system and protect against infections. Food sources include brightly colored fruits and veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, red bell peppers, winter squash, tomatoes, dark leafy greens like spinach, eggs, vitamin A fortified foods like milk and cereal, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and a vitamin that helps heal wounds, repair and maintain healthy bones, and make antibodies to fight off illness. Food sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, potatoes, kiwi, strawberries, red and green bell peppers, mangos, summer squash, dark leafy greens, and papayas. Vitamin D is very important for bone health, but it’s also very important to the immune system because it may help fight off bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D can be absorbed through sun exposure. Aim for small amounts of sun exposure daily to get Vitamin D, but make sure you wear sunscreen. Vitamin D is also found in salmon, mackerel, egg yolks, some cheeses, mushrooms and in fortified vitamin D products like milk, cereals, juices, and yogurts. The sunshine just makes you feel good. Vitamin E is another antioxidant that may support immunity through protection of cell damage. Food sources include vegetable oils like olive, sunflower and canola oil, whole grains, seeds, nuts and butters, wheat germ, avocados, and olives. Zinc supports the immune system through its healing properties and helps to prevent and fight viral and bacterial infections. Zinc can be found in lean beef, seafood, poultry, milk products, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Protein is key for healing (pressure sores) and recovery, therefore making it important for your overall immune health. Healthy protein sources include lean cuts of red and white meats, seafood and shellfish, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, nuts and butters, seeds, dairy, and whole grains. And don’t forget to practice proper portion control on those quarantine snacks!
Now that you have some ideas to prepare your bodies for fight mode, it’s time to give some thought about your environment and the importance of keeping it germ free. A few weeks ago, we were all madly scrubbing everything in sight, but are we still keeping up the routine? Are you still washing your hands for 20 seconds and keeping your hands away from your face? A healthy habit should be handwashing prior to any food prep, after bathroom visits, after opening delivered mail, after pumping gas, or first thing when you get back home. And if you can’t wash your hands keep hand sanitizer available as a backup. Think twice when wearing gloves. Gloves can become nastier than your hands and experts are showing they are NOT being changed creating a false sense of security while still spreading germs. If you’re tired of singing “Happy Birthday” during your handwashing, find a new song but keep up the 20 seconds. And what about that cell phone? Does it ever get cleaned? A recent article stated, “Americans check their cell phones 52 times a day.” If we are checking our phones 52 times a day, that means we are touching our phones 52 times a day. Wow! That’s a lot of touching! That said, disinfecting should occur more than once a day or at the very least once every few days when we think of it. The article went on to state that phone disinfecting can be done using Clorox wipes or if using an alcohol-based (70% isopropyl) disinfectant spray, be sure your device is powered down and unplugged, then use a microfiber cloth to clean the screen. One last word, don’t forget the social distancing. At least keep it in the forethought even when the quarantine is lifted. Maybe even do a bit of deep breathing to keep those lungs in good working health so they don’t revolt when we need them during an illness. Let’s tighten up before the quarantine is lifted. Again, prevent for your defense! It's all good so keep on rollin', stay safe and healthy, and don't forget to wash your hands!!
Patty, BSN, RNC and Roberta, RN The Rollin’ RNs ™
References: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/underlying-conditions.html https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757 https://spryliving.com https://www.verywellhealth.com/types-of-foods-to-boost-your-immune-system-89020 https://www.apa.org/topics/manage-stress