Stay healthy as COVID-19 risk fluctuates
As COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders across the country begin to lift, it can be tempting to dip back into your regular routine. That might include a visit to your favorite retailer, a much-needed haircut at your local salon, or a walk through your nearby park. But just because the economy is slowly opening up doesn’t mean the disease has gone away. It’s a good idea to do what you can to stay healthy – mentally and physically.
Take care as you venture out
There are several steps you’ll want to take as stay-at-home orders are relaxed. The good news is that you’ve likely been doing many of them already, including wearing protective face coverings and physical distancing – staying at least six feet apart from people. If you need to go out for essentials like groceries or make a trip to the pharmacy, avoid large gatherings, crowds, and people who are ill.
Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds at a time, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If you don’t have soap and water, use a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer. Cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers and rub them together until dry. And though it may be hard, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Even if you’re not showing symptoms, use a face mask or a soft cloth to cover your nose and mouth when you go out. Clean and disinfect the most-touched surfaces in your home with an EPA-registered household disinfectant.
If you or a family member are high-risk, consider having an extended supply of medications handy. Use a mail-order pharmacy to fill prescriptions while avoiding in-person contact. Keep plenty of food and necessary medical supplies stocked.
Of course, staying healthy also includes exercise, which can be tricky if you are sheltering in place. You may want to try taking a walk in the morning when foot traffic is light and fewer people are out. Search the web for free yoga, cardio, or strength-training classes you can do at home. Check with your doctor before starting any new activity to ensure it’s safe for you.
Pay attention to how sleep affects your mental health
Your state of mind might also be impacted during this challenging time. In general, stress may contribute to health issues such as headaches or memory, digestive, and sleep issues. Although millions of people struggled with insomnia before COVID-19, stress over the pandemic may be increasing that. Plus, some people may feel more fatigued than usual and take naps during the day, which can then affect sleep quality at night.
Getting good sleep can have multiple positive impacts, like supporting healthy immune system function, brain function, and mood. So it makes sense to give your sleep extra attention during this time.
One factor that may disrupt sleep is avid news-watching and social media usage before bed. These can be a source of anxiety which can make it harder to fall asleep. Consider using your bed for sleep only, setting a consistent wind-down time and avoiding naps.
If you’re still experiencing sleep issues, read up on bedtime tips for getting better rest to support your mental and physical health.
Talk to your doctor about annual wellness checkups
Your age can help you determine whether cancer screenings, yearly physicals, and vision tests are important right now. Although you’re generally safer at home, your doctor may tell you that some tests and procedures are important enough to warrant an in-person visit, especially if your state is relaxing its shelter-in-place order. These might include mammograms, colonoscopies, and other screenings.
Talk to your doctor about what to safely schedule. Some doctors may suggest a virtual consultation in which your visit is conducted over a phone call or via a video conference.
If you have an in-person visit coming up, contact your doctor’s office before leaving to make sure they are expecting you and discuss anything you can do ahead of time to minimize time spent in the office to reduce your exposure. This might include paperwork filled out at home or the right clothing to wear for your examination. Remember also to wear a mask to, from, and during your visit.
For guidance on what tests may be appropriate at this stage in your life, schedule a visit with your doctor. You also can read more about the yearly checkups that are recommended as you age.
Check to see if you’re at high-risk for severe illness
Being at high-risk for severe illness can vary by age, gender, occupation, and medical history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the following contributing factors:
- Adults 65 years and older.
- Nursing home or long-term care facility residents.
- Pregnant women.
- Poverty and crowding.
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
- People who have serious heart conditions.
- People who are immunocompromised. This might include people who have gone through cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, people who smoke, those with immune deficiencies or poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and those who have prolonged use of immune-weakening medications like corticosteroids.
- Those who have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher.
- People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
- People with liver disease.
If any of these apply to you, you’ll want to stay on top of shelter-in-place guidelines and have an action plan that’s specific to your health condition or risk factor. Reduce your risk with prevention tips.
Staying healthy is especially important during this time. Make sure to prioritize taking care of yourself and implement healthy choices into your lifestyle.