I have spent the last week and a half feeling overwhelmed at the unfolding of events concerning COVID-19. There are no words to describe my full range of emotion- shock, denial, anger, sadness, helplessness. This framework of emotion, I realize, is quite similar to the 5 stages of grief we experience when learning to cope with the loss of a loved one. Do any of you feel the same?
Amid the scramble I’m experiencing in my own home (as a pediatrician and a mom of 3) to figure out a new normal, I’ve been thinking of what more we can do to strengthen our personal and community response to COVID-19.
I firmly believe we all have the capability of being our most healthy selves. And I think there is no better time than now to make that our collective goal.
How do we stay healthy?
Normally, for children and grown-ups alike, I recommend eating real food (and not too much), daily exercise, sleeping well at night, and reducing stress as much as possible through safe means such yoga and meditation. There are great meditation apps to download, and now is a great time to find one you like.
However, we are now in the midst of a pandemic. All of the above recommendations stay true, but we need to do more to protect one another. Yes, most of us will only have mild-to-moderate if any symptoms, but preventing ourselves from unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to others is extremely important to protect those with weakened immunity.
So, here are preventive recommendations I support wholeheartedly:
1. Social distancing. Please do not misinterpret this to mean social isolation. For you and your children, it is extremely important to stay connected with loved ones through Facetime, Skype, etc. If you have a yard, please utilize that space as fresh air is good for the body and mind.
Perhaps remind your children when big events have to be cancelled that what we’re doing is extremely important to help others not get sick.
2. Good hand hygiene. I know this sounds like common sense, but we probably all could take a bit longer to ensure we’re doing the job properly. One common recommendation is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice when washing hands. Handwashing is so important because soap helps break up the lipid membrane (fatty envelope) of certain pathogens, including coronaviruses. This means it helps destroy the virus, which is pretty cool. And the good news is I still see plenty of soap available in stores.
Hand sanitizer with >62% alcohol is a less effective alternative if no soap is available. Use hand sanitizer until you can properly wash hands with soap and water.
3. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. This is by far the most difficult for me, and for my young children. However, I notice my children do respond with gentle reminders to not touch their face and to instead wash their hands before returning to their activities.
4. Clean all high-traffic surfaces frequently. Wipe down tables, countertops, phones, computer keyboard, door handles, bathroom, etc.
In general, preventing exposure to others is the most important thing we can do to help lower the burden of this current public health crisis. Also, continue to monitor all recommendations as advised by local and federal government officials.
I will be in touch with many more blog posts as the days go on. Particularly, I know many of you would like to know about natural ways to boost immunity. One of my favorite articles so far on natural prevention is by Dr. Aviva Romm, whose link is provided below. Please read through as I think she did an excellent job in conveying well-researched information.
In the meantime, you can follow my family’s own #socialdistancing on Instagram and Twitter @DrRachelCohen.
For up-to-date medical guidance, I use the CDC COVID-19 page:
Rachel Cohen, DO, is holistic pediatrician at National Integrated Health Associates, serving the DMV metro area. Dr. Cohen's passion is to help children reach their fullest potential by focusing on holistic care and disease prevention. She believes in the interconnectedness of body and mind for good health, and practices yoga with her own three children. Dr. Cohen is board certified in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics and certified as a Doctor of Osteopathy to provide Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine.