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On Living with a Chronic Illness During the COVID-19 Panic

First, I would like to say, for all you healthy folks out there, please relax. Yes, we should be taking this outbreak seriously, but stockpiling soap and toilet paper is not rational. Did you never wash your hands before this? Frankly, the fact that it took a new virus to make you think about washing your hands properly is more worrying to me than the virus itself.

But let’s back up a minute. We’re going to take a moment to talk about facts, just to calm everyone down a bit.

The novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, is a new respiratory illness causing fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The reason it’s all over the news and spreading so quickly is because it’s new. We don’t have a vaccine for it, we don’t have a cure for it, we can only treat the symptoms, and in severe cases, offer medical support to vital organs affected by the virus.

For information regarding COVID-19, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage.

This sounds scary, but you know what else is a coronavirus that we don’t have a cure for? That we can only treat the symptoms? The common cold.

I’m not saying this to downplay the virus or to say it isn’t something to keep in mind. I’m just saying that if you are healthy, you don’t need to panic. Panic is the opposite of helpful in these situations. Haven’t you ever seen a disaster movie? What do people do? Panic. Does it do anything? It only creates more chaos and, in some cases, stops medical professionals from being able to do their jobs. So, let’s chill a bit.

For you healthy folks out there (when I say ‘healthy’, I mean the general person, without chronic illness, with a working immune system, etc.) here’s what the CDC recommends to prevent illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

CDC on illness prevention:

CDC on handwashing:

For healthy folks, here is my honest plea, if not my strong demand: Stop buying medical supplies you don’t need and stop buying medical supplies in bulk.

Facemasks will not help the common Joe. Medical grade face masks are only to be used if

  1. You yourself are sick
  2. You are in close contact with someone who is sick
  3. You are immunocompromised (ex: chronic illness, ongoing chemo, etc.)

If you do not fit into one or more of the above, you do not need to wear a face mask and buying them in bulk is actually making the situation worse.

Please, please, stop panicking and running to Target and emptying the shelves of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. For people with chronic illness, those medical supplies you are stockpiling like those crazy people in math equations are the difference between a good day, and possibly deadly consequences.

I’m one of the lucky ones. While I am immunocompromised, it is not as severe as others and I do not need many OTC medical supplies. That being said, there are people out there who do need those things. And when you, who do not need them, buy those supplies in bulk, they are not available for those who need them. If it will make you feel better to go out and buy some hand sanitizer, do it. Just don’t buy the whole store’s worth. Herd immunity requires everyone be taking proper precautions, and if you own all the soap in the tri-state area, how is anyone going to wash their hands?

Okay, let’s talk about facemasks. If you are the average Joe healthy person, you do not need a facemask. Buying them and wearing them does nothing unless you yourself are sick or you are in close contact with someone who is sick.

So, why do I wear one? Why do you still see people wearing facemasks?

There are people who do need to wear facemasks, and you can’t tell who they are just by appearances. So, if you see me walking around looking like a medical Bane, don’t judge, because you don’t know the whole situation. And please, do not stop me and tell me ‘you know facemasks don’t actually work’. Just assume I have COVID-19 and stay the hell away from me.

This is a scary time for spoonies. I could die of complications from the common cold, so it’s understandable that I’d be preoccupied with germs. But being filled with panic isn’t going to help. So let’s all agree to take a deep breath, and look at things logically.

Panic, no. Cautious, yes.


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