How can I stay safe while grocery shopping? And answers to 24 other coronavirus questions
As COVID-19 cases spike in states across he United States, people want clear and accurate answers to pressing questions about how to manage daily life in the face of this dangerous virus. Given what we know about the extremely contagious nature of the novel coronavirus, its high rate of serious health impacts and death, and now, the emerging science on how it can spread through people who do not know they are contagious, it helps to know how to keep yourself and others safe while doing what were once routine tasks.
Fear is a natural response to new information about threats and their risks. But with accurate information on how to take action to protect yourself and loved ones, fear naturally causes humans to become more efficient in responding to danger. This can lead to action, agency, courage, creativity, and much more. In fact, the upwelling we’ve seen around the world of compassionate, urgent, and brave responses to the pandemic is part of this process.
Almost all of us are experiencing changes to daily life we couldn't have imagined at the start of 2020. The overall approach to all tasks and functions, whether you are sheltering at home or going outside for essential work, lies with keeping yourself and others safe from the dangers of COVID-19.
Stacker scoured other news outlets and public health resources—and surveyed our families and friends—to compile a list of 25 common questions about COVID-19 and provide answers for each. A few of the most important takeaway points are staying away from others, keeping yourself and surfaces clean, and knowing what to do if you get sick. With accurate information that allows for informed action and protection in place, people will find ever more creative ways of expressing their support, love, and compassion for others during this global health crisis.
You may also like: 25 natural ways to boost your immune system
How do COVID-19 symptoms differ from flu symptoms?
The flu and COVID-19 symptoms are a bit similar, so it’s important to pay attention right now if you get sick. Both can include fever, muscle ache, and fatigue, but COVID-19 often also includes a dry cough and shortness of breath. If you have any questions about your symptoms, call the Centers for Disease Control Self-Check and call your doctor. If you are experiencing respiratory distress, seek medical help immediately.
Is COVID-19 dangerous for young people?
Although COVID-19 is generally most risky for older adults and those with certain health conditions, the Centers for Disease Control research released on March 18, 2020, show that a significant number of younger people also get seriously ill. As many as one-fifth of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals were between 20 and 44 years old. And in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine April 28, 2020, doctors working at Mount Sinai in New York City reported that five people under the age of 50 had large vessel strokes. All tested positive for COVID-19—and all had few or no symptoms.
Is COVID-19 more dangerous for men?
Data from numerous countries indicates that men have a greater risk of infection, serious illness, and death related to COVID-19 than women, with death rates nearly double that of women (although this depends on the country and other factors). At first, researchers thought this might be related to behavior differences, such as hand-washing choices, seeking medical treatment, or smoking. However, the pattern is now so pronounced across the world that researchers suspect there is a fundamental biological mechanism at work that we will only know with more research.
One study released April 29, 2020, in Frontiers in Public Health found that men and women shared equal riask of contracting COVID-19, but that men had a higher chance of facing more serious or significant symptoms.
Are smokers more at risk for COVID-19?
Yes, smokers are at significantly greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19 than non-smokers. Smokers’ lungs are already compromised, and the additional impact of the respiratory complications from novel coronavirus is that much harder on the lungs. The New England Journal of Medicine published a paper Feb. 28, 2020, that showed smokers, or those who smoked regularly in the past, have a 10% greater chance of serious complications from COVID-19 than non-smokers.
How do asymptomatic people spread COVID-19?
One of the reasons COVID-19 is so dangerous is it spreads very effectively to others from those who don’t realize they’re infected. These people are “asymptomatic” or have such a mild response to the disease that they don’t realize they might have it. Up to half of all infections are in mild or asymptomatic people who spread the virus with no awareness they are doing so. This happens through “viral shedding;” when the virus is fully active in people’s nose, throats, and lungs—and fully contagious—even in mild or asymptomatic cases. As many as 25% of those infected may not show symptoms, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control on March 30, 2020.
How long does COVID-19 survive on different surfaces?
COVID-19 lives for various lengths of time on familiar surfaces and you may be at risk of being exposed if you do not take precautions. Knowing how long the virus lives on different surfaces can help people be proactive about how they handle things like boxes, mail, and groceries. For example, COVID-19 can survive for up to nine days on plastic and steel, while it may live for up to one day in the air or on cardboard.
Can dogs and other pets get COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control has previously said the risk of animals becoming infected is rare. But they updated their guidelines following two cats' positive tests, announcing that the same social distancing measures for humans should be employed for pets. This includes avoiding pets' interaction with other animals or people outside the home—particularly public places and dog parks—and maintaining six feet when walking dogs. Existing precautions like careful hand-washing and covering your face still applies. If you are sick with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that someone else in your home take over care for your pet.
How can I naturally boost my immune system?
A whole host of healthy habits will give you and your body a great immune boost. Drinking plenty of water, getting fresh air and exercise, building in socially distant time with friends, and adding garlic, mushrooms, and vitamin C to your diet are all great ways to naturally build up your immune system. Check out this great list of tips from Stacker on boosting your immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is it safe to take ibuprofen?
Most likely, yes. The doubts about ibuprofen surfaced in part as a result of a letter published on March 12, 2020, in the journal The Lancet. The story serves as a cautionary tale in a pandemic, when people may seize on information that is not accurate and spread it. The letter in question hypothesized that some medications, including ibuprofen, might possibly make it easier for the novel coronavirus to infect cells. There was no study or evidence to support this claim besides an idea about how the virus might possibly interact with the medication in the body.
It is fine to choose acetaminophen to feel better if you are concerned. According to an NPR story on March 18, 2020, Dr. Angela Rogers, “a pulmonologist at the Stanford University Medical Center and chair of its intensive care unit's COVID-19 task force, says that Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the go-to medication for patients who are sick enough to be hospitalized for any infection.” If you have any questions about whether to take ibuprofen for COVID-19 symptoms, call your doctor.
Which over-the-counter medicines can safely alleviate symptoms?
For basic treatment of COVID-19 symptoms the Mayo Clinic recommends pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, cough suppressants and medications, plenty of fluids, and lots of rest. At the time of this writing there is not an antiviral medication recommended.