As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said for many days, we are living in extraordinary times. Life as we know it has changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help you stay informed on COVID-19, here are some tips on staying physically and mentally well along with some excellent online resources for further information.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a ‘coronavirus.’ Coronaviruses are a group of viruses usually found in animals. Viruses are extremely small particles that cannot live outside animals or humans for very long. The virus enters the human or animal through the mouth, nose, or breaks in the skin and attacks cells, which creates illness. COVID-19 spreads from person to person through close contact. COVID-19 causes a range of illnesses from colds to more severe diseases. COVID-19 is spread from an infected person through droplets from coughing or sneezing or from touching an object that was previously touched by someone with the illness and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Symptoms of COVID-19
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to many respiratory illnesses:
• Sore throat
• Difficulty breathing
If you or your child have the above symptoms and have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19, the first thing to do is to avoid contact with anyone else. If you are planning to go to a health care provider or facility, call them before you leave so they can take appropriate precautions.
How do I protect myself or my family from physical illness caused by COVID-19?
The good news is that preventing COVID-19 is quite simple. We should all be doing the following actions on a daily basis regardless of COVID-19 as they will help to prevent many illnesses throughout the year. You have probably heard these messages many times already, but they are vitally important:
• Wash hands for 20 seconds often and with soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
• Sneeze and cough into the inside of your elbow or a tissue and then put the tissue into the garbage.
• Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Maintain social distancing: keep 2 metres (or about the length of a pool noodle) from anyone outside your family, so no play dates for the time being.
• Follow recommendations from provincial health professionals such as BC Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
How do I support the mental health of my family in the midst of these stressful times?
• Try to limit time watching the news.
• Pay attention to the facts; avoid sensationalist stories on social media sites and do not share them.
• Focus on what you can do rather than on what you have no control over.
• Try to model calmness and confidence for your children; your children often look to you to gauge the seriousness of a situation.
• Reassure your child that many health experts are working to keep people healthy and to treat those who are sick. Many people recover from this illness and the pandemic will eventually end.
• Use this time to strengthen family relationships in creative ways. Most structured activities and public facilities such as recreation centres and libraries have been cancelled or closed so pull out some of those old board games or go for a walk on a local trail, ensuring you keep social distance from anyone else.
• Pay attention to changes in your child’s behaviour such as frequent nightmares, acting out, anxiety, depression and physical complaints such as stomach upset and headaches.
• Talk to your child, provide opportunities for them to voice their concerns and correct any misinformation.
• Take your child’s concerns seriously.
• Be honest, but positive. Explain they are unlikely to get sick but reinforce actions to prevent illness because this also keeps everyone healthy.
• Provide structure to your family’s day to provide a sense of normalcy.
• Just as in non COVID-19 times, try to get adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise.
• Arrange ‘play dates’ with your friends or your children’s friends via video conferencing such as Skype or FaceTime.
• Write your experiences in a family or private journal; it will be interesting reading in years to come!
Perhaps no phrase suits these times more than the British World War II slogan: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This pandemic could be an opportunity for all of us to take a break from our busy lives, slow down and forge greater connections with our immediate families. In the meantime, take care of yourself and each other as this too shall pass.
There are many excellent websites that provide information about the COVID-19 Pandemic and how to cope through this time of uncertainty. Take some time to review the following:
BC Centre for Disease Control: bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19
Island Health: islandhealth.ca
Caring for Kids: caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/the-2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19