Self-Care in the time of COVID-19
December 2019: a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is first detected in Wuhan, China. Only three months later, with more than 110 countries and territories affected, the expansion of this infectious disease, named COVID-19, seems unstoppable. Even if the applied public health measures are following the regular phases of containment, delay and mitigation, some panic has sparked in the population. While it may take time before the outbreak calms down, self-care measures and health literacy will play a decisive role in slowing down the epidemic.
Prevention is better than cure: the importance of self-care
The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.
At AESGP, we consider that the self-care continuum includes a wide range of actions and measures: health literacy, good hygiene, healthy lifestyle choices and responsible self-diagnosis, self-treatment, self-monitoring and supplementation.
While it is normal to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect us, even more so when we can potentially be exposed to it in our daily lives, we can take specific self-care measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones. These measures help to minimise the risks of getting or spreading the infection:
- Boosting our immune system by being physically active and having a balanced diet.
- Taking food supplements (like vitamins and minerals) to prevent shortcomings of diets and provide balanced nutrient range.
- Adopting a good hand hygiene (washing hands regularly and thoroughly) and good respiratory hygiene (covering mouth and nose with our bent elbow or tissue when we cough or sneeze, avoiding close contact with sick people). In the event of outbreaks, good hygiene remains an effective way to prevent the spread of many types of infections and illnesses, including COVID-19.
- Getting timely, reliable information and following the advice of local health authorities including travel, movement or gathering restrictions.
- If feeling unwell (fever, cough and difficulty breathing), staying home and seeking medical attention following the directions of your local health authority.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, tiredness, dry cough, pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. This is why it is so hard to distinguish it from the common flu or cold.
These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually, and can be relieved by non-prescription medicines, self-care medical devices, food supplements or other self-care measures, with the support of a healthcare professional when necessary.
However, people with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, or with underlying medical conditions, should seek medical attention.
Combatting myth and panic: the importance of health literacy
At AESGP, we believe that health literacy plays, in many aspects, a decisive role in healthy lifestyles and behaviours. It empowers people to decide when to practice self-care to manage common symptoms and when professional care should be sought.
Good health literacy skills allow a person to:
- interpret given information on health and disease,
- select and find good sources of health information,
- understand when information is poor or misleading.
In the time of growing misinformation, it is of pivotal importance to ensure the access to public reliable data. In the context of COVID-19, the World Health Organization has put together myth busters and regularly updates an extensive Q&A to help the public take the right and adapted, prudent actions to get through the outbreak.