Staying Safe – And Staying Well – During a Pandemic Winter

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Eliza Skoler

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away just yet, and as the weather grows colder and the holidays approach, you may have questions about how to keep yourself and others safe this winter. Here’s how to know (and lower!) your risks, plus tips for staying as healthy as possible

As cases of COVID-19 are spiking across the globe, the weather is also growing colder in many parts of the world. As we are starting to see in the United States, winter is intensifying the effects of the pandemic:

  • Due to the cold weather, people are moving outdoor gatherings indoors, where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is much higher.
  • For the same reason, it’s harder for people to be physically active outside to keep themselves healthy.
  • With the holidays approaching, many people are making plans to travel or visit loved ones, bringing the virus with them.
  • It’s flu season, and it can be dangerous to get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time – read our article “Flu Shots Are Even More Important During A Pandemic.”

These factors can all be scary for people with diabetes, who are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness. In this article we’ll answer the questions you might have, and we’ll discuss ways that you can keep yourself and others as safe as possible this winter. You can find more resources on COVID-19 here.

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How is the virus spreading?

Coronavirus is transmitted through contact with infected people, whether or not those people show symptoms. COVID-19 is primarily spread through the droplets that come out of an infected person’s mouth or nose when they talk, breath, cough, sneeze, laugh, or sing. The virus is carried through these small droplets. Anyone close by can be infected by the virus if the droplets enter their mouth, nose, or eyes. Droplets can also land on surfaces (like door handles or food at the grocery store) and infect someone who touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face. Finally, according to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 can sometimes spread invisibly when tiny droplets stay in the air for an extended period of time after they are released.

With many ways for COVID-19 to spread, avoiding public spaces and people who do not live with you can dramatically reduce your chances of infection. We know that not everyone can stay home – if you are an essential worker, thank you for the work you are doing and please be as careful as possible. If you’re not an essential worker, do your part to slow the spread and stay at home whenever possible. Read our article “Not Everyone Can Work From Home: Addressing Worker Safety During COVID-19” for more information.

Know your risks: how can I stay as safe as possible?

The best thing you can do this winter is evaluate your risk. What does this mean? Over the next few months, every time you are considering doing something outside of your home, you should consider your chances of getting COVID. Here are the questions to ask yourself:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in my community? Check out this interactive, county-level, risk assessment tool from researchers at Georgia Tech.
  • Will I come into close contact with other people who are not in my household? If so:
    • How many people might I encounter? How long will I be around them?
    • Will people be wearing masks?
    • Will I be indoors or outdoors? Will I be able to keep six feet away from others?
  • How will I get there? Will I have to travel to other cities or states?
  • Do I, or others in my household, have diabetes or other health conditions that increase risk for severe illness?

The CDC states, “In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.” These questions can help you understand the risk of an activity, to determine how it may affect your health or the health of your loved ones. Below we’ll talk about the risks – and ways to lower those risks – for gatherings and travel.

Is it safe to gather with family and loved ones?

The holidays this year may be challenging and different than what you are used to. Given the chances of COVID-19 transmission, many families are asking whether they should visit each other and celebrate together, especially if they have to travel to do so. For families with diabetes, it’s even more important to consider the risks of exposing yourself and others to additional people.

Every time you come into close contact with a new person there is a risk of being infected with COVID-19, or infecting that person (if you have COVID-19 at the time, whether or not you are showing symptoms). The best way to stay safe is to minimize contact with other people; even a small gathering can be quite dangerous.This may mean that your family will celebrate the holidays virtually, rather than through an in-person gathering. The CDC recommends that people who have diabetes or who live with someone who has diabetes avoid in-person gatherings with people outside of their household.

If you do decide to see others, here are some of the best ways to be careful:

  • Do not host or attend a gathering if you or someone you live with has symptoms of COVID, may have been exposed to someone with COVID, or is waiting for test results, tested positive for COVID less than days ago, or has a fever.
  • Strongly encourage everyone who will attend to quarantine for 14 days before the event, avoiding contact with anyone outside their household. This will greatly reduce their chances of catching COVID and transmitting it to other guests.
  • Limit the number of guests as much as possible, and try to include only people from your local area.
  • Gather outdoors whenever you can; if people will be inside, open windows to increase air flow.
  • Have hand sanitizer and masks on hand to help keep people healthy.

What are the risks of travel and transportation?

As with every activity, when you travel, you run two risks: getting COVID, or infecting others with COVID. Here are the main questions you should ask if you are considering travel to a new place:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading at your destination?
  • Are you – or someone you live with – at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness?
  • Will you be around many people while you are in transit? If so, will people be wearing masks and taking safety precautions?

Each type of travel carries its own risks. What type of travel are you considering?

Risk factors

Image source: diaTribe

When traveling or using public transportation, you should always wear a face mask when you are in public spaces. As much as possible, stay at least six feet away from people not in your household and avoid touching any surfaces. Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) frequently, and upon arrival. Read more about travel recommendations from the CDC here, or read about transportation safety here.According to the CDC, the lowest-risk options are to travel short distances by car with the people you live with, or to stay home. The highest-risk option is air travel with airport layovers.

What other precautions should I still be taking?

It’s important to continue following the guidelines that recommend to protect yourself whenever you are outside of your home. Here are some basic steps you can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Social distance by staying at least six feet away from other people.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when around other people in public. Your mask should fully cover your mouth and nose and fit snugly against your face. Read more about wearing and cleaning masks in our article, “The Latest on COVID: Staying Safe as The Pandemic Surges.”
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Cover coughs and sneezes. Do not remove your mask to cough, sneeze, or talk to others.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even in your home.
  • Monitor your health and be aware if you begin developing any symptoms.

One of the most important parts of being careful is wearing a mask – please wear a face mask when you are out in public, and encourage others to do the same! Face masks are essential to reducing COVID infection rates this winter. Learn about face masks, why they work, and what type to buy in this article from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

What can I do to keep my body as healthy and strong as possible?

It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine! This year, flu shots are more important than ever to avoid getting the flu and COVID at the same time – especially for families with diabetes. Read “Flu Shots Are Even More Important During A Pandemic” to learn how to tell the difference between the flu and COVID, and read “Get Your Flu Shot Now” for more information on how having diabetes can affect recovery from the flu.

For people with diabetes, it is especially important to carefully manage your blood glucose levels. Keeping your blood glucose levels stable will keep your body healthy and ready to fight off an infection. Please continue to take your medication, and keep extra medication and diabetes supplies at home, as well as supplies for low blood sugar events.

It’s also a good idea to maintain habits for healthy eating and exercise. Check out our delicious, low-carb recipes from Catherine Newman, including comfort foods and winter soups. As the weather grows colder, it may be harder to exercise outside, however, the American Heart Association has tips for staying active during the winter.

Finally, remember to take care of your mental health. The combination of the pandemic, diabetes, and the winter can be really challenging for many people. You can find our guide to managing stress and anxiety during the pandemic, and a list of free mental health resources here.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

The Latest on COVID: Staying Safe as The Pandemic Surges

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Eliza Skoler

As COVID restrictions and recommendations shift, what do we know about staying safe with diabetes? How can we protect others and make careful decisions about risk?

As the pandemic continues to unfold, states and countries are leading their own initiatives to reduce infection rates and keep people safe. This means that people around the world are experiencing different stages of caution, risk, and safety. As we navigate the uncertainty of conflicting messages and daily updates to guidelines and recommendations, everyone – with or without diabetes – can do some things to keep themselves and others as safe as possible. In this article, we’ll look at the latest scientific recommendations to discuss what we know about preventing serious COVID-19 infections.

View our new COVID and diabetes infographic here. Click to read our first COVID reopening article, “COVID Phase 2: Diabetes Care During Reopening,” or check out more of our articles on COVID-19. You can also find the official reopening plan for your US state here.

On July 17, the CDC updated its recommendations for people who are at higher risk for severe coronavirus infection. People with type 2 diabetes have increased risk for severe illness, while people with type 1 diabetes may have increased risk. If you have diabetes, the best thing you can do to prevent severe COVID infection is avoid contact with other people as much as possible.

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diabetes and COVID

Image source: diaTribe

Stay at home as much as possible to avoid contact with other people

Coronavirus is spread through contact with infected people. This means that by avoiding public spaces and people who do not live with you, you can dramatically reduce your chances of infection. We know that not everyone is able to stay home – if you are an essential worker, thank you for the work you are doing. Please be as careful as possible and see below for information on protecting yourself outside the home.

COVID-19 is primarily spread through the droplets that come out of an infected person’s mouth or nose when they talk, breath, cough, sneeze, laugh, or holler. The virus is carried through these small droplets. Anyone close by can be infected by the virus if the droplets enter their mouth, nose, or eyes.

  • Droplets can also land on surfaces (like door handles or food at the grocery store) and infect someone who touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face.
  • The World Health Organization acknowledged in July that COVID-19 may be spread invisibly through the air. Many scientists agree that tiny droplets can stay in the air for an extended period of time after they are released, which means COVID-19 could be considered an airborne virus, increasing its danger. This provides even more reason to stay home.

Protect yourself if you are outside your home

  • Social distance by staying at least six feet away from other people.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when around other people in public. Your mask should full cover your mouth and nose and fit snugly against your face. See below for more tips on wearing and cleaning your face mask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even in your home.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Do not remove your mask to cough, sneeze, or talk to others.
Mask

Image source: CDC

Many people with coronavirus may not show symptoms or know that they are carrying the virus; however, even those without symptoms can still spread it to other people. Cloth face masks are meant to protect people around you if you are already infected (as shown in the image on the right; source: CDC). Studies show that masks are extremely effective: the more people wear masks in public, the less the virus is passed.

Here are some resources on cloth face masks:

As things reopen, make careful decisions

For many people, the hardest part about removing or lessening restrictions is that it can feel “safe” to go back to our pre-pandemic activities. To make the problem even more challenging, even though it’s not completely safe yet, many people are tired of social distancing and staying at home, and the social isolation has taken its toll on many.

According to the CDC, “the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” While the pandemic is still raging, here are some ways to be careful if you will be seeing people.

  1. See people outside, rather than inside

Because COVID-19 is spread through the air, it is much easier to spread the virus indoors than outdoors given that wind circulation and open space outside are far greater. This means that closed, small, indoor spaces are the most dangerous places to interact with other people. If you or someone you live with has diabetes, avoid seeing others indoors. Instead, consider seeing people outside, where you have more space to remain distant and the breeze complicates the transmission of droplets.

  • If you must see family or friends indoors, open windows or doors to create air flow. Find an indoor space that is large, so that you can stay far apart.
  • Wear cloth face coverings, even at socially distant gatherings.
  • Wash your hands often (or use hand sanitizer) and don’t touch shared surfaces.
  • Read more about the safety of outdoor gatherings from the New York Times.
  1. Avoid travel

The CDC continues to recommend that people avoid travel, if possible, because traveling exposes you to many other people who may be infected. This is especially important for people with increased risk; if you have diabetes, or you are considering visiting someone with diabetes, travel can pose a high risk for serious coronavirus infection.

  • While traveling in personal vehicles carries the least risk of COVID-19 infection, activities such as road trips can still expose you to the virus at rest stops, gas stations, and other places where you may stop.
  • Learn more about travel considerations from diaTribe and from the CDC.
  • Given the uncertainty of travel restrictions, if you travel you may run the risk of not being allowed to return home.
  1. If you haven’t already, ask your healthcare team if you can try telehealth appointments

Going to a clinic, medical office, or hospital can expose you to people who have COVID-19. Many healthcare teams offer telemedicine appointments so that you can discuss your diabetes management without coming into contact with other people. Ask your healthcare team whether it is safe and important for you to visit the clinic for regular diabetes management.

  1. Stay as healthy as possible

For people with diabetes, it is more important than ever to carefully manage your blood glucose levels. Keeping your blood glucose levels stable will keep your body healthy and ready to fight off an infection.

If you show symptoms or begin to feel unwell, get tested for COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 can appear up to 14 days after you have been infected with the virus. According to the CDC, these are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle ache, headache, or body aches
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you have any of these symptoms or are not feeling well, stay away from others, contact your healthcare professional, and get tested for COVID-19. Find free testing sites in your state here. It is important to note that you may experience other symptoms of COVID-19 that are not listed above, or even no symptoms at all.

We know that people with diabetes face more serious outcomes of COVID-19 infection. If you, or someone close to you, has diabetes, it’s even more important to be careful in this pandemic. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you is stay home as much as possible and wear a face mask (appropriately!) when you’re out in public.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Summer Is Here: Are You Still Safer at Home?

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Julia Flaherty

States and regions across America are slowly reopening, which means social distancing guidelines have become a bit fuzzy. However, the same principles apply to ensure you are best protecting yourself and others. COVID-19 is still a threat and will remain so until we have a widespread vaccine.

It’s important to remember that whether or not you’d like to slowly emerge back into society is your choice. You can absolutely still stay at home if that makes you feel safest and you are able to. But as more businesses and workplaces reopen, you may not have that choice.

It is also completely understandable that, after months inside, you’re ready to begin weighing the risks of certain activities to maintain other physical, mental, and emotional health needs. Both mentalities are okay. But if you plan to re-emerge or have to, there are important guidelines to keep in mind.

Know Your Risks

Public Gatherings

To remain cautious, keep your social circles small. Continue to limit your interactions to the people you live with, and be mindful of any emerging illnesses among your household members. If someone in your household does get sick, the CDC advises quarantining any ill family members in a specific room of your house (if they do not have to be monitored in a medical facility) to keep everyone safe from the spread.

Experts have outlined the risk factors of certain summer activities. While hosting an outdoor barbecue in your backyard with one other household is low to medium risk, going to a beach or pool among strangers is medium to high. Experts also say eating indoors at a restaurant is medium to high risk.

There are still many safety benefits of engaging with friends and family via virtual chats, ordering takeout instead of sitting down at venues (meanwhile supporting your local economy), and enjoying the great outdoors. Experts rate exercising outdoors and camping as low-risk summer activities.

Hygiene

Keep your hands and face (eyes, nose, mouth) clean. The CDC continues to advise washing your hands after treating someone who is sick, eating, preparing food, using the bathroom, tending to a wound or sore, touching pet litter, food, or treats, touching the garbage, interacting with out-of-home surfaces, and so on. Wet your hands with clean running water each time you wash them, and lather your hands, covering all areas of them, for at least 20 seconds. Dry them well using a clean hand towel each time.

Hand sanitizer with at least a 60% alcohol volume is good to use in the interim if you do not have immediate access to soap and water, but the best method is still washing your hands, as hand sanitizer doesn’t eradicate all types of germs. Be mindful of this standard amid all of your summer activities to stay safe.

Regularly launder your clothes and shower. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your clothing, and then throw away your tissue or change your clothing. When cleaning, use an EPA-approved disinfecting product. Frequently clean high-touch surfaces.

Masks

Though many of us are growing eager to be close to friends and family again, suffering from lockdown burnout and fatigue, it’s still important to remember that masks do not replace the six feet apart social distancing rule. If you are slowly working on re-emerging, keep in mind that not everyone will practice mask safety in a compliant fashion, which puts you at risk.

Some do not know how to wear masks properly, while others still do not have access to compliant masks, and some may choose not to wear a mask at all. To ensure your safety, continue to wear a mask in public settings, such as the grocery store or your workplace if you are returning, and keep staying six feet apart. Experts have commented there are no known grocery store linked cases, indicating that grocery store shopping remains a low risk so long as you follow social distancing guidelines.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Be Prepared and Know Your Rights: Your Guide to Protesting With Diabetes

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

Editor’s Note: It is an extremely personal decision to protest, and Beyond Type 1 neither endorses nor opposes any person living with diabetes’ participation. This guide is to help those who choose to protest do so as safely as possible.

Protesting is one of many ways to create change and is a right of all Americans under the First Amendment. But if you have diabetes, there are extra things to consider, particularly amidst COVID-19.

Having diabetes – type 1 or type 2 – presents challenges in daily life already; adding a challenging environment with risk of exposure to a virus makes things more complicated. Because of that, you may choose to lend your voice to the things you care about from home, which is also impactful.

However, if you are heading out to protest, here’s what you need to know.

Be Prepared

Step 1: Make sure you are healthy enough and prepared to participate.

Consider the state of your health over the last few days and weeks. The best circumstances under which to attend a protest are when your blood sugars have been stable, you have been eating hearty and nutritious meals, you are well-hydrated, your immune system is strong, and your mental health is fortified.

Step 2: Pack a bag.

In addition to the standard items suggested for all protesters, like extra masks/face coverings, cash, your health insurance card, permanent markers, water, and snacks, there are extra things to consider if you have diabetes. Remember that you may get stuck away from home for a longer period of time than planned.

  • Double down on water. While heavy, staying hydrated can keep your blood sugar levels more manageable and can prevent other health issues. When volunteers or street medics offer more water, accept their offer.
  • Bring a variety of snacks, with a combination of carbohydrates and protein, and glucagon (nasal or injectable kit). It is helpful to have both fast-acting glucose, like glucose tabs or gels, to raise your blood sugar quickly if you experience a low, as well as more substantial snacks to consume periodically to keep your blood sugar stable. Ensure that the people you’re going with know how to use glucagon, including what personal signs of a low blood sugar you experience that they can look out for.
  • Pack extra blood sugar monitoring supplies. Even if you have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), it is possible for your sensor to fail or become inaccurate due to heat causing your adhesive to loosen or jostling from being in a crowd. With either your CGM or glucose monitor, make sure you are checking your levels often. If you have a closed-loop system and can utilize an ‘exercise’ setting to keep your blood sugar levels slightly higher (typically around 160 mg/dL), do so.
  • Include a back-up insulin delivery method. If you wear an insulin pump, bring insulin pens (with extra pen needles) or vials and syringes. If you utilize injections, make sure you have more supplies than you typically need. Consider packing in a small cooler system/insulated bag to keep your insulin cool.
  • Write down your medical information on index cards kept in the outer pocket of your bag. This should include your medical background information (all medical issues you live with), your medications, and the contact information for your healthcare provider and emergency contact.
  • We are still living in a pandemic, so pack extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. If you accept water or snacks from volunteers, ensure you sanitize surfaces, like the opening of a water bottle. COVID-19 is challenging, but made more challenging by diabetes management. Minimize your risks to stay safe. 

Step 3: Wear protective articles of clothing + a medical alert item. 

Wear a mask or face covering, long pants, comfortable closed-toed shoes, a long sleeve shirt, a hat and/or sunglasses, plus a medical alert item, like a bracelet or necklace.

  • If you do not have a medical alert item, write your alerts on your arm using permanent marker. This could something like “insulin-dependent, type 1 diabetes.” Your alerts should be as clear as possible, helping a person completely unfamiliar with diabetes be more aware of your health background.
  • Protective clothing – long sleeves, sunglasses, hat, etc. – shields you from the sun, and will also provide a barrier for your skin in case tear gas is deployed. A primary component of tear gas is capsaicin, a chemical compound derived from chili peppers. As tear gas (made from fine particles) is absorbed by your skin, it can produce extensive amounts of inflammation. This can lead to health issues in anyone, but can lead to issues with blood sugar, extra pain response, and dehydration for people with diabetes.

Step 4: Have a buddy and communicate.

No one should go to a protest alone if possible, but particularly no one with an underlying health condition. Ensure you attend a protest with someone you trust, who knows you have diabetes, and can help look out for the signs of low or high blood sugar. Ask them to remind you to drink water and eat. Create a plan for where and when to meet if you get separated. Be clear about your limits and make sure you are in agreement about your boundaries. For example, if you are attending with someone who is willing to be arrested and you are not, you will no longer have your buddy system intact, which could lead to a safety issue.

Step 5: Take care of yourself when you get home.

Chances are you just walked a long distance and tensions were high. Hydrate and eat once you get back home or to a safe place. Your blood sugar may drop or rise in unexpected ways due to stress and exertion. Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels as much as possible. If you have a CGM with follow capabilities, ask a friend or family member to make sure their alerts are loud, particularly while you sleep.

Know Your Rights

Attending a protest carries the risk of being detained or arrested. Because of this, ensure you know your rights before you attend. Be aware that while everyone in the US has the same rights theoretically, being undocumented, a person of color, or belonging to any marginalized group – including living with diabetes – alters how you may need to approach interactions with members of law enforcement.

The following is summarized from the American Diabetes Association’s Inappropriate Law Enforcement Response to Individuals with Diabetes.

  1. If you get arrested, clearly and calmly state to the police officer that you have diabetes. If you are concerned about or nearing a medical episode – such as a low or high blood sugar event – while detained, communicate the circumstances to the officer. By law, if an officer has visible cues (such as clear signs of a low or high blood sugar) or has been given notice of a person’s medical condition, they must abide by the resulting rights that provides.
  2. You have a right to be able to take care of your health and receive medical assistance if and as needed. The Fourteenth Amendment grants the right of pretrial detainees (anyone who has been detained, arrested, or jailed) to adequate medical care.
  3. Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer is not allowed to search or confiscate your belongings without a warrant or without probable cause. If a police officer believes they have probable cause, they must inform you of what they are searching, as well as what they are seizing. Consensual seizures are not prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, so you must state that you do not consent for your belongings to be seized. This all becomes more murky if the police officer can make a case that a severe crime was being committed, an immediate threat is being posed to the officer or public, or if you are resisting or otherwise evading arrest. Stay calm, be clear, and follow directions as much as possible.

Overall, if you are considering or attending a protest, safety comes first. Be prepared. Be careful. Know your rights.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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