A time for learning some hard lessons

April 3, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

BY LAUREN HANA, MD – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the incredible onslaught of information and misinformation that we all see daily in the headlines. Anxiety, panic and fear are now our new normal emotions. We can combat these with composure, preparedness and knowledge. Here are a few life lessons I’m learning or re-learning in my own quest to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
1. The importance of family and friends and to put others before ourselves.
As we are all separated for all of our safety, it becomes easy to become lonely, bored and frustrated. We all miss that all important human touch (and boy could we use a big hug right now!). We are physically separated from children, grandchildren and parents and may be confined with a spouse or significant other. We need to appreciate this time together and away. It makes us look forward to an eventual reunion even more. 
2. That cleanliness really is close to godliness, to trust and to plan and prepare. Who’d have thought that by just washing our hands more we could all save lives? Multiple past studies have shown that simple hand washing, done the correct way, can prevent the spread of 30 percent of gastrointestinal illness and near the same percentage of respiratory illnesses. Surgeons knew back in the 1800s that if they washed their hands between patients, they saw less infections and fewer deaths.
According to the CDC, you should wet your hands, use soap, rub for 20 seconds and rinse in clear running water then dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry. Using soap helps remove surface germs and actual dirt. Soap contains a surfactant that is lipophilic. This means it likes lipids or fats. A lot of germs, the virus that causes COVID-19 in fact, have lipids in the make up of their outer shell. Because the surfactant likes lipids, the soap binds to the particles and makes them easier to remove and be washed away. When soap is used, you are more likely to scrub to lather it up. The friction of scrubbing also helps remove dirt and germs from the hands. Germs will transfer easier from wet hands than dry, so dry them thoroughly afterward.
In 2016, the FDA also made a statement that washing with antibacterial soap was no more effective than proper handwashing technique with regular soap and water at removing germs. Remember, antibacterial means against bacteria, not against viruses. Don’t forget to include under your fingernails where germs like to hide and also don’t forget to wash your thumb. The thumb is often neglected for some reason.
3. We need to trust official sources for our news and information. There is a lot of misinformation around right now. Rumors run rampant and on the news we all see everyone trying to blame everyone else for this global crisis. We need to worry about this aspect later (or never in my opinion) and concentrate efforts on what we can do NOW to contain spread, facilitate development and distribution of the desperately needed tests and future vaccines. Focus on what we can do as individuals to help the whole. If everybody sweeps the sidewalk in front of their own house, the whole neighborhood will be clean.
4. That we are brave, resilient and strong.
Think about challenges that you have defeated in past. Some of us have fought battles with cancer and won. Some more than once. Most have been through economic crises in the past, whether business related, employment related, or relationship related (spousal loss or divorce) and you have come through. Of course, none of the previous battles have been as extreme as this one, but we can apply the skills we developed in those fights to help get us through this one. Keep in mind that this is a group battle and will require a group effort.
5. That patience really is a virtue and freedom is a privilege. I think no explanation here is necessary.
6. Most of all, learn to be kind. Reach out to your friends and neighbors, not to gossip about who’s sick or if there are any “outsiders” walking our streets, but to ask genuinely about how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to help each other through this struggle.
As we could all use a little levity at this time, here’s a couple other lessons I’ve learned.
  To waste less. A 2018 study found that the average American uses 141 rolls of toilet paper each year. At this rate, it is estimated that it takes 384 trees to fulfill one man’s lifetime need for toilet paper! The U.S. leads the world, by the way, for toilet paper usage. 
• To floss more. As we are now not able to see the dentist for regular dental hygiene appointments, both brushing and flossing have become a high priority. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) concluded that only 30 percent of Americans floss daily.
3. And lastly, I will soon learn my natural hair color!
Stay safe, stay home, be kind. 
Dr Lauren Hana is a physician at the Boca Grande Health Clinic.