COVID-19: FAQ For Mamas

(Please spread the word on social media! Thank you!)

(Skip the Intro and Jump to the Table of Contents)

Is it just me, or do things feel kind of surreal right now? 

And with conflicting information flying around all over the place, and so many unanswered questions, it makes it even harder than usual for us Mamas to feel confident making good decisions for our family.

And it breeds a lot of fear. 

I don’t like fear-mongering. And I’m really not into panicking, either. 

I prefer to take a balanced approach to situations so that we can all identify what we DO know…and what we DON’T know. And then let everybody make the best decisions for their families based on that. 

So I’ve compiled a list of the top Coronavirus related questions that Mamas in our Mommy Plus More Insiders FB Group have asked (it’s a fun community, you should join us there!). Then I #ObsessivelyResearched them using my joint background as a Registered Nurse and research experience I gained during my Masters in Clinical Psychology. 

DISCLAIMER: I am a Registered Nurse, but I am not your Registered Nurse. The information in this article is basic info that applies to most situations where an otherwise healthy child (or adult) comes down with a relatively common, run-of-the-mill sort of illness. You should always follow your Mama instincts and seek additional help when you need it!

I’ve done my best to be accurate as of the writing of this article. But remember, information is changing day by day! I also do my best to provide a variety of references, both “official” academic research papers, as well as accurate summary articles (those might be a little easier to read, ya know what I’m sayin’?) so that you can dig into the research for yourself and see if you agree with my answers.

I’ve also tried my best to clearly identify when I’m expressing my own, personal opinions versus explaining the opinions of others. 

(*Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I might receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using those links*)

So let’s get to it, shall we?

(P.S. Coronavirus is also known as COVID-19 or SARS-COV-2. I’m going to stick to using the terms “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19” throughout this FAQ.)

Table of Contents:

Why is it so hard to get answers about Coronavirus? Why is there so much conflicting information?

The reason why it’s so hard to get answers is because for many questions there ARE no answers yet. This is a brand new virus, and a brand new situation for the world. Never before have we experienced a pandemic at a time that the world has been this well connected. 

And that’s both good and bad. 

Our knowledge of the virus is changing at a rapid pace as we learn more about COVID-19 everyday. It’s amazing how interconnected our scientists, epidemiologists, and world leaders can all be with today’s technology.

On one hand, it’s been amazing because researchers have been openly sharing their data and research findings at a level never before seen. New research studies are available online before they’re published, viral DNA sequencing is shared with labs all over the world for analysis, and “open letters” from some of our top experts are available in real-time to stimulate brainstorming and develop the best ideas and hypotheses for how to move forward.

Unfortunately, this interconnectedness also has a dark side.

Namely, that sometimes information moves so fast that not everybody is on the same page with what’s the most current information. And other times, an opinion or hypothesis or straight up lie can get mistaken for a medical fact, and fly around the world before the mistake has a chance to be corrected. 

Also, this info is available to almost anybody…which means that anybody can potentially misinterpret it or put their own “spin” on it. This can lead to people who only look at part of the information before declaring this whole pandemic to be “no big deal.” And it can also lead to people declaring that it’s literally the end of the world.

(Spoiler alert…I’ve been pouring over this COVID-19 data for weeks, and I believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle!)

In any case, these are the reasons why it’s soooo important to take everything you read with a grain of salt. When you see a recommendation online, don’t automatically share it on social media until you look it up for yourself. 

Find out if it’s coming from a reputable source…which is harder than you might think! That’s because the information is moving so fast that legitimate media sources can sometimes report public officials who have stated inaccurate claims based on a researcher’s proposed hypothesis…even if the claim doesn’t have any data to back it up. 

But even if that happens…go easy on everyone involved. Give the benefit of the doubt that everyone’s doing their best, and wants to get the best information into the hands of the people who need it in order to help save lives during this crazy time. 

And always keep in mind that what we think is true today, may change tomorrow. And the questions we don’t have answers for today, might be answered tomorrow, or next week, or next year…we just don’t know yet. 

And your healthcare providers are right there with you…they don’t have the answers anyway! Often, they’re just as frightened or anxious as you’re feeling. Oh, but they also have to keep doing their job, which requires them to risk exposing themselves (and their families) to the COVID-19 every day. Be patient with them, encourage them, tell them they’re doing a great job, and give them grace.

Overall, my best advice is to be flexible during this time. Make the best decisions that you can with the information you currently have…and then stop worrying about it, Mama. Just like everybody else, you’re doing the best you can! And you get some grace for that, too.

Back to Table of Contents

What’s the big deal about COVID-19, anyway? Isn’t it being over-hyped by the media? Aren’t these measures a little bit extreme if we’re young and healthy? Don’t more people die from the flu?

The “big deal” has to do with the difference between Personal risk and Systemic risk

See, your PERSONAL risk of being harmed by COVID-19 is very low for most people…no need to panic about that

Available statistics show that, so far, about 80% of people who contract Coronavirus will have mild to moderate symptoms that will not require medical treatment

Don’t let that term “mild to moderate” fool you, though…that’s also like saying mild to moderate flu symptoms. And if you’ve ever had the legit flu then you know that you feel miserable. And the Coronoavirus can go on for weeks. But, since feeling miserable is not the same thing as being at risk of death, that’s why it is still considered “mild to moderate” symptoms.

On the other hand, there is even evidence that some people can be infected, and continue to be completely asymptomatic. And continue to spread the virus to others in the meantime. 

Also: Low personal risk is not the same thing as no personal risk.

About 18% of people who have COVID-19 will also develop difficulty breathing that is severe enough to require hospitalization. And for 5%, that hospitalization will need to be in the Critical Care Unit (think ICU!). 

Now, even though the vast majority of deaths have been in the older population (>60yo) with pre-existing health problems, I’m sure that nobody really wants this to be our solution for how to cover Social Security payments in the coming years…

But it’s not enough to simply say that the elderly and immunocompromised should stay at home. Because the real problem is that the SYSTEMIC risk to our hospitals and healthcare system is VERY high right now.

What does systemic risk look like?

Systemic risk is what happens when our hospitals and healthcare systems get completely overwhelmed. 

Ironically, I was recently studying the 2014 West African Ebola Virus epidemic, so it’s still very fresh in my mind. I see so many parallels between that experience and what’s happening in our country right now (but I’m still sooo glad that we’re dealing with COVID-19 and not Ebola…). If you want to read about it for yourself, I highly recommend Robert Preston’s book Crisis in the Red Zone. It reads like a novel and is a real page-turner, but it’s a non-fiction account of what happened. 

It also offers a chilling look at what happens when a country’s healthcare system gets completely overwhelmed during an epidemic. 

Frontline Healthcare workers are constantly exposed because of patients coming in for treatment without knowing that they’re infected, running out of vital personal protective equipment that is essential to their safety, and working while exhausted as their co-workers drop like flies…either because they’re too scared to work, or because they’ve fallen ill themselves. 

What do you think that does to the quality of care you will receive?

As COVID-19 patients flood the hospitals, there are only a limited number of beds. Even if excess patients are placed on blankets on the floor, or temporary tent hospitals are set-up outside…

…how do you handle all the patients that will need ICU care when there aren’t enough ventilators or other critical care equipment? That’s when the really difficult decisions need to be made.

Think it can’t happen here? Just look at what has been going on in Italy. They have an excellent medical system, and yet they had to develop a protocol to triage which COVID-19 patients will receive access to life-saving treatments…and which will only receive supportive treatments, and thus be more likely to die.

I can promise you, it’s not callousness on their part. It’s more like the decisions you have to make during wartime, when you have limited resources and you want to use them in the most effective way possible.

And how do you think that all this will effect non-COVID-19 medical care?

Would you feel comfortable going to the hospital to fix your child’s broken arm? Giving birth in their Labor & Delivery suite? Having the ambulance take your father to the ER with a suspected heart attack?

This is what we face when we talk about Systemic Risk.

COVID-19 is not “just the flu”

The flu lasts an average of 7 days. If a flu patient develops severe enough symptoms to be treated in ICU, then their treatment will be more like 2-3 weeks. 

Critically ill patients with COVID take much longer to recover: more like 4-6 weeks! 

Combine that with the huge influx of COVID-19 patients that can happen all at once during an epidemic like this one, then you can see how easy it would be for our ICU’s to be quickly overwhelmed. 

Part of this is because COVID-19 is brand new…none of us has any immunity to it. So we’re all potentially susceptible. But the flu virus strains are similar year after year, so for the most part everybody has built up at least a little bit of immunity for it. 

So no: although Seasonal Flu and Coronoa Virus are both respiratory illness, they are definitely not the same.

So is COVID-19 a “big deal”?

I don’t want to scare anybody, but we ALL need to understand the risks we face if we can’t unite to slow the spread of COVID-19. The slower it spreads, the slower that trickle of critical care patients will be in our hospital, and our healthcare systems will have an easier time “keeping up” with them.

So YES! This is a big deal. Bigger than the flu. It will affect you even if you are young and healthy. And while parts of it might be “overhyped” by the media…you need to take this seriously.

So let’s all work together to #FlattenTheCurve with #SocialDistancing!

Back to Table of Contents

Social Distancing – Where are the lines drawn? What’s the most responsible thing? Can we play at the neighborhood park with other children present? Can we go to the beach? The grocery store?

Right now in the United States, Social Distancing is our primary method for slowing the spread of COVID-19… and it’s not easy, because many people still don’t understand the importance of strictly staying away from one other.

And I do mean strictly! 

This means NO playdates. Don’t let your kids play with their neighborhood friends. NO church or other optional activities. Don’t go to the mall. Don’t eat-in at restaurants. Don’t let your teenagers “hang out” with their friends or play basketball. Don’t invite people into your home to socialize. Please don’t lick public doorknobs. 

(Hey, my kids have been known to do it on occasion…)

Can my kids play at the neighborhood park?

Don’t go to playgrounds, especially with other kids around. Kids seem to be more likely to have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, but they are still able to spread it around the community…including to elderly relatives. 

That means that if your children are playing with their neighborhood friends, they could be exposed to COVID-19 without knowing it…even if nobody is showing any symptoms.

Also, the COVID-19 is able to remain stable for hours to days on many different types of surfaces…it can survive on plastic for 2-3 days! (Ahem…what is most playground equipment made from nowadays?) So even if you go play when there are no other kids around, you could still unknowingly pick-up the COVID-19.

Can we still go to the beach?

Going to the beach should be fine as long as it is not crowded (sorry Florida, you should have cancelled Spring Break!). Getting outside to enjoy some fresh air and nature is a great thing to do!

Just make sure to do it alone (or as a family), and continue to stay a minimum of 6-feet away from other people. 

So can we go outside at all? If so, what fun things CAN we do?

It’s totally okay to go outside! It’s great to get that Vitamin D from the sunshine. You can go to a park and take a walk, play in the woods, run in the fields…enjoy nature! Just do it alone (or as a family), and stay at least 6-feet away from any other people who are also out enjoying the weather. 

And also don’t touch things that you know other people commonly touch like park benches and playground equipment…

These next activities don’t necessarily count as fun activities, but either my husband or I can go to the grocery store alone and without any kids (#BrightSide). I also go to my prenatal appointments alone. And I’ll be going to the hospital pharmacy next week to pick-up a prescription. If my wisdom tooth gets any worse, I might even try to schedule a dental appointment.

But as for actually fun “out of the house” activities? My husband still goes on solo bike rides. My kids play in our backyard. Last night, they had a blast spraying each other with the water hose! My daughter loves to walk down the street and check our mail everyday. My son is forced to drag our trash can to the curb for weekly pick-up. Those things are all fine to continue doing. 

Just only do them with the people you already live with.

Back to Table of Contents

I really, really want to fly somewhere with the kids next week just for something fun…should I?

Short answer…NO!!

You definitely need to stay home right now.

Being on a plane (or, frankly, travelling at all) for non-essential trips at this time would not be wise. Not only are you exposing yourself and your family to numerous people who could be infected with COVID-19, you yourselves could be unknowingly spreading it to all of the people who are required to continue working with the public through this scary time. 

Not only that, but if you develop symptoms while away from home, it would be downright dangerous for you to travel until your symptoms have completely cleared up (as long as 2-3 weeks, if you have the mild/moderate version of COVID-19) AND at least another 1-2 weeks after you are well to ensure that you’re no longer contagious. 

Do you really want to risk being away from home, potentially with your kids, while you’re sick?

And then on top of THAT…what if you’re traveling at the moment when (excuse my language…) the sh!t hits the fan, hospitals are about to be overwhelmed (or maybe already are) and the state you’re in suddenly announces a “shelter in place” order? 

That’s going to make it much more difficult to make your way home safely. 

Don’t chance it, please refrain from non-essential travel. 

It may seem extreme, especially when Personal Risk is low, the weather is beautiful, and everybody is going stir-crazy from being home for so long. But the sooner we all take this seriously, the better.

Don’t believe me? Read this article about one person’s perspective of how the situation in Italy gradually developed…it sounds eerily like what the United States has been going through, too. 

And it’s all the more reason to stay home right now. In fact, the more people who take this seriously early on and stay home…the shorter this whole ordeal can be for everyone. 

Back to Table of Contents

Is it way too paranoid to be worried about carry-out food? All I can think about is that it only takes one person to sneeze on it…but I would also like to support local businesses (and a little break from cooking would be nice, too!) 

Good news…no need to be paranoid about ordering take-out! Or delivery either, for that matter. 

That’s because there is no reason to believe that food is a source of transmission for the COVID-19. And that includes the food packaging, as well, by the way.

The biggest risk is still person-to-person contact. So as long as you continue to minimize contact with people outside of your household, you’ll be doing the best you can to practice Social Distancing. 

So many restaurants are being creative and coming up with new plans for how to offer easy carry-out and delivery options. As an entrepreneur myself, I LOVE seeing all their ideas! 

So start by choosing a restaurant that is offering pick-up, curb-side pick-up, or delivery options. Even if they don’t normally offer these services, check their Facebook page or call directly to see if they have any “Pandemic Specials” going on. I’ve noticed that some of our favorite local restaurants really have some great deals going right now!

If possible, order and pay by phone or online. If they offer curb-side pick-up, then you won’t even have to leave your car! If you have to go inside the store, just make sure that you stay at least 6-feet away from any other patrons who are also picking up at the same time. 

If you prefer delivery, many delivery services are even offering a “no contact” delivery, where the delivery driver leaves your food by the door rather than handing it directly to you. Sometimes you have to specifically request this option, so check with your delivery service to find out how.

Back to Table of Contents

Should I wear a mask and/or gloves at work, especially if I work with the public in a non-healthcare setting (like the bank or grocery store)?

Neither the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommend the routine use of gloves or masks to prevent transmission of COVID-19. 

(This is where my Operating Room Nurse training really kicks my brain into high gear…)

First off, let’s tackle the gloves issue.

Why gloves are not helpful in preventing COVID-19 in non-Healthcare settings

COVID-19 is spread primarily by droplets. In the healthcare world, “droplets” refer to the tiny drops of mucus and saliva that fly out of your face…usually when you cough or sneeze. If somebody is infected with COVID-19 (or anything else that spreads through droplets, for that matter), then each individual droplet contains a ton of microscopic viruses.

But in order for those viruses to infect you, they need to find a way to enter your body first! 

Your skin is your first line of defense, because it forms a barrier that viruses can’t enter…as long as there are no cuts or scrapes where the viruses can sneak into your body, that is.

(So if your hands are already getting dry and cracked from frequent handwashing or hand sanitizer use, consider using something like my All-Natural Body Butter nightly to help your skin heal!) 

Now, if the droplets land on a mucus membrane like your eyes, mouth, or nose (like if you happen to breath them in while they’re still flying through the air…), then it’s a different story. The viruses have easy access to enter your body that way. 

Ditto if it lands on your hands, for example, and then you wipe your eyes, nose, or mouth and transfer those viruses from your skin to your own mucus membranes. 

All this to say: you’re more likely to get infected from a customer coughing or sneezing near you than by touching money or groceries. The virus is unlikely to find its way through the skin of your hands, and if you practice proper handwashing technique (or use hand sanitizer when that option is not available) then you’ll be regularly cleaning away the potential viruses anyway. 

(SIDE NOTE: And don’t even get me started on the things people touch while they’re wearing the gloves…it seriously makes my Operating Room Nurse brain cringe! I was standing in line at the grocery store watching a customer ahead of me wearing gloves while she typed on her cellphone. Hello! Whatever germs you had on your gloves are now on your cellphone that you will be touching with your bare hands as soon as you get back in your car!! And now those germs are on your hands, and you know that you’re gonna touch your face… END SIDE NOTE

In addition to all that, there is a very specific way that gloves need to be removed in order to avoid contaminating your hands. And you should always wash or sanitize your hands immediately after removing the gloves as well. And they also frequently develop small (or large) tears that contaminants can sneak through, especially when using them for tasks they weren’t designed for (like banks and grocery stores). 

So really, gloves don’t provide that much protection against viruses for non-healthcare workers. 

However, there IS a CDC recommendation to wear gloves when you are caring for a loved one who is ill with the COVID-19. For example, when cleaning surfaces known to be contaminated, washing their laundry, or washing the dishes they have eaten off of. 

Why masks aren’t helpful in protecting you from COVID-19 in non-Healthcare settings…but how they can help you protect others

Like gloves, standard surgical masks have their limits when it comes to illness like COVID-19 that are thought to be spread via droplets. 

Just think about it…if you’re wearing a mask, and someone is close enough to cough or sneeze on you, then the droplets can still land on your eyeballs!! And thereby enter your body to infect you that way. 

Gross. 

However. There is a good reason to wear a mask when you’re not working in healthcare. And that would be if YOU are the one who is sick! Because then when you cough and sneeze, the droplets you receive are caught by your mask instead of being generously shared with those around you. 

The downside to that? Umm, right now you probably shouldn’t be “out and about” at all if you have any sort of respiratory symptoms anyway. Just stay home. 

(Of course, if you have a respiratory illness then you might consider wearing a mask to protect others in your household from your infected droplets. Or if you are ill and breastfeeding your baby, that would be another great situation to consider wearing a mask!)

And just like the gloves, there is also a very specific way to take off a mask so that you don’t accidentally contaminate yourself OR others. 

(Who knew these things could be so complicated??)

Back to Table of Contents

Will a N95 mask protect you? 

Neither the WHO nor the CDC recommend wearing an N95 mask in non-Healthcare settings

Now let’s talk about why.

Most respiratory illnesses spread via “droplets”. And in the healthcare world, “droplets” refer to the tiny drops of mucus and saliva that fly out of your face…usually when you cough or sneeze. If somebody is infected with COVID-19 (or anything else that spreads through droplets, for that matter), then each individual droplet contains a ton of microscopic viruses. 

These kinds of droplets are so large (microscopically speaking, of course) that they will sink to the ground within a relatively short amount of time.

However, some respiratory illnesses are spread by “aerosolized” particles. These are droplets that are so small that they can float around in the air for an extended period of time without sinking to the floor. 

Illnesses that spread through aerosolized particles are obviously much easier to spread, and much harder to protect yourself from. Tuberculosis is a good example of an aerosolized illness. 

Which brings us to N95 Masks, which work very differently than standard face masks. These masks must be specially fitted to an individual’s face to ensure an almost air tight fit. They are made with very specialized filters that can filter out even tiny virus particles. 

As a result, they can be very uncomfortable to wear. It can feel claustrophobic, and harder to breath air in and out of the mask because the holes in the filter are so tiny for the air to squeeze through. 

Healthcare workers who provide care for patients with aerosolized illnesses (like tuberculosis!) need to wear N95 masks to protect themselves from becoming infected.

To date, there has been no indication that COVID-19 spreads via aerosolized particles (thank goodness!). Therefore, there is absolutely no benefit to wearing an N95 mask outside of a healthcare setting. 

In fact, N95 masks are not even recommended for all healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients. The only current recommendation that I have seen is to wear an N95 mask when administering a COVID-19 test. The test is a nasal swab, which often causes the patient to immediately cough or sneeze…right in the healthcare worker’s face. 

So let’s save the N95 masks for those frontline workers.

Back to Table of Contents

I can sew! Can I make and wear fabric masks for myself (or donate to a local hospital)? What about DIY paper towel masks?

Under normal circumstances, hospitals (obviously) would never use fabric masks. In fact, one study that compared the disposable surgical masks to fabric masks showed that fabric masks led to an increased rate of infection.

However, COVID-19 is not normal times. 

Therefore, there are hospitals that are officially requesting donations of fabric face masks. There are also some hospital systems providing DIY kits with medical grade fabric, asking seamstresses to donate their time to sew face masks for their healthcare personnel to use.

And as it turns, these requests for fabric masks are completely in-line with the current CDC recommendations. They have released a guideline for how to optimize the current supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including what to do when disposable face masks are not available. 

According to their guidelines, homemade masks are the absolute last resort since they are not standardized and we have no way of knowing for sure how well they will protect the healthcare provider using it. However, even tying a bandana around your face (one of their actual suggestions…) is still better than nothing! 

The logic is that the COVID-19 droplets tend to be on the “larger” side (microscopically speaking, of course), and so even normal fabric is likely to act as a barrier. 

So if you’re crafty in the sewing area, go ahead and make some fabric masks! Just verify that the hospital or healthcare facility you’d like to donate them to is accepting fabric masks before you start.

What about that paper mask hack I’ve seen on Facebook?

#Cringe

As an RN, I would use fabric over paper any day, especially for an  illness that spreads by droplets! 

Just think…as soon as someone sneezes, those wet droplets will hit the paper towel and soak completely through. Gross. 

And then the paper towel provides absolutely no protection at all, because it’s wet and contaminated on both sides. It’s also much more likely to tear than fabric, whether it’s wet OR dry.

Honestly, you’re going to be much better off following the CDC’s recommendations and using a handkerchief (or old t-shirt, for that matter) if you find yourself in a situation where you really need a mask, but don’t have one. 

Back to Table of Contents

How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces? 

The information we have about how long coronavirus lasts on surfaces comes from what is already known about SARS (a similar virus that caused an epidemic in Asia during 2003), and a recent letter to the editor where a scientist was reporting his pre-published findings on this issue.

(Pre-published findings like this are better than “a letter to the editor” to share a hypothesis. However, the results should also be taken with a grain of salt, because the research has not yet gone through the “peer-review” process to examine the study procedures and final analysis. But in a fast-moving situation like COVID-19, the benefits of sharing early research results far outweigh the risks so that the global community of scientists can work together efficiently.)

You can also read a summarized version here, but basically the study found that COVID-19 was able to last:

  • In the air for up to 3-hours, with half of the virus deactivated within an hour (although presumably, the heavy droplets would be drifting to the floor during that time, as well).
  • As far as surfaces go, the coronavirus was found to last up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel, with half of the virus gone within 6-7 hours.
  • And on copper surfaces, the virus only lasted 4-hours, with half of it gone in under an hour.

Now here’s your grain of salt: these results were measured under ideal circumstances for the virus. Real world conditions are unlikely to be so favorable to the Coronavirus. 

Basically, what I’m saying (and what the World Health Organization also says), is don’t be afraid to keep ordering from Amazon…you’re extremely unlikely to catch COVID-19 from the cardboard box.

And even though the virus was measurable in the air for up to three hours, that more closely mimics a hospital setting with someone on a ventilator rather than a typical person’s sneeze.

But it is probably still a good idea to stay off the community playground equipment for right now. Just sayin’. And also, try not to let your kids lick any public hand railings…well, do your best to try, anyway…

Back to Table of Contents

Does COVID-19 “go away” when you wash clothes?

Good news! Soap and water is extremely effective at neutralizing COVID-19. (note: you may need to create a free account to read the article)

That’s because this Coronavirus, like many other viruses, is surrounded by a fatty layer of protection. Unfortunately for the virus (and fortunately for us), once that fatty layer is damaged or removed, the virus degrades fairly quickly. 

Soap is extremely effective at damaging and removing fatty layers. 

(Just think about how hard it is to clean bacon grease off of a pan using only water…and how much easier that bacon grease comes off when you use soap.)

Mmmm. Bacon…

So even if COVID-19 can last for extended periods of time on your clothing (and we don’t know for sure what that timeline would look like since it’s never been tested), then simply throwing it in the washing machine with your regular laundry detergent is more than sufficient to sanitize your clothing.

Back to Table of Contents

How can I best protect my family at home when I (or a spouse) has to continue working outside of the home in a non-Healthcare setting? 

No matter what your situation is, the best way to protect yourself is by doing the same things for your family that you would do to protect them from any respiratory virus (like the flu…). You just happen to be even more hyper-aware of it than usual right now because COVID-19 is a new and unknown virus. 

And, of course, add #SocialDistancing.

Protecting your family at home

Eat real food! You know, plenty of veggies and fruit, avoid the more processed foods. Avoid added sugars. Get enough sleep. Drink plenty of water. Go outside (alone or with your household) for some fresh air and sunshine. Exercise. 

Reduce your stress…be careful what kind of information you consume right now! Are you following people on Social Media who are freaking out and predicting all of the (least likely) worst case scenarios? Unfollow them for a while. Choose to listen to experts who take a more practical and measured approach to the future

#ShamelessPlug

And remember: take the Social Distancing seriously.

Protecting yourself (and your family) while at work (for Non-Healthcare jobs)

When you are at work (or the grocery store, for that matter…) be aware of what your hands are touching throughout the day…this is the reason for the recommendation not to touch your face! 

Because whenever you touch something contaminated (by anything, by the way, not only Coronavirus), then touching your face moves that microbe closer to the mucus membranes of your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

(And let’s be honest, we’re usually rubbing our eyes or picking our nose anyway, so we’re likely to deliver viruses exactly where they need to be in order to have the best chance of infecting ourselves.)

Also, practice #SocialDistancing as much as is reasonable while at work. It will feel weird, but stay at least 6-feet away from co-workers and customers as much as is possible…knowing that it won’t always be possible.

Wash your hands frequently, or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. 

Monitor yourself for any signs of fever or respiratory symptoms, and voluntarily self-isolate at home if you start feeling ill. (This is not perfect, because there’s a strong possibility that people infected with Coronavirus can still be contagious without showing symptoms…but it’s better than nothing and you’re certainly contagious if you have Coronavirus with symptoms!)

And finally, if you have a job that allows it…strongly encourage your employer to make arrangements for you to work from home. If your job is the type that can’t be done from home, then look for ways to improve #SocialDistancing procedures at work, and respectfully share them with your employer. 

Be part of the solution!

One last thing…in my home, we’ve instituted a policy that everybody who comes in has to wash their hands immediately. With soap and water. 

So whether it’s me or my husband returning from the grocery store, or the rare “guest” (aka repair men or other essential “guests”), I know that at the very least we’ve got clean, virus-free, hands.

Back to Table of Contents

How can I best protect my family at home when I (or a spouse) has to continue working outside of the home in a Healthcare setting?

Many of the same things that you can do to protect yourself when you (or a spouse) have a job outside of Healthcare are the same things you should be doing when you (or a spouse) work in Healthcare. 

So that’s good news. #OneLessThingToWorryAbout

But there are some additional precautions you can take if someone in your family is working on the frontlines of healthcare during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Additional precautions for Healthcare Workers to protect their families

Number one: as much as possible, take proper health precautions at work. If it’s available, wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) per your hospital policy…don’t cut corners. 

Of course, that’s one of the scary possibilities right now: that some hospitals and healthcare settings might run out of PPE and have difficulty sourcing more. 

But see the above recommendation on reducing stress! Supplies may be running low, but they’re not out yet. And if they do eventually run out, then necessity is the mother of invention! We never know what solutions are right around the corner. 

(SIDE NOTE: During the terrible Ebola Virus epidemic in West Africa during 2014, Robert Preston shares a story about a nursing student caring for sick family members designed her own “at-home” version of PPE using garbage bags and panty hose. It worked so well to protect her from infection, that many others in the city started using the same method successfully! END SIDE NOTE)

In addition to being as cautious as possible at work, consider changing your clothes before leaving work. At the very least, change out of your work clothes as soon as you get home. Consider following the CDC guidelines for washing the clothes of someone who is ill with Coronavirus

(Essentially, keep your dirty laundry separate from everyone else’s laundry until washed. And consider handling your dirty laundry while wearing gloves, or at least wash your hands thoroughly after handling your dirty laundry.)

I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that everybody who works in healthcare takes all of these precautions. But the closer you are to the frontlines (like the emergency rooms and intensive care units, for example…), the more precautions you should probably take. 

After all, we need you! Thank you (or your spouse!) for continuing to work in healthcare during this scary time. What you do is VERY important!! And so, it’s also important for everyone to do what they can to help keep you and your family safe, too.

Back to Table of Contents

What should I do if I can’t buy hand sanitizer? Can I make it myself?

Good question! You certainly can, but you have to be extremely careful about what ingredients you use in order to make sure that your DIY Hand Sanitizer is both safe AND effective. 

That’s because many online recipes are simply a waste of your time and money, without actually being strong enough to kill bacteria and destroy viruses. 

Even if the Homemade Hand Sanitizer Recipe is a good one, you still might be tempted to substitute a hard to find ingredient (like 99% rubbing alcohol…) with another ingredient you already have available (like 70% rubbing alcohol or vodka). 

Making an ingredient substitution like that can completely ruin your Homemade Hand Sanitizer.

But making it yourself can definitely be done! And it is a great option if you can’t find hand sanitizer in the stores, or even if you just enjoy making DIY projects. Click here to learn more about what makes a safe and effective Homemade Hand Sanitizer, and how to make it for yourself.

Back to Table of Contents

I heard that Elderberry makes COVID-19 worse…should I stop taking it?

The short answer is this: we don’t know if Elderberry products make COVID-19 worse or not, because it’s never been actually tested before! 

And frankly, I think it’s a tiny bit irresponsible to make these wide claims to “always” or “never” take something when there’s really no data to back it up. Much better to find out why some people have started making this recommendation, and then you can make the best decision for yourself. 

So let me give you the info.

As best I can determine, the original recommendation to avoid Elderberry came from a letter published on 03/16/20 in The Lancet medical journal. Only…

…the letter never even mentioned elderberry.

The scientist who wrote the letter was discussing the role of “cytokine storm” that has been observed in end-stage COVID-19 patients. He then went on to offer some treatment suggestions that may be helpful in treating this condition for these patients. 

His primary hypothesis seems to be that suppressing the immune system might be helpful in treating these patients, because cytokines are one of many players in your immune system

The problem is that during a Cytokine Storm, these cytokines go waaay overboard attacking the invading microbe. In our case, the invading microbe would be coronavirus. And in the process of attacking the coronavirus, the cytokines also attack the surrounding healthy tissue. 

This can obviously be a big problem, especially when the attack is happening in the lungs. That’s what happens in COVID-19, and seems to be part of the reason why the most critically ill require a ventilator to survive…their own immune system is attacking their lungs.

(Don’t freak out, though! Remember that only about 1% of people who contract COVID-19 ever get to this severity level…and of those, the vast majority are older than 60 years old with one or more chronic health problems. This is very unlikely to happen to you or your kids!)

That’s half the explanation. 

The other half of the explanation is that there’s more research available showing that one of the ways that elderberry works is by activating the immune system and increasing cytokine production

Normally, that’s a good thing! Because we want elderberry to activate our immune system, and cytokines are typically a helpful part of our immune system. 

Now here’s what I think happened: somebody, somewhere, took these two pieces of information, put them together, and developed the hypothesis that elderberry could stimulate a cytokine storm. And if that were true, then it would make COVID-19 worse instead of better.

The problem with that hypothesis is simply that…it’s only a hypothesis. 

There’s no direct, proven link demonstrating the elderberry will worsen COVID-19 symptoms, or that it will cause a cytokine storm at all.

So it’s really only a theoretical risk. 

Personally, I believe that the benefits of using a naturally occuring herb with a long history of use far outweighs the potential risk of making a COVID-19 infection worse IF my family ever became infected. 

Other people believe that it’s better to avoid elderberry altogether at this time, just to be extra cautious.

The truth is, neither side has any proof. 

So until we have clear data one way or the other, the best thing to do is to weigh the pros and cons for yourself, and make the best decision for your family. 

Back to Table of Contents

I heard that taking ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, Motrin, etc) can make COVID-19 worse…should I avoid taking it?

Like the elderberry issue, the proposed interaction between ibuprofen and COVID-19 is theoretical. 

At this time, there is no solid data showing that ibuprofen causes COVID-19 symptoms to worsen. Neither the CDC nor the WHO caution against taking ibuprofen for COVID-19. 

This rumor started with a recent letter to The Lancet Medical Journal that proposed a hypothesis involving angiotensin converting enzymes 2 (ACE2), which appear to be targeted by Coronavirus. Some medications, such as ibuprofen, can also affect ACE2 in such a way that the author suggested these types of medications could potentially worsen COVID-19 symptoms. 

In addition, the French Health Ministry released an official warning about ibuprofen, claiming that french doctors had observed serious side effects in some COVID-19 patients taking ibuprofen. 

However, if this is true, it is only based on observation. And it has not been reported by doctors in any other countries so far. 

The conclusion? Frankly, this is just another issue where we don’t know for sure…and probably won’t until the pandemic is far behind us. 

However, there are certainly some known general risks for both ibuprofen and acetaminophen that we have plenty of data for. After all, acetaminophen carries risk of liver damage, and ibuprofen carries risk of kidney damage.

But so far, the data that we DO have does not indicate any concerns about taking ibuprofen during the COVID-19 pandemic. So do what you feel is best for your family.

Back to Table of Contents

Is it true that COVID-19 is more deadly for people with certain blood types?

There is some preliminary data suggesting that people with Type A blood (like myself) may be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection, while people with Type O blood (like my husband) may be less susceptible. 

You can read a good summary of the findings in this article

And the original abstract can be found here, but remember that there are limitations to this study.

Mainly, this study is pre-published findings. That means that it has not yet gone through the standard peer-review process that other research articles are required to go through before being published. 

Also…even if it’s true, what are you going to do about it? Be more scared if you have Type A blood? Stop washing your hands if you have Type O blood?

(Please don’t stop washing your hands…)

Although this will be an interesting finding if it ultimately turns out to be true, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before it will be particularly helpful in understanding more about Coronavirus. 

Back to Table of Contents

I’ve seen claims on Social Media that {fill-in-the-blank} will protect me from COVID-19 (or kill me immediately). How do I know if it’s true?

Unfortunately, there is a TON of misinformation about Coronavirus being circulated around Social Media and the internet nowadays. And most of it is being passed around by well-intentioned friends and family who are sharing it “just in case”.

However, that “just in case” sharing can be dangerous if the information is wrong.

Everything from gargling with salt water, to drinking hot beverages, to washing your hands every 20-minutes, to swallowing frequently (you know, because swallowing will push the virus into your stomach where the stomach acid will destroy it), paper towel masks…

You get the idea.

There’s no evidence that any of those things is specifically helpful in combating COVID-19. And while most pieces of advice would be harmless to implement (other than give you a false sense of security and probably raise your stress levels), some can be potentially harmful. 

For example, washing your hands every 20-minutes is probably more frequent than necessary when you’re homebound, and risks drying out your skin. And dry skin leads to cracks and breaks in your skin, which is an open door for viruses or bacteria to enter your body. 

So how can you tell if the information your Great Aunt Susie shared “just in case” is helpful?

1. Check the information source.

  • Do you trust the person who posted it? Do you believe they’re pretty good at telling fact from fiction? If not (or if you’re not sure), then be skeptical.
  • Was the original source reputable? And are you sure it actually came from that source? For example, one recent post claimed to come from Stanford Hospital Board…only it didn’t
  • If the original source is along the lines of “my mother’s sister’s best friend’s doctor said…” then it’s probably not reputable. If a random person’s doctor really said it, then it’s either their opinion (and therefore of questionable value), or you’ll be able to verify the info with a more reputable source.
  • Go directly to the CDC, WHO, or your State’s Department of Health website. I’ll be honest, I don’t always agree with all of their conclusions or guidelines. But they DO keep the most up-to-date info, statistics, and “best practice” recommendations during a time of crisis. 

2. Google it

If you’re not sure if it’s true, google it! You can usually get a good sense of whether something is true or not by scanning the first page of search results. If you see a lot of headlines from major news organizations stating “CDC/WHO says that…” and it agrees with what you just read, then it’s probably true.

If you mainly see a bunch of unknown or sketchy websites, or headlines containing words like “False” or “Myth” or “Busted”…then I think you can draw your own conclusions. 

An example of how to Google a questionable Coronavirus claim

3. Ask someone you trust

If your mother’s sister’s best friend’s doctor really said something…then your own doctor (that you actually know…) should be able to verify that it’s true. 

If it’s a medical question, ask a medical professional in your circle of friends. 

If you’re not sure what to believe, and you’re not sure who to ask…ask me! With my nursing background, and my tendency to be #ObsessivelyResearched, I’m more than happy to help. 

Besides, if you have that question, then chances are there are other Mamas out there wondering the same exact thing.

4. Never repost unless you’re confident it’s true.

One of the best ways to help your community during this time of #SocialDistancing is by preventing the spread of false information. So please, don’t repost or pass along “helpful” social media information unless you truly trust that it is true and originally comes from a reputable source. 

And when you notice friends or loved ones posting inaccurate information, kindly and respectfully educate them. 

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem!

Back to Table of Contents

So IS COVID-19 more dangerous during pregnancy…or not?

Pregnant women are well accustomed to hearing that they are “immuno-compromised”, and instructed to be careful. You know…things like no cat litter, and avoiding soft cheeses and lunch meat, etc. 

Recently, the government of Great Britain decided to include pregnant Mamas in their “high-risk of severe complications” category for COVID-19. 

However, it seems that this recommendation is simply out of an extreme excess of caution. Because the truth is that this is another perfect example of how we just don’t have enough information to know for sure

But the good news for pregnant Mamas right now (myself included, because I’m currently 34 weeks pregnant!), is that the limited data we have looks promising for us preggos. 

Since COVID-19 is most deadly for people 60+ years old with at least one or more chronic health conditions…well, the age itself rules out almost all pregnant Mamas.

In fact, a very small data set from China showed that of 9 pregnant Mamas who tested positive for COVID-19 during their third trimester, none went on to develop severe symptoms. And all delivered healthy babies via C-section. None of their babies tested positive for Coronavirus, and there was also no Coronavirus found in the amniotic fluid or cord blood. They also tested the breastmilk for 6 of the Mamas, and found no evidence of virus there, either.

Since then, there has been a single report in Great Britain of a COVID-19 positive Mama’s newborn also testing positive. However, it is unclear whether the baby became infected in utero or very soon after birth. And as far as we know so far, both mother and baby have gone on to be fine. 

However, even if us pregnant Mamas are still in the “low-risk” category for COVID-19, there is no doubt that the current epidemic is going to greatly affect our birthing experiences in the upcoming months. Already, guidelines for doulas and other support people during labor have been restricted, homebirth midwives are being flooded with inquiries, and travel plans for relatives have been cancelled. 

It’s a whole new world for birthing.

And I’ll be writing more about it in the next week or so…if you want to make sure that you are notified of new blog posts, make sure to sign-up for the Mommy Plus More Club!

Back to Table of Contents

So does the COVID-19 Pandemic signal the end of the world?

We certainly are in a serious situation right now. Exactly how serious, only time will tell for sure. 

But it’s not the end of the world! And I don’t anticipate that the world will end in the near future, either…although I wouldn’t be surprised if this COVID-19 pandemic significantly changes the fabric of our country (and probably the entire world) going forward. 

(After all, how many families in the United States right now are learning that homeschooling and working from home may not be so bad after all? And that home birthing might actually be more appealing than they originally thought? And who wishes that they knew how to bake their own bread. Or knit their own…toilet paper?)

Let’s pray that the changes we see will be for the better! 

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW: What questions did I miss? What else do you want to know about Coronavirus?

Back to Table of Contents

(Please spread the word on social media! Thank you!)

3 thoughts on “COVID-19: FAQ For Mamas”

  1. Hi Nicole, thanks for consolidating all this great info and for giving us such thorough explanations. I am a bit confused about how the virus could possibly survive for hours or days on playground equipment, but not for a few minutes on take-out containers. I’ll check out some of your attached links to see if they clarify anything.
    Thanks again, and good luck with your upcoming family addition 💕

    1. There is a theoretical risk that the virus could last for a few minutes on take-out containers…but honestly, with all the different variables affecting the virus in the real world (like the temp of the food, the type of surface, etc), it truly seems like a minuscule chance. But always use the research to make the best decision that YOUR family is most comfortable with 😊

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *