After a day spent reading and watching news coverage about the spread of coronavirus and hearing how people with diabetes over 60 might have a higher risk of complications, I grabbed my coat and my husband and headed to Target in search of surgical gloves, face masks, and hand sanitizer.
Of course, if you’ve been similarly obsessed, you know the ending of this story: the shelves were bare. Nothing at Target, nothing at CVS.
And although, as a health writer, I knew that public health officials did not recommend wearing masks and that thorough soap and water washing is as effective as hand sanitizer, on the ride home I clicked my iPhone, located two travel size bottles of hand sanitizer priced at an obscene eleven dollars each, and ordered them at once.
As I write this, they sit on the edge of my desk, poised for action.
My husband observed all of this with a wry expression. As I said, I should know better. But that night my emotions trumped my scientific knowledge.
While it’s unclear at the moment when life will return to normal, it has become clearer who should be most concerned about complications from the coronavirus.
For younger, healthy folks, contracting the virus may be akin to suffering a passing cold, with coughing, a fever, and shortness of breath.
But for those over 60 who have one or more underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular or circulatory disease and/or diabetes, things can get far more serious. Respiratory symptoms can turn into pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and in some rare cases, death.
That’s the bad news. Yet there is also good news. By following guidelines from the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) and keeping your diabetes in good control, you may avoid contracting the virus in the first place or at least have a milder case.
Recommended measures include regular hand washing for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), not touching your eyes and face to avoid spreading the virus and germs, avoiding those who are sneezing or coughing, and re-evaluating travel plans and attendance at large group events.
Am I worried about the COVID-19 virus? Yes. But I’m trying to put a lid on my anxiety and working to respond proactively and sensibly. After all, stress can weaken the immune system and drive glucose readings up, and at this moment, a strong immune system may prove everyone’s best defense.