COVID-19: Taking Care of Your Mental Health Matters More Than Ever

April 27, 2020

Human beings are creatures of habit: we crave routine, dependability, and stability in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped a lot of that out, with many of us having to adjust to being with our families or completely isolated, 24/7. The fear of the health and economic effects, and not knowing when things will get back to normal, can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

At AltaMed, we want to encourage you to think about your mental health and provide the support you may need. We understand that many people do not feel comfortable admitting they’re having problems, but the more we talk about what we’re going through, the more obvious it becomes that these issues are a normal part of life. There’s no shame in asking for help! 


We’re All Grieving for the Lives We Used to Have

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 Unfortunately, none of us know what the future holds. With the fear that we’ll never get back to “normal,” there can be a sense of loss. 

Many of us are also struggling with our schedules being disrupted, which can lead to a feeling of loss of control. Those feelings can spiral into anxiety and depression. If this sounds like you, it may help to create and stick to a routine. 

Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get a minimum of 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep (kids need even more) so you can start each day right.  In addition to work and home responsibilities, build in time for exercise, socializing with friends online or over the phone, and self-care

And don’t forget the little things – especially brushing your teeth three times a day. It may be more difficult to get dental appointments, so give yourself and your family one less thing to worry about.


You Don’t Have to Be Strong All the Time

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Many of us are trying to set a good example and be strong for our children, our partners, and those who depend on us. It’s OK to admit that you’re scared, too. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, don’t bury these feelings. Reach out to those you’re closest to and tell them how you feel. 

Do whatever you can to maintain your close connections and then lean in – the risks of loneliness and isolation during times like this are great, and so are the consequences.


Find a Way to Deal with Stress

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Living through long periods of stress can trigger bad behaviors – for example, drinking too much or using drugs. Too much stress for too long can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. It’s more important than ever to find a healthy way to deal with stress

Adults aren’t the only ones experiencing stress during the pandemic: your kids, being out of school and away from their friends and relatives, are going through stress, too. Talk to them honestly about it and listen to what they have to say. Then look for activities you can do together to help take the pressure off. Maybe it’s having a virtual dance party or going for a walk or bike-ride – just don’t forget to maintain your physical distance from others and wear a mask.


Give Yourself a Break 

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Most of us have never been through anything as intense as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s taking a lot out of us, physically and emotionally. It may be harder to keep up – with house cleaning, working out, achieving personal goals you might have made like losing weight or exercising more. And that’s OK – you don’t have to be perfect, and you’re not a failure. It’s still important to set goals and expectations, but think about revising them or think about breaking them down into small steps.

For example, if you’re frustrated because your house has gotten messy, instead of aiming for perfection, figure out a way to enlist your family in a chore every day. If you had the goal of losing 15 pounds, put the scale in the closet but continue to focus on eating healthy foods and moving as much as you can during the day. Concentrate on what you achieve every day and celebrate your success.

However, there’s one goal that’s more important than ever: quitting smoking, vaping, or any tobacco use.


If You Smoke, Now is a Great Time to Quit

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Even if you think having a cigarette or two can help you get through the day, here’s why there’s never been a better time to quit. Smoking or vaping makes you even more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections, and there’s evidence that secondhand smoke puts your family members at risk, too. 

We know it can be difficult, but you can do it, and we can put you in touch with resources that can help.


We’re Here for You

It’s natural to feel worried, sad, and lonely right now, but if these feelings start interfering with your ability to get through your daily life or start making you feel bad physically, it may be time to ask for help. To learn more about our Behavioral Health Services, call us at (855) 425-1777

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255

 

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COVID-19, Flu, Allergies or a Cold? A Helpful Guide to Knowing the Difference

March 17, 2020

In Southern California, flu season seems to last longer and longer each year. Thanks to drier winters and less rain, allergy season starts earlier every year. And at the moment, our nation is justifiably worried about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.

If you’ve got a sniffly nose, a sore throat, and a fever, you may not be 100% sure what you have. We’re here with information that will hopefully put your worries at ease, and help you determine what kind of care you need.

 

Are Coronavirus and COVID-19 the Same?

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Not exactly. Coronavirus refers to a large family of viruses. Some of these viruses make people sick with the common cold. COVID-19 is the name of the disease we’ve all heard about. The type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is so new, we still don’t know very much about it.

 

COVID-19 vs. the Flu (influenza)

When we started to learn about COVID-19, many people compared it to influenza, most commonly known as the flu, in terms of symptoms and how it spreads. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by entirely different viruses.

Symptoms in common: Both illnesses cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, body aches, fatigue, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can be mild or severe and turn into pneumonia. Both can be fatal.

It may be possible for a sick person to have symptoms so mild, they don’t realize they have the disease, and so they may walk around spreading the virus to healthy people.

How the diseases spread: Both can be spread from person to person from the droplets that come from sneezing, coughing or even talking.

AND: Experts believe that COVID-19 is powerful enough to live on surfaces long after the infected person is no longer present.

Be proactive: Vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the flu. That’s why we strongly recommend everyone in your family get their shots every year.

Unfortunately, there still isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19 yet. Your best bet for preventing it is proper handwashing, staying home if you’re sick, and social isolation.

Treatment: Because both diseases are caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t do any good. Instead, doctors aim to treat symptoms, such as reducing fever and suppressing a cough. However, both can be serious and require hospitalization.

 

Coronavirus vs. Allergies

Allergy symptoms are usually quite different from COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike COVID-19, which is a virus, allergies are your immune system’s response to a foreign substance.

Symptoms: Allergy symptoms include itchy or runny nose, rashes or itchy skin, and watery eyes. In extreme cases of anaphylactic shock, your air passage shuts down, and it rapidly becomes difficult to breathe. Difficulty breathing is also a symptom of COVID-19, but with allergies, the onset is almost immediately after encountering a specific trigger.

Transmission: Allergies aren’t contagious like a cold or flu, so there’s no chance of spreading it from one person to the next. Allergies do have a genetic component, which is why it may seem like other people in your family have them at the same time you do.

Prevention: Unless you do allergy testing and shots, your best method for preventing allergic reactions is to keep an allergy diary and then stay away from your triggers.

Treatment: You can usually treat allergy symptoms with common, over-the-counter remedies, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and medicated lotions to help relieve itchy rashes and hives.

 

COVID-19 vs. the Common Cold

Mild cases of COVID-19 may be mistaken for a cold.

Symptoms in common: Because many of the symptoms are the same, it can be tough to tell the difference. Experts say that if your first symptoms included a sore throat and runny nose, it’s likely just a cold. A fever could be a sign that it’s something more than a cold.

Prevention: The common cold is famously difficult to prevent. But following the same protocol for COVID-19 should help protect you.

Treatment: There’s not much you can do for a cold, other than treating the symptoms. Time-tested advice includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and taking age-appropriate over-the-counter remedies.

 

When Should I Go to the Doctor?

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First off, the good news is that about 80% of COVID-19 cases resolve quickly on their own when the person stays home, gets rest, and treats the symptoms.

Unless your symptoms get dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, you may not need to seek treatment (though it's OK to call your doctor and ask). AltaMed is advising our patients to treat mild symptoms just like you would treat a cold by staying home, taking over-the-counter cold treatments like Tylenol or Nyquil. Avoid other people until your symptoms go away for at least 72 hours without having to take these medications.

 

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please confirm with your doctor the timing of when you are no longer contagious.

To learn more about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and news, bookmark our Coronavirus resource page. And for the time being, AltaMed is waiving the cost-sharing and co-pays for medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19.

 

Protect Your Lungs, Protect Yourself from COVID-19

April 14, 2020

We’re going to level with you: the best ways to protect yourself from coronavirus are washing your hands, social distancing, and staying home. But you can still be proactive about your lungs.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that hits frail people, such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems harder, and it attacks the lungs. None of these tips are foolproof but taking these steps now will help you breathe easier – both physically and mentally.


Quit Vaping or Smoking Now

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Public health officials are concerned that those who vape could be more vulnerable to severe cases of coronavirus. Vaping is still so new that we still don’t have much research on its effects, but we do know that it can damage and weaken your lungs, and even kill you. For decades, we’ve known about the dangers of smoking, and specifically, the damage it can cause to the lungs. If you smoke or you vape, this is the time to take charge of your health and quit.


Increase Your Activity Level

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Even as few as 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, five times a week, can improve your ability to inhale, hold, and exhale large volumes of breath. That means cardio like brisk walking or running, biking, or jumping rope. Give strength-training some space in your exercise routine, since exercises like weight-lifting and Pilates strengthen your diaphragm and “teach” your body to breathe more deeply and more effectively.


Try Yoga

Try yoga

Yoga isn’t exercise in the same way running or weight-lifting is but yoga provides its own unique set of benefits. Yoga helps you focus on taking big, deep breaths to oxygenate your body. Yoga can help improve your posture. Plus, yoga provides stress-relieving benefits that we could all use some more of right now.


Get Your Flu Shots Every Year

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While it’s true (at least for now) that there is no coronavirus vaccine and the flu shots only protect you for the latest version of the flu, it’s still important that you and every member of your family get age-appropriate vaccines. Many strains of flu actively attack the respiratory system and can even lead to death.

Because COVID-19 symptoms can be similar to flu symptoms, getting your flu shot can protect your peace of mind, too. 


Minimize Your Exposure to Pollutants

Minimize your exposure to pollut

Believe it or not, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution. Take steps to reduce your exposure to harmful pollutants and toxins that can damage your lungs over the long term – especially as you ramp up your cleaning routine to fight COVID-19 and shelter at home.
⦁    Dust the furniture and vacuum at least once a week.
⦁    Keep your house as clean as possible to guard against mold, dust, and pet dander.
⦁    Use all-natural cleaning products if you can.
⦁    Open the windows when you clean.
⦁    Ditch synthetic air fresheners and candles.
⦁    Improve ventilation: if you can, spend more time with your doors and windows open. You can also use window fans and air conditioners that send their exhaust outdoors.


Take a Deep Breath…You’ve Got This!

AltaMed is here to support you and your family with complete health services and the latest news and information on COVID-19, including resources for parents with kids at home as well as a frequently updated FAQ page. Remember, we’re your community health network, and we’re here to help!