If you’re anything like me, having Type-1 Diabetes has the lovely effect of having me catch just about every little sniffle, bug and/or flu that may come floating my way. With an immune system that doesn’t seem to know enough NOT to attack the insulin-producing cells of my body, it stands to reason that whoever is manning the immunity train in my body is drunk at the wheel. This is one of the reasons why the upcoming season is one of two of the most difficult seasons for me to get through…
The autumn season has always been the most difficult for me, despite the fact it’s one of my favourites. The temperature turns colder and inclement weather becomes the norm. These weather phenomenons have the effect of making you sick more often. Unlike the common misconception, it’s not the cold itself that causes you to become sick but rather the fact that cold viruses travel better and spread faster when temperatures are cooler. Not COLD, but cooler. There’s a bunch of extra fun stuff, like colder temperatures making your sinuses less likely to block a virus and your immune system being less effective in the cold. But I’m not a doctor and I digress… Moving on!
Normally, none of this is a problem and I suffer through the colder seasons the same way as the rest of the world does… By cranking the heat and bitching about it. Some colds and illnesses have required me to take the occasional sick day, although this has been pretty rare. But the advent of COVID-19 has changed a great many things, and having a cold is no longer a simple thing.
Don’t think it makes a difference? Step onto public transit, like a bus or a train, and cough. Take a quick look around and take stock of how many people are giving you a look akin to thinking you carry the bubonic plague. The past year has fostered the belief that a cough means COVID-19, and I’ve seen people avoid, walk away and even become aggressive against others who may have had nothing but a dry throat or the common cold. This is a concern for me, as I’m the one in my family who faces the front lines to do groceries and run errands so that my family is the LEAST exposed.
There are a number of things that you can do to mitigate these issues, including washing your hands frequently, coughing and/or sneezing into your elbow and avoiding places where people gather in large numbers. You’re probably thinking, “But Shawn, aren’t those things we’re supposed to be doing anyway?” Ah, very good, Grasshopper! These are things that you should have been doing, even in pre-Corona times. Considering my immune system and the fact I have year-round sinus issues, my throat often gets dry and sends me into the occasional hacking fit, which has always been fine.
Now, it’s a guaranteed way to clear the crowd in front of me, since most people associate coughing to COVID-19 and not the fact that I’m simply an idiot who can’t seem to breathe and swallow his own saliva at the same time. So, let’s discuss the newer steps that should be taken. In addition to all of the above, staying home when you’re sick is also expected/required, depending on your area’s laws and policies. The next is the wearing of a face mask. And we’re gonna talk about THAT one…
Depending on what source you lean on, the effectiveness of face masks have been disputed since the beginning. Some people fall on the side of wearing them and others feel they’re useless and make no difference. Considering that hospitals and first responders have been using them for decades, you’d think the message would already be clear. But people aren’t always so great at getting the message. Some areas are starting to require the wearing of a mask as soon as you step out of your home, which in some respects may be a little over the top. I certainly don’t want to start wearing a face mask when I’m cycling, for example.
But even here in Regina, many businesses, including large-scale retail chains, have made the wearing of a face mask mandatory in order to enter their locations. Since people LOVE to be unique, many people have opted for wrapping their face with bandanas or wearing custom, homemade masks as opposed to purchasing masks at their retail locations or medical outlets. Although this is fine, not all masks are created equal, and there are significant problems with wearing a mask that falls short of what’s required.
According to an online article posted by ScienceDaily, any facial coverings that you wear “need a minimum of two layers, and preferably three, to prevent the dispersal of viral droplets from the nose and mouth that are associated with the spread of COVID-19 […]” This means that if you wrap a repurposed layer of an old t-shirt around your face, you’re not preventing much. Some studies have shown that although two layers of thick cotton or other recommended materials obviously prevented the spread of droplets from a cough or sneeze much more effectively than a single layer, three is the optimal choice.
Wearing a single layer can actually makes things worse, as the single cotton layer will cause what’s called “aerosolization” of droplets and make them easier to spread. So if you’re being a jack ass and simply wrapping a single-layer bandana over your face so that you can get into your local Walmart, you’re definitely defeating the purpose. It doesn’t help that most people are aware that the wearing of a mask doesn’t necessarily protect them from the spread of COVID-19 but is intended to prevent THEM from spreading their own germs.
This gives them a sense of entitlement where they feel they don’t need the mask, since it doesn’t help them anyway. This concept is right up there with people who don’t believe in vaccination. It’s about society as a whole and not necessarily just for you. It’s become a sad state of affairs when you see people yelling and arguing with retail employees because they refuse to wear a mask. Medical workers and first responders have to wear that stuff for eight to twelve hours, sometimes more. Wearing a face mask for twenty minutes while you get your favourite brand of cheese puffs and your tube of Preparation-H should be the least of your problems, snowflake!
We’re a long way from the end of this pandemic. So it’s important that everyone does their part in order to help get us past it. Even I’ve jumped on the face mask bandwagon, with my custom Batman mask! The best recommendation I can personally make, is to wash your reusable masks frequently. Most people don’t realize that you’re exhaling into that thing for long periods of time and your breath is expelling bacteria into the material. Failing to wash your masks frequently can result in causing other health problems.
There are worse things in the world than the proper wearing of a facemark when you go shopping or run errands. And it’s important to know the symptoms and recognize them, in yourself and in others. For example, sneezing and sniffles are NOT symptoms of COVID-19, despite the reaction people have when someone sneezes in public. Although some would argue it’s for good reason, we’ve developed a paranoia against any and all symptoms, which doesn’t bode well for my weakened immune system throughout the colder months. It’s gonna be a long winter…☯