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'Should I take steam? Should I go to the hospital?': Commonly asked questions about coronavirus answered

Dr Faisal Mahmood, an infectious diseases expert at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, answers your queries.
Updated 10 Apr, 2020 03:19pm

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to surge in Pakistan and across the world, it can be hard to keep track of what to do and what not to do, especially given that information is being shared on social media regardless of accuracy.

To address the most commonly asked questions — such as "do I need to disinfect groceries?", "should I take my shoes off?" and "should I get a flu shot?" — Dawn.com turned to Dr Faisal Mahmood, an infectious diseases expert at Karachi's Aga Khan University Hospital.

Q: Will the virus stop spreading when the weather gets warmer?

Dr Faisal: The answer is we don't know. We hope it will. It will probably slow down a little bit but it is unlikely that it will completely stop the spread.

Read: Can warmer temperatures help slow down the coronavirus? Here's what experts say

Can a flu shot help protect me against the virus?

No, the flu shot only helps against the influenza virus. But it is always a good idea to get yourself vaccinated because influenza can also cause a severe disease and can cause death in some people.

I have asthma. Am I more at risk of contracting Covid-19?

You are not more likely to contract the infection. But if you do get the infection, you are more likely to get a more severe disease after that.

Are pregnant women more at risk of getting the virus?

No. Currently, we have no data to tell us if pregnancy and this virus have negative interactions.

If one has coronavirus, do all the symptoms appear at the same time?

That's a really good question. The answer is no, in fact some people may have no symptoms [while] some may have more than one symptom, and they may not appear at the same time.

How do face masks help when they are constantly in contact with our hands?

That's exactly what us health experts say that wearing a face mask has no benefit [if you do not have coronavirus] when you're wearing a face mask and you're pulling it off and putting it back on, you're probably contaminating your face more and that's even more dangerous than not wearing a face mask.

Can a healthy adult recover from the virus without any treatment?

That is exactly what is happening. Healthy, and people who may have low immunity, will eventually, hopefully, recover.

That's why we say that 80 per cent to 90pc of people need no treatment because the body is strong enough to take care of the virus in almost all cases.

When should I go to a doctor to get tested?

If you are not feeling well, you should contact your health care provider. Ideally, over the phone as opposed to going over to their clinic and asking them.

As of now, the rule is that if you have travelled and you're not feeling well, if you have met somebody who has travelled and now you're not feeling well, if you feel you have met somebody who has this infection and now you're not feeling well, [then] you should contact your healthcare provider who will decide if you need to be screened or not.

How can I disinfect my home or workplace?

The best way to disinfect your home is to use soap and water. You can also used a diluted bleach solution.

You should disinfect those areas which people will be touching a lot. That would be you dining table, your chairs, your bathroom. [Doing so] once a day should be sufficient.

How can one recover from the virus when there is no treatment available?

The treatment or cure for any disease is not really a medicine specifically for it. Sometimes, the treatment means that we will treat the symptoms and let the body take care of the virus itself.

Take a look: Coronavirus: How long before we have a vaccine?

That's exactly what we do in this case. There are some medicines people are working on [but] there is just not enough data at this point. [Therefore] we are not recommending any particular medicine to treat this infection. Again, most people will be able to take care of this all by themselves.

If I think I have the coronavirus, should I go to the hospital?

If you think you have Covid-19 — which means that you have a fever, cough, etc — the best thing to do is call the government hotline. People will come to your house to get the test done.

Please don't come to a hospital. We don't want somebody who has the infection to pass it onto other people.

I have heard hydroxychloroquine kills the virus. Is it safe to take these drugs?

There are a couple of medicines that you may have heard of that have been going around on social media. One is hydroxychloroquine, the other is azithromycin.

I implore you, please do not take medicines without talking to your doctor. These medicines have their own side effects.

They can cause arrhythmia in the heart, the heartbeat can become affected by them. [They] also have other potential side effects. So, we only use these in patients who require them.

Read more: Chloroquine and coronavirus — what is the connection?

What about taking Brufen, Arinac and other such medicines?

To be very honest, it has been theorised that they may or may not be harmful. There is no study currently proving that they are harmful.

But, obviously if somebody has a fever and a medicine such as paracetamol can bring the fever down, we avoid using these [medicines]. Whenever we use a medicine, we look at the risks and benefits.

Report: Ibuprofen and coronavirus: what is the connection — if any — according to health experts

Please leave these questions to the doctors and don't try to self-medicate.

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Does inhaling steam help if you have coronavirus?

No. You can take steam if you're not feeling well or if you have a stuffy nose. That's just to provide you relief while you are breathing. But really, it won't kill the virus.

Can the virus be transferred through shoes? Should we take our shoes ofs when entering the house?

No, unless you touch the shoes and touch your nose or mouth, the virus really can't jump off your shoes and onto you.

Do we need to disinfect groceries bought from the market?

It is always a good idea to clean or wash any produce that you're bringing home. Especially with fruits and vegetables which you will eat raw.

So, for example, an apple. Always wash it with water and then rinse it with drinking water. But you don't need to disinfect them with alcohol or soap and water. Simple water and then rinsing with drinking water will be fine.

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