We find ourselves in a bit of a surreal time as we are fighting an invisible foe, called coronavirus or COVID-19. Right now, our community seems well, but there may be some who become ill. We are preparing for and getting used to a different way of life. There is a lot of scares out there, so let’s look at what can be done to stay healthy and what we can do if we or someone in our family becomes ill.

First, let’s address the scare. It is never good to stick your head in the sand and ignore what is happening, but it can also be intimidating, scary, and anxiety-ridden to tune into the news 24/7. How can you stay up to date but not get pulled down by the scare? Avoid the never-ending news cycles and get one or two short updates a day. Do not hoard supplies. If we all take it easy and only purchase what we need, there will be no shortage of consumables required. Keep in mind that although this coronavirus is new, we have faced other infectious disease crises in the past, and we will come out of this one, like the others, with a better understanding of the virus and how our society and healthcare system need to stay prepared. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has the latest information at www.CDC.gov.

What can be done to stay healthy is follow the current recommendations of social distancing, avoiding crowds, avoid discretionary travel, elderly and high-risk people should stay at home and not receive visitors, schools are closed, restaurants are take out only, get some fresh air daily and step up personal hygiene. Do not ignore our senior citizens and high-risk friends, relatives, and neighbors who are stuck at home. Call, email, Skype, Facetime, and offer to do their grocery shopping.

What can be done if someone is ill? First, assess the situation. In most cases of sick feelings, the person may be experiencing allergies, the common cold, or the flu. Take the normal precautions you would by informing those around you and use in-house isolation. Do not overwhelm the medical system by calling or visiting your doctor or the emergency room if you were otherwise healthy, and your symptoms are not severe. Our healthcare providers must be focusing on the more severe cases that need their attention. If you are not very ill and you go to an emergency room, you may expose yourself and those bringing you to the ER to infectious diseases. If your symptoms are worsening, call your doctor for advice. Remember that the signs of coronavirus are cough and/or shortness of breath and fever. If you have a runny nose, postnasal drip, sore throat, it is more likely allergies or a cold.

Dental offices are assisting with limiting the spread of coronavirus by limiting patient care to urgent and emergency care. Before seeing a patient, the office will screen the patient for symptoms to determine if it is appropriate to see them in the dental office. Dentists and their teams are keeping people with dental emergencies out of the emergency rooms by treating urgent and emergent dental problems in the dental office. Hygiene and non-urgent/non-emergent visits have been rescheduled for a few weeks away. Your dentist, in consultation with you, will determine if a scheduled appointment needs to be rescheduled. If you are having a dental problem, call your dentist and discuss the options.

Use this time to have fun with your family. Get outside to play and be sensible about limiting outings and travel and help others who are at risk.

Dr. Robert A. Gallegos is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, visiting faculty of Spear Education, a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the American and Virginia Dental Associations. Dr. Gallegos practices dentistry in Middleburg, VA. www.MiddleburgSmiles.com.