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    Mental Health Resources You Need To Know About During Lockdown

    You might be struggling to make ends meet, scared of contracting COVID-19; you might have lost a loved one, lost a job, or are scared of losing your current job – whatever it is, it’s no secret that the effects of this pandemic have felt like a never-ending attack on our collective mental health.
    For some, the impact could feel mild and negligible, while for others, it could lead to an almost paralysing state of depression or anxiety. Moreover, it could also lead to increased feelings of loneliness, stress, negative emotional spirals, panic attacks, other forms of mental distress and could even lead to suicidal thoughts.
    While we don’t have easily available data on the pandemic’s impact on South Africans’ mental health, a new report by Old Mutual suggests that the number of people affected by mental health disorders has increased significantly over the last few years.

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    They have paid out 59% more in psychiatric disorder claims since 2016, and their proportion of suicide claims has increased by 24% between 2018 and 2019.
    “Our overall experience with psychiatric disorders shows that most claims were for major depression,” Kerissa Naidoo, Old Mutual’s Chief Medical Officer, said in a statement.
    “Other psychiatric disorder claims are attributed to bipolar mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive episodes, adjustment disorders, and stress.”
    READ MORE: How To Get More Comfortable Talking About Your Mental Health
    The group says that most claimants, 83%, were adults aged between 30 and 50 years old – prime working age. Interestingly, 70% of these claimants were women.
    As we’ve all retreated to working from and staying home, with little to no physical social interaction, one can only imagine how much more of an impact on mental health the last couple of months have had on South Africans.
    “Whilst our statistics reflect our experiences in 2019, we can be certain that the current global pandemic will only compound matters,” Naidoo continued.
    Feelings of depression and anxiety in lockdown and isolation can make it feel like there’s no one to reach out to, but that’s not true. As we’ve heard a million times over, we’re fortunate enough to live in the most digitised era in history. Amongst other things, this has opened unconventional, but effective, channels and avenues where one can access resources to work through mental health issues.
    Here are some resources you can make use of if you feel like you need to talk to someone:
    Speak to someone for free
    The South African Anxiety and Depression Group, which is the continent’s largest mental health support and advocacy group, offers free telephonic consultations with expert counsellors and psychologists as and when you need it.
    Reach them here: 0800 12 13 14
    Another free counselling resource is Adcock Ingram’s Depression and Anxiety Helpline. Sponsored by the said pharmaceutical manufacturer, this support line offers immediate help for people that are overwhelmed by depression, anxiety and other issues related to mental health.
    Reach them here: 0800 70 80 90
    If you’re not necessarily looking to speak to a professional but want to speak to someone who feels like a friend, there’s a free service for that called Befrienders South Africa. With this service, you don’t have to disclose your identity; it’s there to lend a listening ear.
    Reach them here: 051 444 5691 (national line) / 051 444 5000 (Bloemfontein line) / 041 922 0068 (Uitenhage line)
    For suicidal emergency, call the Cipla SADAG Mental Health Line: 0800 567 567
    Book a virtual consultation
    Before COVID-19 hit, virtual consultations with psychologists were only allowed where a relationship between the psychologist and patient already existed, but this has since been overturned by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In April, the statutory body announced that due to COVID-19, first-time consultations could take place virtually.
    This is something worth taking advantage of RN. Ask around in your family/friendship circles if anyone has a psychologist they’d recommend, or look online and set up a virtual consultation. Alternatively, check out the BetterHelp website. This platform will help you find affordable online counselling with a licensed therapist.
    If you have COVID-19 specific concerns, Discovery and Vodacom recently partnered to launch a free virtual healthcare platform. The platform offers access to reliable information, risk screening and, when necessary, free online medical consultations. All you have to do is register on either the Discovery or Vodacom sites and follow the prompts.
    Find nearby help
    If you feel that your mental health has deteriorated to a point of no return and you want to access nearby help, visit the TherapyRoute website. This online resource will help you find nearby mental health services. This includes everything from psychologists and social workers to community clinics, NGOs and psychiatric hospitals.
    [WATCH] Women’s Health SA chats to experts about dealing with anxiety and mental health in an ever-changing world…

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    READ MORE ON: Coronavirus Health Mental Health More

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    So, Is COVID-19 Actually Airborne Or Not?

    Recently, the conversation around COVID-19 has been centred on how the virus is spread. While it was initially thought that the virus is not airborne, that sentiment has slowly been changing, with mounting evidence pointing to the airborne nature of the disease.
    This came after a letter, co-signed by 239 scientists and engineers, was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, calling for public health agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), to consider the possibility of the virus being airborne.
    In their letter, they wrote:
    “We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognise the potential for airborne spread of COVID-19. There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets at short to medium distances (up to several metres, or room scale), and we are advocating for the use of preventative measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission.”
    The letter went on to say that this is a matter of urgency now as countries are starting to ease lockdown regulations.
    The WHO’s position
    The WHO has confirmed that airborne transmission can happen in healthcare settings where specific medical procedures, called aerosol-generating procedures, generate very small droplets called aerosols. As for the general public, it’s not yet 100% certain.
    READ MORE: COVID-19: Here’s How Risky Normal Activities Are, According To Doctors
    “Outside of medical facilities, some outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmissions, combined with droplet transmission, for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes,” the WHO said.
    “In these events, short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces of a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out.”
    What if it is airborne?
    The letter clearly outlines that airborne transmission is especially acute in indoor or enclosed environments, particularly those that are crowded and have inadequate ventilation relative to the number of occupants and extended exposure periods.
    “For example, airborne transmission appears to be the only plausible explanation for several super-spreading events investigated which occurred under such conditions and others where recommended precautions, related to direct droplet transmissions, were followed,” the letter says.
    READ MORE: How Can I Tell If My Symptoms Are Allergies, Or A Possible COVID-19 Infection?
    They agree that there is incomplete evidence, but add that there is more than enough supporting evidence so that the precautionary principle should apply. Their suggested precautionary measures (over and above those already existing) include:
    Provide sufficient and effective ventilation (clean outdoor air, minimise recirculating air) particularly in public buildings, workplace environments, schools, hospitals and aged care homes.
    Supplement general ventilation with airborne infection controls such as local exhaust, high-efficiency air filtration and germicidal ultraviolet lights.
    Avoid overcrowding, particularly in public transport and public buildings.
    It might not be clear whether an airborne transmission is something to be concerned about as yet, but with a virus as unpredictable as this one, taking precautionary measures more seriously, including avoiding indoor spaces with a lot of people in them, should be the order of the day.
    Russia completes pre-clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine
    Just recently, Russia’s Vektor State Research Centre for Virology and Biotechnologies announced that it had successfully completed pre-clinical trials of a vaccine for COVID-19.
    “Colleagues have finished pre-clinical trials [and] they were successful. We practically have all the grounds to be sure that things will go as we promised [meaning] that we plan to begin clinical trials on July 15,” Anna Popova, chief of the Russian sanitary watchdog, said on Friday.
    READ MORE: 7 Ways To Make Sure Your Salon Visit Is Safe During Lockdown
    This announcement was widely celebrated across the world, including South Africa, with citizens taking to Twitter to share how ‘excited’ they were about the prospect of finally putting an end to the pandemic. But the minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize quickly reminded South Africans that the road ahead is still long.
    “You have to do work at the laboratories, do research, move to animal studies, and it passes that, you have to move to a human trial,” he said in a statement.
    “The same trial is going on in the US, UK, Brazil and other countries. We’re not yet at a point where we’ve got a vaccine ready – it is good news, but it is still a work in progress and it’s still early days.”
    SA could have vaccine as early as 2021
    One of the 19 vaccines being tested on humans globally is happening right here in South Africa. Led by professor of vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand Dr Shabir Madhi, it’s believed that if everything goes as planned, the vaccine could be ready early 2021.
    “A vaccine could be made commercial as early as the beginning of next year, but it is completely dependent on the results of the clinical trials.”

    READ MORE ON: Coronavirus COVID-19 Health Health Advice More

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    How Can I Tell If My Symptoms Are Allergies, Or A Possible COVID-19 Infection?

    Allergy season is upon us! And having to deal with the heightened symptoms while also dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic can be both daunting and anxiety-fuelling. So, it’s not weird to have a few questions about allergies right now…
    Fortunately, the Allergy Foundation of South Africa recently hosted a webinar specifically dedicated to answering questions around allergies and COVID-19 with paediatrician and allergologist Dr Candice Royal. Let’s look at some of the most important take-outs from the conversation.
    Q: How can I tell if my symptoms are from my allergy or a possible COVID-19 infection?
    Dr Candice Royal: “Some allergy symptoms overlap with the symptoms of COVID-19. If you’ve got nasal congestion, a sore throat and a cough, you might think you have COVID-19. This is why it’s always important to make sure your rhinitis is under control and that you prioritise taking specific measures to ease your allergy symptoms so you can limit the diagnostic confusion.”
    Q: My allergies make wearing a mask uncomfortable. Is there an alternative?
    DCR: “Just to go over the basics – a mask is worn mostly to prevent your droplets from being spread to other people. So, the primary intention isn’t to protect you, but to protect others. It’s a very important public health measure to reduce infection.
    “But should you find wearing a mask difficult, the alternative that could be considered is wearing a visor/face shield instead.
    “The real question is probably why your allergic rhinitis is out of control and whether there are any simple adjustments to your treatment plan that could further ease your symptoms. I’d suggest getting in touch with your doctor and going over everything again to make sure your management treatment is as efficient as possible and to also make sure you don’t have excess allergen exposure.”
    Q: I carry an EpiPen for my allergy. If I get a severe form of COVID-19 and go into respiratory distress, would the use of my EpiPen help my breathing like it would during anaphylaxis?
    DCR: “An EpiPen is an adrenaline auto-injector and its role is to offer emergency treatment following exposure to an allergen that has produced a severe reaction. It works by giving you a quick dose of adrenaline, which helps to shut off that allergic reaction.
    “So, this is an entirely different mechanism to the respiratory distress that’s caused by illnesses such as COVID-19. Unfortunately, an EpiPen is not going to help should you have respiratory symptoms of another cause – it is specifically for treating anaphylaxis or severe reactions.”
    Q: I have eczema and sanitisers are proving to be an issue for my skin because of the frequent use. What can I do to make this better?
    DCR: “Consider washing your hands with water and a glycerin soap more often than using a hand sanitiser. Of course, as you go into shopping malls or to work, you often have to use a hand sanitiser, and should that be the case – make sure to use emollient cream immediately afterward.
    “Carry emollients with you everywhere you go so that you can make sure that your hands are always being moisturised after using a hand sanitiser.”
    READ MORE: 9 Doctor-Approved Products That Will Help Relieve Your Eczema
    Q: My son was supposed to start peanut desensitisation just before lockdown, but we’ve put a hold on it for now. Is there a timeframe for this in terms of age?
    DCR: “It does seem that the younger you are when you start that process, the more effective it is. But we don’t have an age limit per se. We have seen teenagers go through this process successfully. But the earlier you start, the better.”
    Q: Is there a specific diet that can help with asthma and allergies during this time?
    DCR: “In terms of asthma, there isn’t a specific diet that we recommend. Obviously, if you’ve got a food allergy then you’re going to exclude that specific food type from your diet. But in terms of a healthy diet, it’s not anything complicated. It’s about having a diet with a wide variety of good fruits and vegetables and consuming adequate sources of all the essential macro and micronutrients.
    “We can’t recommend a specific diet for people with asthma and allergies – it’s just about applying general health measures that would apply to the general population.”
    Q: I have idiopathic anaphylaxis [severe allergic reactions with no obvious cause] and suffer attacks three to four times a year. I’m often prescribed steroids and antihistamines for long periods after each episode – do these medicines increase my risk for COVID-19?
    DCR: “It does appear to be the case that steroids can make one more vulnerable to getting infections in general. However, we don’t yet have good evidence that being on steroids makes one more vulnerable to a COVID-19 infection, or a more severe case of COVID-19. We do [however] have evidence that people on steroids may shed the virus for longer.
    “Remember that it’s always better to be on your controlling medication than not, so if that’s the medication you need, it’s advised that you stay on it and not wean yourself off it.”
    Q: I have allergies to paracetamol and anti-inflammatories and I’m worried that if I get COVID-19, it will be difficult to treat. What should I do?
    DCR: “Having an allergy to medications doesn’t make you more vulnerable to either infection or severe COVID-19. But when you have allergies to the medications that we commonly use to treat the symptoms, I’d advise that you speak with your doctor to find an alternative.”
    Q: How should I approach the treatment of my allergies, generally?
    DCR: “It’s important to understand that allergic disorders don’t occur in isolation and need to be treated holistically. They have an impact on one’s entire emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing. For example, having eczema is not just having a skin disorder – it has huge implications on how one feels. Itching and scratching all the time makes one feel irritable, restless, unable to get quality sleep, exhausted and so on.
    “So, it’s important – especially in these anxiety-filled times – to understand that you shouldn’t only focus on the physical management of your symptoms, but also prioritise looking after your emotional and psychological health.”

    READ MORE ON: Allergies Coronavirus COVID-19 Health Health Advice More