According to the federal government, no products or therapies have been approved in Canada to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The public health Agency’s main recommendations thus far are to self-monitor, self-isolate or go into isolation for people with symptoms or awaiting results.
What has been suggested for prevention is:
- wash your hands,
- avoid touching your face,
- avoid contact with sick people,
- cover your mouth,
- stay home,
- clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
Uncertainty and social isolation are clearly demanding a change in habits, perspectives and a re-evaluation of what our individual and collective values are.
What appears to make this pandemic scary is both the ease with which it spreads and the unknowns of the virus itself- as in how long it takes for symptoms to appear as well as at what point one is “contagious.”
It musters up feelings of social responsibility as well as narcissistic behaviour. It allows us to connect with what matters most and learn to appreciate whom and what we might lose.
Some of us are glued to the everchanging news and others have opted out to preserve their sanity. Parks are closed and streets are bare as if foreshadowing the closure of all that was familiar, habitual and normal.
If you do follow the news, it is impossible not to be alarmed. The numbers of cases appear to be doubling every 3 days.
Italy has 3.8 hospital beds per one thousand population, whereas the USA and Canada have 2.8 and 2.5 respectively.
At first, it was the elderly affected, and then the immunosuppressed, the immuno-compromised, those with compromised respiratory systems but there is also evidence of it affecting otherwise “healthy” young people and active 30-50-year-olds. And as the numbers come in, despite not having real numbers due to lack of testing, statistics keep changing and many people are feeling hopeless and reaching out for the “definitive” answer, cure, solution, best way to cope…etc
People reach out with questions such as:
Are wearing masks effective?
Yes, if you are affected, in order to avoid coughing on someone, but ill-advised if not, as it serves as a breeding ground- yet you look at world trends and clearly there are differences of practice and opinions all supported by different health agencies.
What about hand soap or anti-bacterial? Or hand sanitizers? Or disinfectants? Are they all the same?
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule designed to help ensure that hand sanitizers available over-the-counter (OTC) are safe and effective for those who rely on them on April 11th, 2019.” (1)
Strange, one might think, “Why has it taken so long to know what is safe and effective? And why has it been on the market if it wasn’t fully tested before?
“Our action today aims to help provide consumers with confidence that the over-the-counter hand sanitizers they’re using are safe and effective when they don’t have access to water to wash with soap,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In today’s final regulation we finalized the FDA’s previous determination that 28 active ingredients, including triclosan and benzethonium chloride, are not eligible for evaluation under the FDA’s OTC Drug Review for use in consumer antiseptic rubs. We’ve also reaffirmed our need for more data on three other active ingredients, including ethyl alcohol, which is the most commonly used ingredient in hand sanitizers, to help the agency ensure that these products are safe and effective for regular use by consumers. We believe the industry has made good progress toward providing data and we will continue to provide updates to the public about the progress of collecting this data.” (1)
I personally know many people take for granted the use of hand sanitizers and use them regularly without ever questioning the efficacy and especially their safety. What could be wrong with hand sanitizers? And with public safety and health being top of mind- how could these products be overlooked and yet recommended. When reading the side effects in Pharmacy today, I discover:
“The most common type of adverse health effects for both alcohol- and non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers were ocular irritation, vomiting, conjunctivitis, oral irritation, cough, and abdominal pain. Rare effects included coma, seizure, hypoglycemia, metabolic acidosis, and respiratory depression.” (2)
I don’t believe, I’ve been informed- But wait- maybe in the end, it is all about consumer be aware. I deliberately am not saying beware- why live in distrust, but clearly become aware and take notice.
The FDA made the same recommendation about using soap and water (in a non-health-care setting) in 2016 when it banned 19 active ingredients in antibacterial soaps and body washes, including triclosan and triclocarban—the two most commonly used ingredients. (3)
As for anti-bacterial soaps or wipes, “According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven.” (4)
Just in case 30 years of medical knowledge has escaped me, I Googled to verify whether science has changed and now anti-bacterials can kill viruses.
Sigh of relief. The first article that pops up states that it is worth remembering that Antibiotics can’t kill viruses.
“Viruses insert their genetic material into a human cell’s DNA in order to reproduce. Antibiotics cannot kill viruses because bacteria and viruses have different mechanisms and machinery to survive and replicate. The antibiotic has no “target” to attack in a virus.” Medically reviewed by L. Anderson, PharmD Last updated on Jun 21, 2019.(5)
Surely that must be different for disinfectants?
An article entitled: “How we know disinfectants should kill the Covid-19 virus?” pops up. I read carefully. It is published in C&EN, Chemical & Engineering news, “the novel virus is one of the easiest virus types to deactivate, though SARS-CoV-2 specific data are lacking.” The articles goes on to say that “Under the US EPA’s emerging viral pathogen program, makers of disinfectants products can request approval to claim a product is expected to kill the novel coronavirus based on its ability to kill similar viruses.” (6)
Meanwhile, everyone is buying disinfectants and Health Canada has approved certain brands. Please see the list below.
I ponder in incertitude and yet I am happy to clean my surfaces in the hopes that it will pan out to be effective while waiting for the research for the effectiveness on killing Covid-19 to be done.
It struck me as peculiar though to discover that the College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC issued a notice to the public last week making it clear that “any statements by ND about the prevention/and/or treatment of Covid-19, beyond the information made available by the public health authorities, are inappropriate, potentially harmful, and likely to violate “college policies on false misleading advertising.”
I fully understand and agree to an evidence-based approach to prevention and treatment but we should call a spade a spade. In a time such as this with so much uncertainty, doctors are relying on past experience and past studies to anticipate the most helpful way of addressing an enormous amount of patient fear, anxiety and confusion in a world that at this time can not offer certainty.
Are Naturopathic doctors to disregard their extensive medical training and not recommend things that can boost one’s immune system? Things such as proper nutrition, vitamins, sleep, movement such as fascial stretching at home Bowen Therapy or exercise? What about meditation or mindfulness to deal with times of uncertainty.
Are we not held by the same criteria that despite clearly not being able to state that a product or modality is proven to “prevent or cure Covid-19”, we can offer therapies that have worked to strengthen our ability to better cope with viruses, stresses, ect? Are we truly limited to only disseminate the information made available by the public health authorities? Surely, our patients deserve a more compassionate answer and should we feel hope amongst all the gloom and doom, are we wrong for wanting to share it?
I would rather believe that all of us in healthcare stand for the collective good of people and that our different backgrounds allow us to share information that could be useful and save human lives. I would rather believe that we are all in this together?
It was once accepted that medical doctors did not have training in nutrition as it was deemed irrelevant to health but times have changed and doctors are reaching out for more integrative approaches. Can we not encourage people to make lifestyle choices that have been shown to make people more resilient?
It is very different to claim that we have the proof that what we do makes a difference specifically for Covid-19, as clearly, there is still debate about hand sanitizers, disinfectants, drug interactions, who is affected, use of masks…etc But that should not mean that traditional or complementary approaches to health and wellbeing should not be modestly put forward as a possible aid. After all, the only thing most National Health Agencies have managed to all agree upon is hand washing and social distancing.
Let’s not disregard our roots and the rich heritage we have when it comes to solutions to epidemics. It was medical doctors who prescribed homeopathic medicine for the Pandemic Spanish flu of 1918 and it was all documented in the Philadelphia Library Archives in journals such as The Journal of the American Institute for Homeopathy, May 1921. Dr. T A McCann, from Dayton, Ohio reported that 24,000 cases of flu treated allopathically had a mortality rate of 28.2% while 26,000 cases of flu treated homeopathically had a mortality rate of 1.05%. This last figure was supported by Dean W.A. Pearson of Philadelphia (Hahnemann College) who collected 26,765 cases of flu treated with homeopathy with the above results. (7)
I bring this up because there seems to have been a concerted effort to diminish Homeopathy. It is often targeted because it has an individualized approach to treatment, it should not be disregarded and as this article clearly states, it is not one or the other- social distancing and hygiene are key to diminishing the spread.(8)
It is not uncommon to have differences of opinion as evidence-based research on Covid-19 is ONLY in the making. In the meantime, we will continually be exposed to differences of opinion and approaches such as were the discussions on NSAIDS interaction with Covid-19.
Why are there differing perspectives you may ask? For some, observations are considered hearsay until evidenced-based research concludes. For others, observation is the basis of science which then informs query and research. That is how the UK health minister and the French Health Minister differed on their directives.
While the French health minister, Olivier Véran, warned people not to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS — a category of pain relievers and fever reducers that includes ibuprofen — because some French COVID-19 patients had experienced serious side effects and ultimately called for its ban (9); whereas, “Britain is not following France’s lead in advising coronavirus patients to avoid ibuprofen. The Public Health England agency says there is not enough evidence to suggest people switch to other painkillers….. (10)
And the World Health Organization has no recommendations on the use of ibuprofen versus other anti-inflammatory painkillers for coronavirus symptoms.
Tarik Jašarević, a WHO spokesperson said “WHO is gathering further evidence on this issue before making a formal recommendation, but after a rapid review of the literature, is not aware of published clinical or population-based data on this topic.”
What would you do if you were in their shoes? Would you consider the anecdotal evidence or dismiss it until further evidence? I’m just grateful that the practice of hygiene and washing hands centuries ago before delivering babies was noticed by physicians through observation of decreased mortality rates before waiting for a randomized evidenced-based study!
The point I am making is that we are all in a position to reflect on so many questions; the impact of this pandemic, the implications of medical Marshall law, the judgement of our neighbours, states and governments, the monetary crisis, the environmental ramifications…
Let’s work together, give the benefit of the doubt, don’t judge others and don’t judge your own fear. Learn to dance with uncertainty and navigate lack of clarity coming from the outside. Take the time we have in isolation to look inside, ask questions, and reflect.
We are called to make individual and collective choices whether it be regarding hoarding, risking to help or protecting front line workers and the lives of the most vulnerable.
With 80% of the service-based industry being shut down and people losing their livelihood, compassion and understanding IS the way of the future.
- For more information see http://www.homeopathy.ca/publications_det02.shtml
In health and joy
Dr Manon Bolliger, ND
For more information go to my website DrManonBolliger.com