Top Doctors Give Answers To Coronavirus Questions

Dr. Amy Kressel
Dr. Amy Kressel

Dr. Amy Kressel

Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship at Eskenazi Health

How can people in Indianapolis cut through the noise?
First, I should caution that this situation is changing so quickly. People need to go to trusted websites like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana State Department of Health, and the Marion County Public Health Department.

Is there one symptom that’s a telltale sign? How will you know it’s that and not a cold?
There isn’t really. The key symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. A lot of things can do that. There isn’t one thing that is unique about this. A flu-like illness is the best description. Shortness of breath would be the more severe spectrum of illness.

What should I do if one of my co-workers has a persistent cough or other symptoms?
This gets to a couple bigger issues that are relevant for influenza as well as COVID-19. One is respiratory etiquette—cover your cough. If you have a cough and you’re going to your physician’s office, that’s one time to wear a mask. It prevents whatever you’re coughing out from infecting the air. If your coworker is sick, that gets to another issue, which is, can you work remotely? We encourage people to have work plans where people can work remotely. The technical term is social distancing. If you’re sick, do you need to be at work? Can you access your work at home, bring a laptop home, do teleconferencing, to prevent other people from getting sick?

Will wiping down surfaces with disinfecting wipes help?
It could. I’m not sure how long it lasts on surfaces, but common disinfectant wipes are effective. That is a general recommendation for keeping yourself safe while traveling: Wipe down frequently touched surfaces.

What other behaviors should we be doing?
Personal preparedness. Try to have plans if schools are closed. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months. But Japan has closed all the schools. You should have some kind of contingency plan if your office is closed, if your kid’s school is closed, some supply of nonperishable food, contact numbers for people close to you. If you take medicine for a chronic condition, get a three-month supply instead of a one-month prescription. Put work documents on a cloud drive.

You also specialize in travel medicine, and Spring Break is coming up. Any advice?
Because this is changing so rapidly, it’s wise to have trip cancellation insurance, depending on what kind of traveling you’re doing. If you’re going overseas, know where the U.S. Embassy is. If you get sick, know how will you get home.

What’s the good news?
We are in contact with Marion County Health Department and the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety and Hospitals. We already have surveillance systems. There was a lot of planning for influenza that will help us. We have a framework there. The health department tracks emergency room admissions. We have well-equipped hospitals.

Dr. Scott Fretzin
Dr. Scott Fretzin

Dr. Scott Fretzin

Dawes Fretzin Dermatology Group

I’m worried about drying out my hands from endless sanitizer.
Based on the CDC recommendations, hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is still better than hand sanitizer. However, especially in medical situations like ours, sanitizers work to continue the cleanliness of the soap-and-water scrub.

What kind of sanitizer should we use?
The sanitizer should be at least 60 percent alcohol. The base isn’t as important as the active ingredients, so gel or foam is effective.

Is there such a thing as over-washing?
Repetitive washing and sanitizing certainly can lead to excessive dryness of the hands. This can cause cracks in the skin, which could allow bacteria and viruses easier access into your body. I would recommend using a hand emollient, either lotion or cream, while the hands are still damp after washing.

Any recommended brands?
There are many well-studied brands. The most commonly recommended are Cetaphil and Cerave. Many other brands will also provide good lubrication to seal in the water and prevent skin fissuring.

Are there similar instructions for washing one’s face?
There are no recommendations for washing your face. The recommendation by the CDC is to touch your face as little as possible. Make sure to clean the surfaces that you contact and be conscious of touching your face, especially the nose, mouth, and eyes.