Another Blog Article by David E. Smalley, M.D.

This article is on a principle of pain relief that is covered much more in depth in the book, The Miracle of Pain.  The content is educational and should not be used as medical advice.
The original photos below emphasize the wonders of nature around us, which reflect the miracles within us.
March 31, 2020 — Rethinking Mask Wear for Viruses

We see news reports with photos of many people wearing masks in Asian countries.  However, our local, state and federal governments have told us not to wear masks, unless we are having symptoms of a viral infection, fever, cough, runny nose and so forth.  Yet, as a patient, I would be nervous if I were seeing a doctor or nurse who did not have a mask on.  They have an increased risk of exposure to viruses.

Inexpensive surgical type mask

As an orthopedic surgeon, I wore masks of many types in surgery for over 35 years.  It was a protection for me as well as the patient.  It may not have been perfect, but it made sense to protect both of us as well as possible.  Total knee and total hip replacements were done with hooded head coverings, masks with face shields, full gowns and double gloves.

We have been told that staying home, cleaning surfaces, washing hands and social distancing of 6 feet will protect us and others.  I have no doubt that those measures will help.  But, is there more that we can do?  Of course, there is.  If I were still practicing medicine and needed to go into a COVID-19 patient’s room just to talk to them, I would use all the protective gear I could find.  Even in a negative pressure isolation room, there are live viruses in the air.  Though it has not been proven, transmission from breathing the air is possible, especially because we have recently found that the Wuhan novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is ten times more contagious than the flu.

Palm side disposable glove

Within the past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Surgeon General have repeated the same talking points, “If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.”  What?  Think about that for a minute.  That is a conflicted message!  If they are good for caregivers, they are good for the rest of us who do not want to catch the virus from an asymptomatic carrier.  Are we too proud to wear a mask?  Are we afraid that someone will think we are sick when we are not?

I am getting to the age that I need to be more careful anyway.  Some habits are okay to change for our own safety as well as the safety of others.  In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the early statistics from China in a February 7, 2020 medical report that impressed me the most was that 41 percent of the 138 confirmed coronavirus pneumonia patients in Wuhan, China were suspected to be hospital acquired, medical workers (29%) and hospitalized patients (12%).  That is sobering, but we can do better with time and effort.

P.S. As of today, April 1, 2020, the CDC and the U.S. Surgeon General must have heard me and others about the wisdom of using a mask in public, or a covering of the nose and mouth, because they are now okay with it.  Yeah, common sense!

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A very healthy Daisy

Two disposable painting gloves

Top side disposable glove

Many have offered to make masks.  If we had to, we could wear a bandana to cover the mouth and nose with several layers, maybe on top of a regular mask.  There is no reason to fear a shortage.  By their fear, they are causing people to be hesitant to wear a mask.  There are masks in paint stores and many other retail stores.  There is no reason to horde them, but there is reason to wear them when in public.

Used disposable painting glove, Throw It Away

Paint stores also have disposable gloves.  If you really want to be safe use double gloves in case the outer layer is punctured.  In the operating room, when I worked with fractures with sharp bone fragments, occasionally the outer layer was punctured.  However, the inner glove was rarely punctured, even in those adverse circumstances.

Nothing like a Red Zonal Geranium to cheer us up

Three months ago, I visited my son and his family.  He warned me that he was sick with the flu, but we had not seen each other for several months.  So, we decided to hug anyway.  Just from that, three days later I had fever, aches and a runny nose.  He had not coughed or sneezed on me.  I was lucky it lasted only two to three days, but I learned something in retrospect.  Changing habits is hard, but we can, and we must.  Hugging, handshakes and breathing the air of a sick person’s room is okay to stay away from.  Waving, keeping in touch with phone, text, email or social media is always helpful.

'New Day' Everblooming Hybrid Tea Rose

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Updated 8/31/2020