The world is changing. Along with the world, our daily routines must also change. So how have we adapted to the pandemic period we live in so far? What will change in our lives when we return to normal? We asked Health Communication Specialist and Health Journalist Nazlı Şenyuva.
How important has health communication expertise gained in the days when COVID-19 hit us?
The coronavirus is a virus that humanity has not encountered before. The effects of the virus and the pandemic, the information revealed about COVID-19 are often scientific and complicated. Every day we hear something new. New treatments and vaccines are being worked on, new symptoms are added to the symptoms created by the virus. When we say social distance, mask, protection, we are faced with many new concepts that are foreign to us. Health communication is a branch that exists to simplify this kind of complex scientific and medical information without losing its meaning and to convey it to the public in a way that the public can understand. Accurate and ethical health communication is very important for public health in this period when false news, unfounded and frightening information increase. It is unrealistic to expect people to wear masks or distance themselves without clearly explaining the effects of the virus and the severity of the pandemic. For this reason, to obtain information from accurate, reliable and up-to-date sources; Comprehensive and comprehensive communication is the most important task of health communicators. In this way, many people can protect themselves correctly and effectively and be accurately informed of important developments that affect us all.
Do you think people are used to staying at home; Or will we go back to our old life when it's all over?
We got used to it, but our psychology is struggling. Still, I hope we understand that we need to stay at home to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and not to strain the capacities of our healthcare systems. 'Returning to our old lives' may take months, perhaps years, until a vaccine is found. The danger has not passed yet, opening the economy does not mean the end of the disease. Those who can stay until the danger passes must continue to stay at home, and those who have to go out must wear masks and follow the social distance rules. Those with symptoms of the disease should not leave the house. Those who continue to work should isolate themselves at home to protect those who stay at home and live like carriers. Continue to wash our hands frequently with soap for 30 seconds and not to touch our face.
How much can we relax in the step-by-step normalization process?
It's dangerous to relax right now. Unfortunately, a worldwide relief has begun, but in countries where relief has begun, case increases and even second waves have begun to be seen. We have to continue to take our precautions. The decrease in the number of cases does not mean that everything is over. For us, too, early relief will quickly bring a second wave.
One thing we can relax a little bit about is surface cleaning. This subject is very confusing and can even create an obsession. We're all cleaning up like crazy. It's important to keep surfaces clean, wash fruit and vegetables, and wait for outside cargo, but not so much as to obsess. The main transmission route of the virus is when we come across a sick or carrier person, and their saliva reaches us. Surface transmission is also possible, but not as common or risky as other modes of transmission.
What predictions do you have for a possible second wave?
Second wave news is currently coming from South Korea and Wuhan. There was an increase in cases in the states that opened in the USA, even Germany reported an increase in the spread after the opening. If we loosen the measures early, we can see the second wave soon.
There are many scientific predictions about the second wave based on data. There is a possibility of a second wave around the world in the coming autumn months. There are three scenarios in this regard. In the first, the second wave may be more severe than the first, as was the case with the Spanish flu in 1918-19. Other possibilities; getting weaker, getting weaker, or appearing with the same intensity as the current wave and repeating until the vaccine. Without a vaccine, a period of quarantine entry and exit can await us until 2022. Wearing a mask could be our new normal. But if we go faster in treatment and continue to follow mask and distance measures, the second wave may not be as serious as the first.
Do you think Turkey can go through a period of herd immunity in the upcoming period?
For herd immunity, 90-95% of the population must have the disease, including carriers. According to the data of the Ministry of Health, the number of people who have the disease is far from this percentage. If everyone starts to take to the streets maybe; but this means a serious increase in the number of patients and deaths, and a serious blow to the health systems and economy. Nobody wants this. That's why we continue to stay at home, we try to slow down the epidemic with the measures we take and reduce the damage and spread it over a longer period of time.
Hospitals can't handle it if everyone gets sick at the same time. Patients who will recover with treatment may not be able to find a bed, and the death toll will be very high. The economy is badly affected. For this reason, it is important to overcome the epidemic in a longer period of time, not all at once. When a vaccine is found, the situation is different, we can gain herd immunity with the vaccine before so many people get sick and the economy is not shaken.
What is the point we have reached in vaccine research, how long is it expected to take?
Vaccine research clinical trials. In other words, it is first tested in laboratories and on animals. Even if there is a positive result, it is started to be tested on humans in several stages. There are three phases, the number of people is increased in each phase. Currently, there are vaccines that have passed the animal stage and have begun to be tested on humans. For example, modern vaccine studies in the USA have moved to the second phase. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are also in the first phase. Oxford University's vaccine studies continue. It is expected to be tested on thousands of people and a response by September. In the pre-clinical phase, a face-to-face vaccine study continues.
Scientists think that in the most positive scenario, a vaccine will be found within 12-18 months. Others do not find it realistic that a vaccine will be available before two years. Normally, it takes ten years for a vaccine to be found and marketed; In other words, we are in an incredibly accelerated process. It is very important that the vaccine is reliable and does not harm the person, it is necessary to make sure that it does not make healthy people sick and that it works. Therefore, it has to go through many stages in a long time. There is also the production process. It will take time too.
What surprised you the most about the coronavirus?
The ever-changing symptoms surprise me. First, there were symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, then different symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, and redness and bruising on the feet were added. Brain attacks in teenagers and an increase in Kawasaki and toxic shock cases in children are also associated with COVID-19. So we don't really know this virus and we don't know exactly what it can cause. In this age, this unknown is the situation that surprises me the most.
Do we have to wear gloves when going out?
No. Using gloves is actually something we are not used to and requires attention. When a non-medical person wears gloves, he/she may feel 'invincible', starts to touch everything, then straightens his hair, rubs his eyes… If we don't wear gloves, we pay more attention to what we touch, touch less and wash our hands more often.
Gloves are recommended for people who cannot wash their hands frequently during this period. For example, bank or market employees. Due to their work, they are constantly dependent on money, products, etc. they have to touch; They can avoid having to wash their hands frequently by wearing gloves. But there are also rules for wearing gloves. Gloves should be changed every two to three hours, and the same glove should not be used for any other work, except for the work done with gloves. For example, gloves should be thrown away during lunch or lunch breaks, hands should be washed, and new gloves should be put on when returning to work. People caring for a COVID-19 patient can also use gloves with caution.
Hairdressers and shopping centers were opened. Is it safe to go?
I think not right now. The epidemic danger has not passed yet. There can be crowds around here, not everyone is wearing masks or following social distancing rules. It is necessary to continue to stay at home during this period, to go out only when necessary, and not to relax the measures when you go out.
What should we pay attention to about takeaway meals?
Throw away the bag and packaging of the food and wash your hands. Heat the dish in the oven at 150-200 degrees for ten minutes. Consume the breads taken from the oven, either by heating them in the oven or by frying them. There is no data that COVID-19 is transmitted through food, but I personally do not order food that I cannot heat, such as sushi, from outside.
During this period, you can make requests from the place you order food not to put plastic cutlery or napkins in the package. The less handled material, the better.
How should we act against the risk posed by cargo packages arriving at home?
The virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours, so it's best to leave it outside or in a corner of the house for a day. This includes letters and invoices. Clean the inside of the cargo again according to its material. You can wash it with soap and water, and clean it with disinfectant wet wipes (at least 70% alcohol) or bleach. Afterwards, you must wash your hands for 30 seconds.
How should we establish health communication with children and the elderly? Can you share an interesting experience?
Open communication should be established with children during this period. We should explain why we can't go outside, to school and to the park, without unduly scaring them and going into the very intricate details of the situation. We should reassure children by mentioning that many doctors, health workers and scientists around the world are working hard to find a cure for this situation. Children should know that they can openly ask questions without hesitation, and they should believe that they are our top priority. We should arrange video conversations with friends, do family activities and spend time. Family routines, such as meal and sleep times, should continue as before. Routines are very important for children. Istanbul Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Associationi has very good resources, communication suggestions and games prepared for this period. You can find it online.
The principles of honesty and accessibility also apply to the elderly. We should avoid using stigmatizing language. This pandemic has also put a lot of strain on our elders who have to stay at home and cannot accept guests. Fear of death, loneliness, even feelings of worthlessness increased. Therefore, video calls; It should be routine as long as the comfort of using technology allows. Psychological counseling can be arranged if necessary. Free spiritual counseling services are on the agenda right now, which can come in handy. Empathic communication, even though we can't be with them physically, conversations that give the message that we are in the same situation and with them should be made frequently. Staying in touch is essential.
My favorite experience was having kids staying at home drawing pictures of the sun and rainbows and hanging them on the windows. Thus, the children could see through the windows of their neighbors that there were children like them staying at home and felt better. Another example is an experiment with soap and black pepper. In this experiment, children see that the peppers run away when they dip their finger in liquid soap into a bowl of black pepper water. In this way, he visually understands the importance of hand washing.
What is your most efficient health communication technique for your audience in Turkey?
tell the truth! To tell the news, data, risks openly and one by one. Everyone wants to learn more. Live broadcasts also have a big impact; Watching me live and being able to ask questions and get answers at that moment satisfies everyone. I read and reply to every message I receive. I also add sources to my news, I share the sources from which I get the information.
What is the importance of routine in protecting our health? What habits motivate you?
Routines are very important for both our physical and psychological health. Routines that we can control make us feel safer in this period when many things we cannot control are experienced. We can prevent physical and psychological problems caused by staying at home, thanks to routines.
Routines that motivate me and try to do every day: Morning with my wife New York Times Daily podcastDrinking macha tea and coffee while listening to the . I also make a realistic to-do list before I start my day, and I even sleep better if I do it the night before. Waking up knowing the existence of this program when I wake up in the morning relaxes me and keeps my morale strong. My routine activities add efficiency to my work breaks and allow me to stay close with my loved ones during this period when we are in social distance. These habits have helped me a lot during the pandemic period.
How can we exercise at home as an alternative to walking? Is there a fitness program or coach you follow?
Yoga or pilates routines, home exercises that we can access from social media or Youtube are perfect for these days. I everyday Melissa Wood Health'of from their website I'm making a 15-20 minute video. Depending on the day, I sometimes make two videos; one morning, one evening. He has an effective technique that blends yoga and pilates and makes a difference in a short time. The shortness of the videos motivates me, it prevents me from thinking about who will do sports for an hour now and give up immediately. Melissa's positive personality also makes me feel good. On a mat, I can often exercise without the need for any other tools or weights.
For those who want to do a more active and sweat-inducing exercise, Akın Akman's AARMY I recommend live streams of the brand account.
What do you think is the most harmful consequence of disrupting our sleep patterns for most of us, what can we do?
Sleep is the most important element for our immune system. In addition to known conditions such as irregular and insufficient sleep, concentration and motivation disorder, irritability, loss of productivity; It can also increase the risk of problems such as weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. Our risk of getting sick increases as our immune system weakens when we are sleep deprived.
First of all, you should make sure to go to bed early. So try to sleep before midnight at the latest. A deep night's sleep is not equivalent to going to bed at 04:00 in the morning and getting up at 12:00. Therefore, avoid caffeine after 14:00. We drink tea and coffee all the time, which actually disturbs us and makes it difficult for us to sleep at night.
Increase movement throughout the day. We are so still that we do not get tired, we do not sleep.
Before going to bed, put the phone, the laptop aside, and stay away from the screens that emit blue light. This light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
Wear a nightgown or pajamas before going to bed, and change to normal everyday clothes when you wake up. When you spend the whole day in pajamas and then go to bed in the same way, it becomes difficult to sleep. It is a must to have a sleeping outfit that reminds you of sleep.
Finally, use your bedroom only for sleeping and similar activities. So don't do work in bed, don't watch TV. All of these rules we call 'sleep hygiene', including keeping the room cool and using dark curtains.
Even if you do the same routine every night before going to bed, your body goes into sleep mode. In fact, nighttime skin care before sleep can be an important part of this routine.
Another reason for our insomnia during this period is stress and anxiety. Try to reduce your stress. For this, meditation, light exercise, a nice conversation with our loved ones, a hot herbal tea are perfect. Teas such as linden, fennel, chamomile and lemon balm can help you relax and bring you sleep.
Can you give us a few tips to stay positive these days?
Being grateful for what we have, for our health, for what we have. To be aware of people who are in a much more difficult situation than us and to help these people as much as we can. Video chatting with our loved ones often. Not to forget that we are going through the same process as humanity. Although COVID-19 has bad consequences; This is the first event that we have experienced together as a whole humanity in this generation; The first moment we pause and leave nature alone. Finally; smile! Even just smiling causes the release of happiness hormones in the body.
Can you recommend a few publications for health and wellness readers?
Actually a lot of resources! For short and clear readings, I'm Equinox's furthermore I love the website, they share very good information from nutrition to sports. Well+Good, Another wellness page that I love. Vegan chef and food journalist Erin Ireland To Die For I also love the website; full of delicious, healthy and practical recipes. Due to my job, I have to read medical and scientific publications, reports and studies very often. These sites, on the other hand, give me good life information in a shorter and more enjoyable way.
For reliable information about any symptoms, diseases and treatments that I personally wonder about outside of my job. Mayo ClinicI prefer the website of . WebMD I don't trust sites like; It can be scary or misleading to use sites that we don't know who control it for health information.
The views expressed in this article are written to shed light on alternative studies and to encourage conversation about these studies. Even if the articles contain the advice of physicians to some extent, they are for informational purposes only. This text; cannot replace professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Nazlı Şenyuva – Health Communication Doctor and Health Journalist
Şenyuva, who became interested in the field of health while studying Economics at Princeton University, attended the Global Health and Health Policies Certificate Program at the same university. She received her master's degree in Health and Science Journalism Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Then, he started his doctorate education in the Health Communication Program at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. While continuing his academic career, The Dr. He worked as a medical researcher on the Oz Show and wrote articles on health for various publications. Dr. Nazlı Şenyuva currently provides counseling training to students at SenyuvaPrep, of which she is the founder, and continues her studies on health.