A week ago, Friday, Austin, TX reported its first three cases of Coronavirus. Public schools shut down immediately and people started panic-shopping. I read that customers were clearing out grocery shelves so I jumped in my car and raced to my local co-op to prepare for I-don’t-know-what. My husband met me there and we bought two grocery carts worth of frozen meats, veggies, berries, canned soup, coconut milk, grains like quinoa and chickpea pasta, dark chocolate. We came home, hunkered down, read all the reports advocating “social distancing” and prepared for the long haul. My husband is a software engineer and works remotely, so his job was not at risk. My son’s school had been preparing for a month to transition to online learning and did so with the flick of a button. I work from home. ALL SET!
Until the next day, Saturday, when my son developed a rash. We thought, “We can handle this!” We’ll watch and wait. It started itching. Out came the herbal remedies—calendula and rosemary leaf and arnica and coconut oil and Manuka honey. None worked. He took an oatmeal bath and came out even redder.
By Sunday my son was itching plus hurting. We tried cold compresses and essential oils. But it got worse. I found some calamine lotion and that got us through the day.
Monday we searched online for a telemedicine provider, made an appointment and talked to a practitioner who reviewed our photos. “Food allergy” was our diagnosis. Sure enough, he’d been scarfing down cottage cheese, which caused him reactions when he was a baby and which I almost never buy, but hey, I’d been panic shopping and that was one of my comfort foods. We had our culprit. The practitioner recommended Benadryl, but there was none in the house. It was a moment of angst: we had to leave our “safe zone” and go to the most dangerous zone: the drugstore.
My husband and I tried to decide whose life was more important, to shield the other from going into harm’s way. He has asthma so I volunteered, but he wanted to be the heroic one so I let him. Off he went, like a soldier into war. He returned with the booty, a little shaken, reporting that people invaded his “6-foot personal zone”, some coughing.
My son took the Benadryl—both orally and topically—but it caused severe stinging and the rash kept spreading—first, all over his face, forehead, chin, ears, neck, and shoulders; then, by Tuesday, into his armpits and down his arms and hands. He told me the pain was intolerable and that the only way he could manage it without tearing his skin off was to play video games, which are usually off limits. We consented. He became a zombie, playing day and night till exhausted enough to pass out. He missed online school.
Wednesday he slept the entire day because he’d been up all night. And maybe also because we gave him an anti-histamine. But he was still in pain. He walked around the house looking like a ghost—slathered with layers of calamine lotion over his body, which provided an hour or so of relief. We all read the alarming news all day long—about asymptomatic carriers, infected surfaces where the virus could live for days, droplets that linger in the air—and held out hope that we wouldn’t need a doctor, that the rash would resolve on its own.
On Thursday the rash traveled to his groin and spread down his legs. I reached out to friends and neighbors, sent them pictures (yeah, not of that!). All kinds of diagnoses were proffered—Fifth Disease, Scabies, even Meningitis. I called Dell Children’s Hospital Dermatology Dept to see if they did telemedicine and they did not. I realized that I had to go to the one place I feared the most—the doctor’s office.
It was the Day of Reckoning. When we arrived at the dermatologist, I told my son to wait outside to limit his exposure to sick air and contaminated surfaces. I went in alone, opening the door with a tissue. A clipboard sat on the counter, asking patients to sign in. I didn’t want to touch the office pen, so I passed. The receptionist asked to make a copy of my insurance card. I had printed out a copy for her and invited her to keep it. She needed my drivers license so I asked if I could email her a picture of it in lieu of handing it to her. I used my phone camera and sent it along. But then she handed me a questionnaire on a clipboard and asked me to fill it out. “Could I do this online?” I asked, but she needed it for the appointment. She handed me a glove, but she had touched it. In fact, she was touching everything around her! Without a glove. 😱 I picked up the clipboard with a second tissue and hunted for a pen in my purse. Then I returned to my son outside and asked them to fetch us when it was our turn.
Soon a nurse appeared with a thermometer—luckily, anyone with a temperature was being turned away to keep the rest of us safe. But…unexpectedly, my son had a temperature! The nurse took it again, just to be sure. Oh no! How could we explain? Maybe the rash caused the temperature. It certainly wasn’t Corona! The nurse disappeared and I braced for the inevitable—that she would politely refuse us service. But instead, she returned with a mask, which she said was for OUR protection (haha, as if!). I realized she had touched it and it was going on my son’s face, but I had no choice. We walked through the office to the patient room. My son started leaning on the patient chair and I maneuvered him to the part covered with disposable paper and entreated him NOT. TO. TOUCH. ANYTHING.
The doctor came in and told us he had poison ivy. My outbreaks, when I used to have them, looked different, so I never suspected this evil plant. She prescribed a steroid—hydrocortisone—and off we went, disposing of the door-handle-touching tissues as we departed.
I made my son wait in the car. At the pharmacy, I opened the door with my unprotected hand and then made a beeline for the sanitizer on the counter. While waiting for the prescription, I realized I had to cough and tried to hold it in. I couldn’t because it’s spring in Austin and all the pretty flowers and foliage bring allergies. I braced for some unwanted attention. An employee near me laughed nervously and offered that the oak pollen levels were off the charts. I checked out, asking if I could dictate my credit card number so as not to touch the machine. He was wearing a fancy mask and gloves, and he clicked and tapped everything that needed to be clicked and tapped so I didn’t have to. I wondered if I should worry that the prescription bag had been touched by a pharmacist who was on the front lines, dealing with SICK PEOPLE, maybe with COVID-19. Should I wipe it down with alcohol before opening it up?
This is life in the time of Corona and Corona is my kryptonite.
These are scary, uncertain times and we are all trying to adapt to a new reality which is constantly shifting. Every day brings new advice, new charts and graphs, new statistics, and disagreements between experts. Are you too panicked? Too complacent? Which is worse? What is your statistical percentage of coming in contact with someone who is infected?
So far in Austin there are only 79 Corona cases, compared to 20,875 in New York. But some epidemiologists say that for every reported case there are 5-10 not reported or diagnosed. After all, testing kits are lagging behind demand. Where have you been and who have you been in physical contact with in the last two weeks? Should you be concerned about your cleaning person? Your hair dresser? Your delivery driver? What if you or your spouse/kid are Corona carriers with no present symptoms?
No one has the answers. Everyone is guessing, although some of the guesses are more educated and based on more experience. We are all collectively trying to find a new way forward with no road map: when can my kid go back to school? Will my hairdresser resume business before my hair turns grey? Is my job in peril? If I’ve been pink-slipped, can I ever go back? Will my summer travel plans be canceled? Do we have enough money to weather this crisis? Should I sell what’s left of my stocks? How long will it take the economy to rebound? Are millions of people really going to die? Will my choices and actions make any difference?
In a world of uncertainty, it seems that the only certainty is that social distancing is our best chance to slow the spread of the virus. After my power walk this evening I happened upon neighbors having a “social distancing” lawn party. Bring your own chair and drink!
During this crazy, unprecedented time, the Good Food Fighter is here for you. Can you protect yourself from Coronavirus? Read here.
Here are some tools to make your life easier/calmer/funnier:
Order bulk fish and seafood: Now is a great time to try an online retail seafood distributor. I know the major players at Vital Choice Wild Seafood and couldn’t be more impressed with their integrity and knowledge. I just placed a $400 order for the cleanest salmon in the world—king salmon, salmon burgers, lox, and fish eggs—using coupon janh20 for a 15% discount. Vitamin D and Omega-3s, uniquely high in seafood, are extremely important for you, especially now, and people don’t seem to be hoarding fish like toilet paper. Even so, the company has a somewhat delayed ship-time so I paid more for a two-day delivery.
Take supplements for your immune system recommended by a pharmacologist who is also a clinical nutritionist and biochemist. Dr. Jim Meyer at Peoples Pharmacy in Austin is part of one of the largest holistic wellness teams in the country. He works in specialty compounding—making custom pharmaceuticals—and also analyzes DNA tests for patients. He has a deep clinical understanding of the benefits and intricacies of traditional pharmaceuticals drugs, supplements, vitamins, food, and how they all interact together. His recommendations include vitamin C and D, probiotics, echinacea, goldenseal, colostrum and more, plus a nasal spray in case you need to fly. Later this week my subscribers will get a detailed list.
Use lavender for relaxation. Growing evidence shows that lavender oil may be an effective treatment for several neurological disorders. Animal and human research suggest that it has mood stabilizing, sedative, analgesic, anti-convulsive and neuro-protective properties. A clinical government trial shows that aromatherapy reduces stress during MRI procedures. This controlled study shows that lavender reduces academic stress. And this Harvard-trained psychiatrist talks about its use for insomnia and depression. You can use a diffuser for aromatherapy. I take it in pill form. There are also powders that you can mix with water.
Grow vegetables indoors! Now is the time to start an indoor garden. This one, called Click ‘n Grow, is effortless. New technology allows your “greenhouse” to arrive pre-planted so you can just watch it grow with awe. Seriously, people, all you do is add water every two weeks. And check out these gorgeous “flower pots” which can bring alive your indoor space with color and fragrance!
- Dumb and Dumber (PG-13)
Two very low-brow friends embark on a journey to locate a beautiful, rich woman at the center of a blackmail scheme. Full of Jim Carey’s gaffes and hyperbolic acting. I saw this recently on plane for the second time and the flight attendant came by to politely scold me because I was laughing so hard that I was disturbing other passengers. 😂😇
- The Producers (PG)
A satire about Hollywood directed by Mel Brooks and starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.
- Little Miss Sunshine (R)
- A wildly dysfunctional family sets off on a road trip to help their 7-year old realize her dream of winning a beauty pageant.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (PG)
- A conman flick with comedic jousting between superstars Steve Martin and Michael Caine.
- The Muppet Movie (G)
Good lighthearted fun for all ages about Kermit the Frog pursuing a career in Hollywood.
- Airplane! (PG)
- A slapstick cult movie of an airplane disaster. Packed with corny jokes.
- Coming to America (R)
- Eddie Murphy stars as a rich African Prince posing as a poor ghetto boy trying to find love in America.
- Groundhog Day (PG)
- Curmudgeon Bill Murray plays a weatherman sent to a small town to cover a story and gets stuck in a time-warp, which surprisingly turns him into a better person.
- National Lampoon’s Vacation (R)
Chevy Chase takes his family on a road trip to amusement park Wallyworld and suffers a series of outrageous catastrophes along the way.
- Monty Python (PG)
Irreverent and ludicrous humor with clever dialogue and a plot that revolves around the legend of King Arthur.
- Green Card (PG-13)
A romantic comedy starring French superstar Gerard Depardieu in which a man tries to get a green card by duping immigration inspectors.
- Young Frankenstein (PG)
A silly spoof starring Gene Wilder who returns to the scene of the castle to re-enact his famous grandfather’s experiments…
A team of paranormal investigators hunt down ghouls, ghosts, and beasts. Starring Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd and full of fun.
- The Odd Couple PG)
A slob and a neat freak try to live together. An all-time classic.
- La Vache (NR)
An Algerian farmer goes on an adventure with his girlfriend–oh wait, his girlfriend is a cow! A tender, beautifully-filmed movie.
- The Big Lebowski (R)
Fun crime caper from the Coen Brothers about mistaken identity, extortion, bowling, drugs, and alcohol.
- The Goldbergs
A nostalgic comedy about kids growing up in a dysfunctional family with an overbearing mother in the 1980s.
The adventures of Jerry Seinfeld and his neurotic neighbors in New York City. Worth watching again!
- The Office
Gossip, pranks, romance and general foolishness. If you’ve ever hated your boss, your job or both, you’ll love this show.
- I Love Lucy
America’s original sitcom starring Lucille Ball as a housewife who is bursting with personality and wants to get into show-biz.
- One Day at a Time
A remake of the 1975 sitcom about a separated military mom heading up a Cuban-American family while navigating a new single life and raising two children.
A British comedy about a couple and their three kids.
- South Park
An animated adult series about four crude, vulgar, un-politically correct kids and their families in a small Colorado town. Animation.
TV’s longest running comedy features a family that makes a scathing commentary on politics and social mores. Animation.
The dating fiascos of an edgy, boy-crazy London woman. Raunchy and explicit.
- Mary Tyler Moore Show
A sophisticated show with clever writing about a female news anchor. Won almost 30 Emmys.
- Bob’s Burgers
The travails of a sarcastic, quirky family revolving around their burger restaurant. Animation.
- The Jeffersons
- Award-winning All-in-the-Family spin-off about a mercilessly opinionated black man and his family on the Upper East Side. Full of clever barbs.
- Better off Ted
A single father tries to balance the outrageous demands of a scientific research company with the lessons in morality and advice from his school-age daughter.
- Faulty Towers
British humor is at its best in this series from the 1970s about an incompetent, arrogant hotel owner and all his misfortunes.
- Family contest! Create a hand-washing contraption with found objects!
- Where the heck is Matt? I’ve been watching this video continuously since 2008 especially when I’m feeling blue.
- Food videos gone terribly wrong. You will laugh out loud at How to Make Almond Milk and the slightly longer but worth watching How to Make Ramen.
- Cat and dog lovers may enjoy silly home-filmed cat-and-dog shenanigans like this. Who likes baby animals?
- Are you lucky or unlucky? Stupid fun!
- Spoof on How to Wash your Hands. This is crazy funny. And a little demented….
Songs to keep your spirits up. Here’s a personally curated list of therapeutic and uplifting songs. Keep listening. Remember that this, like all crises, will pass.
- What a wonderful world / Louis Armstrong
- A world of our own / The Seekers
- New world in the morning / Roger Whittaker
- You’ll never walk alone / Gerry & the Pacemakers
- You’ve got a friend / Carol King
- We shall overcome / Joan Baez
- I will survive / Gloria Ganor
- Be not so fearful / Bill Fay
- Don’t give up / Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush
- Hold on tight / E.L.O.
- I have a dream / ABBA
- Wonderful life / Black
ENTERTAINMENT YOU USED TO GO OUT FOR
The show must go on!
- Here’s a comprehensive, up-to-date list of theatre, opera, dance, and symphony from the New York Times.
- World renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma has created a series called “Songs of Comfort“.
- Music live streamed from:
New York Metropolitan Opera
The Royal Opera House of Vienna
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
National Opera of Paris
Opera, Ballet and Orchestras from around the world
- Concert documentaries
- Crowd-funded series of Toronto bands
- A daily selection of concerts from NPR
Have fun. Come up with your own creative corona mask, take a selfie, and send to friends. I don’t want to downplay the calamity of health care facilities running out of desperately needed equippment, but joking helps us cope. Here are some unexpected solutions (note: most experts say you don’t need a mask unless you’re sick and that we should save all inventory for healthcare workers):
Play with your food. Boredom is likely to visit everyone in the household. Mealtimes create two opportunities: a culinary project (try a new recipe!) and an art project. Let your imagination run wild. Can you create a landscape? A face?
Make some memes and send to everyone to make them laugh. Here’s one of my faves:
Take advantage of the cyber world. Everything down to ballet class is moving online. You may not think it will have the same value, but give it a shot. Huge fitness franchises as well as and tiny gyms are working are all adapting to online versions of their offerings. You don’t want them to go out of business and you might really enjoy it. Reach out to your neighbors (list serves like Nextdoor are great) to find out who’s teaching violin and voice lessons through teleconferencing.
Indoor or backyard Exercise. There’s a lot you can do from home! Consider investing in a simple set of weights, resistance bands and cords, a yoga mat. Here’s a band workout you can do anywhere. My tai chi class and neighborhood workout class will now be held online. All you need is a 6×6 space. You can access an enormous selection of exercise workout videos online. Do you have a trampoline? Buy a small indoor one. Jumping is a great de-stressor!
More than 25 gyms are offering live-stream workouts during the Corona outbreak.
Stay Tuned for the next blog post as the Good Food Fighter reveals how Technology is Fighting Back!
There was no magic bullet. The steroid prescribed by the dermatologist made the rash fade more quickly but was less effective than Calamine (combined with tea tree/peppermint/lavender oil) for the pain. In the end, he just had to suffer it out. The rash slowly resolved, and my son emerged a few days later from his video game bubble to participate in the family again.
Then, one week after the rash started, when it was finally fading from his face, he decided to make a special steak dinner. He seared the sirloin on high heat in a cast-iron pan with lots of butter and avocado oil. Unfortunately, when he flipped it he lost control of the spatula. The meat plunged into the pan, splattering boiling oil all over his face. Now he has what appears to be second degree burns. Luckily, I have everything we need and we’re NOT. GOING. TO. THE. DOCTOR.
-your Good Food Fighter