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02/Jul/2020

We’ve been noticing an increasing number of posts on social media and calls to our Help Line from people with musculoskeletal conditions, autoimmune conditions or with weakened immune systems who are feeling really anxious and vulnerable at the moment.

In the general population there’s a giddy exhilaration about restrictions easing. Unfortunately this seems to have led many people to forget all of the good things they’ve been doing over the past few months to flatten the curve. People are gathering in large numbers and forgetting all about physical distancing and giving others plenty of space.

That’s scary because most of us are still susceptible to the virus. And if you’re more at risk than others, it can make you feel really helpless and exposed.

So what can you do to look after yourself?

Acknowledge your feelings

It’s a crappy, crazy time, so recognise that and allow yourself to feel frightened or anxious, cry, have a freak out, and then move on. Don’t bottle these feelings up or pretend everything’s fine. All of our feelings are valid and important – you don’t have to put on a happy face or turn that frown upside down. You need to acknowledge how you really feel.

However if it feels like these feelings are taking over and they’re all you can focus on, talk to someone – your partner, a trusted family member or friend, your doctor or a mental health specialist.

Talk to your doctor

Make sure you keep your healthcare team up-to-date with how you’re doing – both physically and mentally. Continue to follow your treatment plan as prescribed, and if you have any issues contact your team immediately. If attending health appointments in person feels unsafe, use telehealth if you can. Obviously there are some appointments that will require you to attend in person – for example blood tests and scans – however there are many appointments you can attend from the comfort and security of your own home.

It’s also important that you don’t change or stop your medications without talking to your doctor, regardless of what you may see online or in the news. A recent survey of more than 500 patients attending Monash Health’s Rheumatology Department found that over half were concerned that their medications would increase their risk of getting COVID-19, and more than 75% were concerned that their medications would increase the severity of the disease if they did get it. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about medications and COVID, so if you’re worried, contact your doctor and get their expert advice.

Stay home

If you’re able to stay home, do it. The best way to avoid contact with someone who may have the virus is to stay at home. This is the advice of our health officers, especially if you’re in an area that has outbreaks. And quite frankly it’s so cold in parts of the country at the moment, it feels much better inside than out!

So stay home when you can. Use telehealth to access your health professionals, go online to order your shopping and have it delivered (or have a family member/friend pick it up for you and leave it at your door), stay in touch with your people using video chat and phone calls, use exercise apps or online videos to keep active. Technology allows us to stay connected while staying home.

Work from home if you can

This will help reduce your risk of coming into contact with someone with COVID and other contagious illnesses like the flu. However if you can’t work from home, your workplace is required to have in place safeguards to protect you including physical distancing measures, access to soap and water and/or hand sanitisier, and clean and disinfected work spaces. For more information visit the Safe Work Australia website.

Keep practising good hygiene

This is just something we need to live with from now on. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds), use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water, cough or sneeze into your elbow, throw tissues into the bin after use and wash your hands immediately, clean and disinfect your surfaces with soap and water and a disinfectant. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because organic matter and dirt can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs.

Wear a mask

When you do have to venture out, consider wearing a mask, especially if you have to catch public transport or you need to go to a location where physical distancing may be difficult. Read our updated blog about face masks for more info.

Get vaccinated

We’re all being urged to get the flu vaccination this year. This pandemic is overlapping with our flu season and while flu numbers in Australia are low due to our physical distancing measures, this may change. So see your doctor (if you haven’t already) and get your flu vax.

Ask for help

People living with health conditions are tough and resilient. We want to be able to do everything ourselves. However sometimes that’s not an option and we need to ask for help. This can be really hard and can feel like we’re giving away our independence. However this is a global pandemic – so asking for help when you need it is the smart thing to do – especially if it helps you look after your physical and mental health.

Get support from others who understand

There are some great peer support groups who meet online. You can chat with them, share your worries and concerns, get useful info and gain support from people who understand exactly what you’re going through. Being a part of these groups also give you the opportunity to give back and provide support to others.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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02/Jul/2020

This article was written a week before Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in Victoria resumed Stage 3 restrictions from 11.59pm 8 July 2020.

We’ve updated it as information has changed for different parts of Australia. Latest update 30 July 2020

Another week, another edit 😕

“The advice from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has been updated. People living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire and will now be required to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four reasons, following a concerning increase in coronavirus cases in recent days. To give people time to purchase or make a face covering, this new rule won’t be enforced until after 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July – but for those who can, please start wearing yours immediately. The fine for not wearing a face covering will be $200.”(1) 

  • All people in regional Victoria will be required to wear a face covering from 11.59 Sunday 2 August 2020.
  • NSW now recommends people wear a mask when physical distancing can’t be guaranteed.(8)

 

Just as restrictions began easing across Australia, Victoria started recording outbreaks of COVID cases. For more than two weeks the number of Victorians infected has been in the double-digits 😯 And on Wednesday many suburbs in Victoria were locked down to stop the spread of the virus.

So if you’re immunosuppressed and feeling really vulnerable no one can blame you. This is a scary time, and having a condition or taking medication that makes you more at risk of getting ill from any contagion or infection, adds another level to this.

Although, we’re being advised to stay at home as much as possible, sometimes we just have to go outside the house. Some of us can’t work from home, or we have an appointment that can’t be done online or via video chat, or we have to use public transport.

So how do we protect ourselves when we have to go out?

Three months ago we wrote a blog about face masks. We thought it was timely to revisit this blog in light of the latest evidence, and advice from the Federal and Victorian Governments.

The advice from the Federal Government

This information is general advice about the use of face masks in Australia. It’s important to note that the advice from your local state or territory health department supersedes any general advice about face masks and coverings.

“In Australia the routine use of face masks in the community is currently not recommended, while the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 is low.” (2)

“However, some members of the public may choose to wear a mask in situations where it is not feasible to maintain physical distancing e.g. on public transport and/or if they are at increased risk of severe illness if infected (e.g. because of their age or a chronic medical condition). This may provide some additional protection in these circumstances.” (3)

This advice takes into account the fact that restrictions are easing, and people are going out more. And with the opening up of our communities, the risk of coming into contact with people who have the virus, whether they appear to have it or not, is increased.

The advice also reinforces the message that masks aren’t a substitute for all the other things we’ve been doing: staying at home as much as possible, physical distancing, washing/disinfecting our hands regularly, not touching our face, coughing/sneezing into our elbow and staying home when we’re sick.

The advice from the Victorian Government

Parts of Victoria are currently experiencing significant outbreaks of COVID-19. For that reason the recommendations about face masks have changed.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton have advised that it will be mandatory from 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 July 2020 that people living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire must wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four reasons, following a concerning increase in coronavirus cases in recent days.

People in regional Victoria will be required to wear a face covering from 11.59 Sunday 2 August 2020. That means that it will mandatory for ALL Victorians to wear a face covering when they go outside of their homes from next Monday.

What type of face covering?
If you haven’t been able to get a surgical or cloth mask, Premier Andrews has said: “It need not be a hospital-grade mask. It need not be one of the handmade masks … it can be a scarf, it can be a homemade mask.” He admits “nothing is perfect” and a “face covering is just as good”. (4)

What else do you need to know? 

  • Wearing a face covering protects you and your community by providing an additional physical barrier to COVID-19.
  • Keeping 1.5 metres between yourself and others and washing your hands are still the best defences against COVID-19.
  • There will be some reasons not to wear a face covering. For example, those who have a medical reason, kids under 12 years of age, those who have a professional reason or if it’s just not practical, like when running. However you’ll still be expected to carry your face covering at all times to wear when you can.
  • The fine for not wearing a face covering will be $200.
  • Face coverings in regional Victoria continue to be recommended in situations where maintaining 1.5 metres distance is not possible – however regional Victorians will have to wear a mask when visiting metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire for one of the permitted reasons. (4)
  • Read the full Department of Health and Human Services update.

The advice from the New South Wales Government

The NSW Government now recommends wearing a mask if it’s difficult to stay 1.5 metres away from other people. For example, on public transport, when caring for vulnerable people or when indoors.

Find out more on the NSW Government website.

The evidence for using face masks

Up until recently the evidence for the use of face masks to protect against COVID-19 has been conflicting. But over the last several months the evolving evidence has come down firmly on the side of wearing masks.

Many people cite an article published in The Lancet in June 2020 as the turning point in the debate for wearing masks in public. It provided robust evidence for the benefits of face masks. It reported on a systematic review and meta-analysis that investigated a range of measures used to prevent person-to-person virus transmission. It looked at physical distancing, eye protection and the use of face masks.

Researchers analysed hundreds of studies involving SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), as well as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), across 16 countries in healthcare and non-healthcare settings, including more than 25,000 people.

They conclude that “wearing face masks protects people (both healthcare workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses”. (5)

However the authors also state that “none of these interventions offers complete protection and other basic protective measures (such as hand hygiene) are essential to reduce transmission.” (6)

While there were several limitations with this study, it does provide good evidence for the use of masks by the general public.

So if you choose (or are required) to wear a mask there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Follow the latest guidelines from your state/territory health department. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to face masks or coverings in Australia.
  • Don’t let wearing a mask give you a false sense of security. Masks will provide some level of protection – depending on what they’re made of, how porous the fabric is, how well you use them – but they’re not a magical, virus-repelling shield (though how cool would that be?)
  • Use masks correctly:
    • Wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly before you put a mask on and when you take it off.
    • Only touch the mask by the straps.
    • Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
    • Don’t touch the front of the mask when you wear it. That means no pulling it down to talk to someone, to eat or drink or to smoke a cigarette.
    • And don’t touch the front of the mask when you remove it. If you do accidentally touch it, wash or sanitise your hands immediately.
      Basically imagine the front of your mask is covered in something messy or gross – like paint or a virus (!) – that you don’t want to get all over yourself and the things you touch (e.g. your phone, your kids).
  • If it’s a disposable, single use mask, only use it once and then dispose of it properly.
  • If it’s a cloth mask, wash it thoroughly in warm, soapy water and allow it to dry properly before you use it again.
  • Don’t wear a mask if you have breathing difficulties or when you’re exercising strenuously.
  • Don’t put a mask on a baby or small child.
  • Replace the mask if it gets damp or wet, or if you sneeze inside it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has some great videos to help you learn how to use a mask correctly.

And finally, remember to keep doing all the other important things: stay home when you can, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water, physically distance yourself from others, cough and sneeze into your elbow and stay at home and get tested if you feel even the slightest bit unwell.

Stay safe and be kind.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to Explore

References

(1, 5)  Face coverings mandatory for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire
Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, 19 July 2020

(2-3) Use of masks by the public in the community
Australian Government Department of Health, updated 11 June 2020

(4) Face masks will be mandatory in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to combat coronavirus. What about regional Victoria? Do children need to wear them?
ABC News, 19 July 2020

(6-7) Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis
The Lancet, 1 June 2020

(8) Face masks
NSW Government, 28 July 2020

 

Photo by visuals on Unsplash


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25/Jun/2020

The last week has seen a large number of new cases of COVID-19, particularly in Victoria. With this large increase in the number of active cases, should we be worried?

Well – yes and no. Let’s explore some of the issues.

We’re dropping our guard

SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is like a mythical beast. It’s caused so much damage and devastation – both here and globally – but most of us haven’t faced it. It’s hard to stay vigilant against something that seems so elusive.

So we drop our guards and our standards along with them.

It’s absolutely understandable – it’s been a long road so far, we’re sick of being isolated, we want life to go back to normal.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is that to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring

But because most of us haven’t been exposed to the virus, we’re still susceptible. And some people are more at risk than others of becoming very ill if they develop COVID-19, including people with immune issues and certain other health conditions.

So we need to maintain our vigilance.

Community transmission

Most of the new cases can be linked to people returning from overseas and specific clusters where the origin of the virus transmission is known.

However there are some cases where we have absolutely no idea how/when/where a person became infected. This is known as ‘community transmission’ – a person becomes infected with the virus but they’ve had no contact with a known case.

They may have been in contact with someone who’s asymptomatic (infected but don’t feel unwell or show any symptoms) or someone who’s pre-symptomatic (infected but not yet showing symptoms). Or they may have come into contact with someone who thinks they have a bit of a cold, or even someone who suspects they have the virus but isn’t self-isolating 😪.

The issue of community transmission is why we need to remain on guard against this virus. Just because restrictions have been easing doesn’t mean we can ease up on our physical (social) distancing, washing our hands as often as possible, using hand sanitiser if there’s no access to soap and water, sneezing and coughing into the elbow, staying home when we’re sick and getting tested if/when we develop symptoms, however mild.

Remember, symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • fever
  • chills or sweats
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss of sense of smell.

For more information about symptoms and to see if you or someone you care for may have the virus, use the healthdirect Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker. Answer a few simple questions to find out if you need to seek medical help or be tested. Or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Winter is here

And for most of Australia there’s is a bit (or a lot) of chill in the air 😱. Which means we’re staying indoors, huddling close together to stay warm, keeping the windows closed to keep the cold out and the warm in. Unfortunately all of these things make it easier for germs to spread. We’re close together and there’s little ventilation. Perfect to help the little buggers move from person to person.

Along with the cold weather, we’re seeing more people gather together as restrictions ease and as boredom well and truly sets in. This’s a big problem. On a recent trip to the local shopping centre I was shocked by how many people I saw –most weren’t allowing 1.5 metres between themselves and others, people were hugging, coughing into their hands, not using hand sanitiser when entering stores…all of these things allow germs to spread through the community. Needless to say I hightailed it to the closest exit and went home 😑

It’s cold and flu season

This pandemic is overlapping with our flu season. Yay 😒 Currently flu numbers in Australia are low due to our physical distancing measures. However, this may change for the same reasons we’ve seen increases in COVID-19 cases.

There’s also the potential that people may become infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which, to put it mildly, isn’t ideal. While we don’t know if this leads to more severe cases of both infections, the immune system will be weakened by fighting two infections. And if a person’s immune system is already weak due to another health issue, this has the potential for very serious outcomes.

Finally if flu numbers do increase as we continue through our flu season, it will have an impact on our healthcare system, which is already working overtime because of the pandemic. It seems like so long ago, but the 2019 flu season was our worst flu season on record.

So for all of these reasons we’re being urged to get our flu vaccination this year.

This is also a time of year when many of us succumb to colds. Coughing, a runny nose or sore throat may be symptoms of cold, allergies, the flu or COVID-19. If you experience these symptoms, don’t just assume it’s a cold or your allergies flaring up. The same goes with muscle soreness and a fever. For some people with musculoskeletal conditions, this may be a symptom of a flare. Or it may be your body displaying signs of COVID-19. The best thing you can do is stay home and contact your doctor – and if recommended – get tested.

So should we be worried about these COVID outbreaks?

We should be concerned because most of us are still susceptible to the virus, and some of us are at risk of becoming seriously ill if we become infected with COVID-19.

So stay at home if you’re unwell, know the symptoms of COVID-19, wash your hands often and thoroughly, cough/sneeze into your elbow, maintain physical distancing measures and continue to follow the advice of our health officers.

But we shouldn’t become so worried that we don’t get out (safely and responsibly), that we don’t live our lives. We were able to keep the numbers down for months. We can do it again.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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28/May/2020

As we come to the end of May 2020, more and more restrictions are easing all over the country. And we’re being told more restrictions will be lifted in June and July. Yay!!

While we’re all understandably excited at the prospect of doing the things we took for granted pre-COVID, there are things we need be aware of. The fact is we’re not out of the woods. And we won’t really return to anything resembling the old ‘normal’ until we have a vaccine. 

So as you make your way out of the front door, blinking into the bright lights of the outside world, make sure you’re ready for it so you and your family stay safe, and you help keep the rest of the community safe.

What’s up with your hair? And what are you wearing?!?

OK so this is a little silly, but for many of us it’s been MONTHS since we’ve had a haircut or had a professional give our hair some TLC. So we’re looking a little wild and woolly. Add in the lack of access to beauty salons and we’re a weird, hairy mess – picture Cousin It from the Addams Family 😂. And for many of us we’ll need scissors and a crow bow to get the trackies and slippers off, because staying at home and trying not to spend too much on the heating bill has led to comfort and warmth winning over style and fashion. So maybe check yourself in a mirror before you venture out 😂

But seriously apart from sorting out our general dishevelment there are some important things to be aware of as our COVID isolation starts winding down and restrictions continue to lift:

Hygiene

It’s still incredibly important. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, use hand sanitisers, cough and sneeze into your elbow and avoid touching your face. For a refresher read our hygiene 101 blog for more info.

Physical distancing

We’re able to go to more places and see more people, however physical distancing is still vital. Most of us are still susceptible to this highly infectious virus, so we need to maintain at least 1.5 metres between ourselves and others when we’re out in public. This can sometimes be a bit tricky. With the loosening of restrictions, and because people have felt cooped up for so long, LOTS of people are going out. So you need to ask yourself when you pull into the shopping centre carpark and it’s full, or you can see a line of cars heading to the park you’re aiming for. Ask yourself if you’ll really be able to maintain a safe distance between yourself and others. And if the answer’s no, can you go somewhere else instead? Or do something else? Or come back at another, less busy time?

Gatherings

We’ve missed our family and friends, and although it was helpful, technology – with all the drop outs and weird pauses – can only do so much. We want to BE with our people. And we’re now allowed to do that in greater numbers. But you need to do a few things if/when your gather:

  • Know the relevant guidelines for your state/territory. It’s different all over the country, so it’s easy to get confused. So check the COVID-19 website applicable to where you live.
  • Only visit or have visitors if you’re healthy and well. Even if you’re chomping at the bit and you’re pretty sure it’s only a sore throat because of your allergies, or you think you’re feeling fatigued because of a late night/your MSK condition/home schooling, don’t take the chance. There may be a slim possibility that you actually have the virus and spread it to others – so don’t be that person.
  • No hugs, kisses or handshakes. This is a tough one, especially if you haven’t seen loved ones in ages, but resist the close contact. And it may seem lame but try the elbow bump or foot tap greeting. Better still, make up your own family greeting. Get the kids involved and make it something fun and uniquely yours.

Your mental health

It’s been such a crazy time, and we’ve been isolated in our own cocoons for so long, many of us may be a little anxious or scared about going out. That’s completely understandable. But we do need to go out – for work, groceries, social connection, exercise, healthcare appointments – we need it all.

However if you do feel anxious about heading out into the world, it’s important to understand why you’re feeling this way and then look for ways you can manage it. For example if you’re freaked out by the crowds at the supermarket, try and do your shopping at quieter times. If you’re concerned about using public transport, follow the capacity restrictions for the specific mode of transport, wash your hands after using it (or use hand sanitiser if you have it) and avoid touching your face.

The important thing is to start easing your way back into the world. But if you’re having real issues getting out, talk with your doctor. You may need some professional support. You can do this via telehealth from the comfort of your own home.

There will be outbreaks

That’s inevitable, but we can all do our best to reduce the risk of an outbreak with good hygiene, physical distancing and staying home if you feel unwell.

Exercise venues

Pools, indoor and outdoor gyms and fitness centres are also reopening. This’s great news. We all need a variety of exercises for our general health and wellbeing, and to help us manage our musculoskeletal condition and pain. There are strict guidelines for all public venues about maximum numbers, physical distancing and hygiene that exercise facilities will need to be following. So if your venue hasn’t contacted you to let you know how they’re keeping their clients and staff safe, contact them and ask.

Staying safe with a musculoskeletal condition

If you have arthritis, back pain or osteoporosis, you may need to be careful about a few other things.

  • With more places opening up, venue owners are trying to find ways to enforce physical distancing and capacity measures. However some of the makeshift barriers being used may cause a trip hazard for some of us – because they’re low and not very brightly coloured – for example the humble milk crate or cardboard box. They seem to be a handy partition used in many places to limit the number of people in a space and to direct the flow of traffic. But they’re not always easy to see, especially if there’s poor lighting or you’re hurrying – so be careful of trip hazards and other obstacles when you’re out and about to reduce your risk of falling and getting hurt.
  • You may need to stand in queues, at the supermarket, hardware store and other public venues that are reopening, as they all have a maximum number of people they can let in at one time. This can cause or exacerbate pain and fatigue for many people with musculoskeletal conditions. So wear comfy shoes (including orthotics if you have/need them), grab your walking aid, your shopping list (a foggy brain makes remembering almost impossible) and your shopping buggy/bags. And be kind to yourself as you may feel tired and exhausted for some time after your trip. If your battery was already low before you tackled this, it’s may take some time to feel yourself again.

With restrictions lifting all over the country, we’re getting excited about broadening our horizons beyond our own front doors. But we need to take responsibility and be careful. We’ve done really well at minimising the impact of this virus on Australians – and we don’t want to slide backwards.

So stay informed, follow the guidance of the government health officers, and we’ll get through this next phase of the COVID journey.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.


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22/Apr/2020

Grocery shopping and COVID-19

You know you’ve been in iso for a while when you actually look forward to doing the grocery shopping. It’s one of the few reasons you have to legitimately leave the house. However a trip to the store does increase your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and there’s also the possibility of infecting others – in the event you have the virus (but don’t have symptoms). Also for those of us with musculoskeletal conditions, shopping can be a challenge at the best of times.

But we all need to eat, so here are some simple tips to help you navigate your shopping trip:

Don’t shop if you think you have COVID-19, or you’ve been in contact with someone who has it. This is absolutely essential. Call a family member, friend, neighbour or contact your store to find out about getting your items delivered.

Plan around your pain and fatigue and ask for help if you need it. When you’re having a really bad day, or going through a flare, you may not feel up to shopping. As much as you’d like to be able to do everything yourself, sometimes you just need to ask for help. There’s no shame in that, and the people who care about you will want to help. That said, if you need to go out, there are things you can do to make life a bit easier. Wear comfy shoes (including orthotics if you have/need them), grab your walking aid, your shopping list (a foggy brain makes remembering almost impossible) and your shopping buggy/bags. And be kind to yourself as you may feel tired and exhausted for hours/days after your trip. If your battery was already low before you tackled this, it’s may take some time to feel yourself again. Be prepared and have your slippers, doona, cuppa, etc ready so you can take time to recharge.

Only go to the store when you really need to – it’s not an outing. Remember you’re shopping for essentials. Now’s the time to be creative with your cooking and use alternatives if you can. Don’t have fresh ginger? Use dried. Out of mince for tacos? Use beans. Rummage around in the back of the pantry and use what you find.

Be quick and go alone (if you can). Ignore the “but mum!!!” – you’ll be quicker on your own and able to practise physical distancing more efficiently when you’re by yourself.

Write a list before you go. This’ll ensure you get all you need in one trip – and speed up your shopping.

Be prepared to use alternatives if your store is out of a product you need. Before you go to the store, search online for some of your key ingredients and potential substitutes. For example if they’re out of pasta, substitute with vegies like zucchini. No chickpeas? Use cannellini, kidney or black beans.

Once you get to the store, hygiene and physical distancing is key:

    • Use the sanitiser and disinfectant wipes that the shops provide – or use your own if you have it – on your hands and on the handles on your trolley/basket.
    • Keep a least 1.5 metres between yourself and others.
    • Don’t touch your face (this one really kills me – I always develop an itchy nose when I try not to touch my face) and keep your phone in your pocket or bag.

Don’t panic buy and hoard goods. We have no shortage of food or items like toilet paper in Australia. Sometimes things are a little harder to get hold of – and that’s due to people freaking out and buying more than they need – but things come back into stock fairly quickly these days. And if you’re prepared with your list of alternatives, you’re able to deal with some items not being available.

Be kind to others:

    • Your fellow shopper isn’t the enemy and is probably just as worried about everything as you. So be patient, give them space, and be tolerant.
    • The staff at the store also deserve our kindness and empathy – they’re busy trying to keep the shelves stocked and help us get in and out as quickly as possible.
    • Check in with your elderly, isolated or vulnerable neighbours to see if they need you to pick anything up for them.

Avoid busy times if you can.

Gloves and masks aren’t necessary…but if you want to use them, make sure you’re using them correctly.

Change the way you pay. If you have a contactless option for paying via your phone, watch or other device, or a contactless card, that’s the best option. But if you have to use cash or a card that requires you to touch a machine, that’s fine. Just wash or disinfect your hands afterwards. And until you’re able to do that, don’t touch your face.

Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home, and then unpack your shopping. You don’t need to disinfect your groceries. The WHO states that there’s no confirmed case of the virus being transferred via food or packaging.

Wash your fruit and vegetables with clean water – as you would have prior to the pandemic. Don’t use soap or any kind of disinfectant.

Clean your surfaces (bench, table) with soap and water after you’ve put your groceries away, and wash your hands again.

Take advantage of supermarket community hours or priority services, if you’re eligible.

Larger chain supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths and IGA are offering a range of options for those that can’t, or don’t want to leave their homes. If you’re a senior, living with a disability or compromised immunity you’re eligible for these services but you’ll need to log on to their website and register. If you can’t do this yourself, perhaps a neighbour or family member may be able to help (while practicing safe physical distancing of course!).

Your local independent supermarket, delis and smaller stores may also be offering delivery at this time. Contact them directly to find out more.

Contact our free national Help Line

Our nurses are available weekdays between 9am-5pm to take your calls (1800 263 265), emails (helpline@msk.org.au) or messages via Messenger. So if you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealth, managing your pain or accessing services – contact them today.

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22/Apr/2020

OK – so we’ve been in this weird state of isolation for a while now and we may be getting a bit lax in our habits. Or we’re going overboard in the cleaning, disinfecting and washing.

So it’s timely to revisit some of the key points about hygiene to protect yourself and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Washing your hands

We need to wash our hands with soap and water more frequently than we did before the pandemic. And we need to do it for at least 20 seconds. So no more splashing a bit of water around and considering the job done. Time yourself washing your hands a few times – 20 seconds is surprisingly long! A rough guide is the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice 😊 🎁.

You also need to be thorough – so use plenty of soap, lather up and wash your hands front and back, between your fingers, under the nails. And don’t forget to dry them properly. Read clean hands protect against infection from WHO for more info.

So when should you wash your hands? Well there are some really obvious times we should all have been washing our hands before the virus appeared on the scene – so continue washing your hands:

  • after you go to the toilet
  • after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • after touching or being in contact with someone who’s sick
  • before and after you eat
  • when preparing food
  • when handling rubbish
  • when your hands are visibly dirty
  • when dealing with your pets or other animals (patting, feeding, dealing with their poo or litter trays).

Other times you should be washing your hands because of COVID-19:

  • after going out in public – for example the shops, public transport, petrol station, chemist, workplace, childcare centre, healthcare setting etc. Basically any place where you’re touching things that other people may have touched or breathed on.
  • before and after you unpack your groceries. Read our blog about grocery shopping for more info about how you can look after yourself and your family and still get the groceries you need.

Hand sanitisers

If you can find them, hand sanitisers are really helpful when you don’t have access to soap and water. Be aware that they need to be at least 70% alcohol to be effective against COVID-19. Hand sanitisers are really useful for when you’re at the shops or using public transport and you can’t whip out the soap and water. Compound Interest has a really good article explaining how hand sanitisers protect against infections.  Also check out our blog about DIY hand sanitisers.

Avoid touching your face

We touch our faces a lot…more often than we actually realise. The problem is our faces include eyes, noses and mouths – perfect places for viruses and other germs to enter our bodies. So it’s really important, especially when we’re out in public or we’re around other people, to avoid touching our faces.

Sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose

If you need to sneeze or cough (for whatever reason – allergy, virus, sun in your eyes) do it into your elbow or a tissue, not your hand. If you use a tissue throw it in the bin. And regardless of whether you use your elbow or a tissue, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser immediately.

If you’re blowing your nose it’s best to use a tissue rather than a hanky. That way you can throw it away, rather than carrying a dirty hanky in your pocket or bag, contaminating your hands every time you touch it. And obviously wash your hands after you blow your nose.

Seriously – I’m exhausted just reading this!

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of this you’re not alone; I still can’t stop touching my face! But we get it – when you have a condition that often has you waking up exhausted or you have fatigue that weighs you down throughout your day, you want to take shortcuts when you can, often with the “simple” things.

But because we’re living through a pandemic we need to be vigilant when it comes to our hygiene (see above points). If you’re really just too tired/exhausted/knackered/worried to go out – ask for help. From your family, friends, neighbours…the people close to you want to help if they can. We just need to ask them for it.

Masks and gloves

At this stage in Australia we’re being advised to only wear masks or gloves if we have COVID-19 or we’re caring for a person with the virus.

Stay clean, stay (physically) distant and stay safe

The best thing we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is practise good hygiene (as we’ve listed here), continue physical distancing measures and follow the instructions of the health department (both Federal and your state/territory).

This will pass, but it’ll take some time. So we need to be patient, be informed and be kind.

Contact our free national Help Line

Our nurses are available weekdays between 9am-5pm to take your calls (1800 263 265), emails (helpline@msk.org.au) or messages via Messenger. So if you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services – contact them today.

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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