By Dr Tom Williams
Tom Williams is one of our long standing athletes, a great friend to us and the one person we would go to get the correct information on this current pandemic. He has very kindly put together this advice, but we also suspect it is to save him telling everyone he knows the same thing over and over again! read on……
As a lot of you know, I am an Intensive Care Consultant as well as a triathlete. My wife is a GP so we are both heavily involved in the healthcare response to Covid-19. As such I have had a lot of queries from athletes and friends asking for my views on various things that are doing the rounds with regards to the virus. So I thought I’d do a quick summary of the things I will, and won’t, be doing over the next few weeks, and why.
I emphasise these are my own views. I do offer a brief explanation for each.
Things I Will Be Doing
1. Staying active
As athletes we have already probably given ourselves the best protection we can against this virus by being fit and well. Personally I train not only to improve as an athlete but for the headspace and mental wellbeing it brings. This is probably more important than ever right now.
2. Washing my hands.
Yeah, I know. But it is really important.
3. Cleaning my phone regularly
I am very surprised this hasn’t had more traction in the media. The one surface we probably touch more than any other, hold close to our mouths and then leave lying around on other surfaces.
4. Helping others
There are a lot of scared people out there. We are seeing it amongst staff in hospitals as well as those more vulnerable in the community. As fit and well people the sporting community are the lowest risk group and I believe have a real social obligation to help those who need it.
Friends, family, neighbours, even someone you hardly know may need a hand. Perhaps helping with shopping? Just giving someone your number so they have someone to contact if they need help can provide great reassurance. A lot of local communities are pulling together, and we as athletes have a genuine responsibility to be a part of this.
What the body does while it’s sleeping is amazing. It just is. Sleep is when the body heals itself and recovers from whatever stresses it is dealing with. We may all have sleepless nights ahead. Just make sure you try and catch up. Give your body what it needs.
6. Eat a healthy diet
Plenty of fruit and veg. Not rocket science, but far more likely to allow your body to deal with anything you pick-up.
7. Staying Positive
We have one of the best healthcare services in the world. The NHS is full of amazing, hard-working people who will do everything they can to combat this disease. A huge amount of planning has gone in to how we can deal with the demands that Covid is bringing. We’ll pull together and we’ll get through this. We just will.
Things I Will Not Be Doing
1. Freaking out
Ok, so this isn’t likely to happen for me, but a lot of athletes may find themselves at home with their turbo/treadmill and platforms such a Zwift. There may be a real temptation to do a lot, or in particular do a lot of intensity in the training. The danger here is getting run-down and this can make you more susceptible to pick up infections. Not the best idea in the middle of a pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, keep training, just don’t over-do it.
3. Taking Ibuprofen if I get ill.
So the medical evidence on this is actually pretty poor. It is being reviewed further but current advice is not to start taking Ibuprofen if you get ill, but you don’t necessarily need to stop it if you are on it regularly.
Personally I’m not a massive fan of this type of drug (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDs) anyway. Given that Paracetamol is a safe, cheap alternative with far less side effects, that’s what I’ll be using if I need it.
4. Taking Chloroquine
At times such as these every research lab in the world is likely to have dropped whatever it was doing in order to focus on potential cures/vaccines/medications that will have some effect on Covid-19. Chloroquine is perhaps the treatment that shows the most promise. That said the evidence to date seems to be pre-clinical studies (i.e looking at the theory not outcomes) or ‘expert opinion.’ Several clinical trials are ongoing in China, none have published yet.
Things may well change on this but personally I’d need to see some more robust evidence. It’s worth remembering that chloroquine (primarily an anti-malarial drug) also has its own set of side-effects.
5. Sharing posts/messages such as this:
I have a friend who knows someone who is a [healthcare worker of some description] in [China/Italy/USA] and they have told them that [a particular drug/treatment] will make Covid loads [better/worse]. Please share as this is really important.
There is just so much wrong with this. It ramps up peoples anxiety, is almost never helpful, and has the potential to cause harm. As I mention above, there is a lot of work going on around the world with regards to Covid-19. Personally I’ll be waiting for good quality, peer reviewed evidence, or guidance from national bodies before I change anything.
6. Treating every opinion, number, or statistic that comes out of China/Italy/St Elsewhere as fact.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of very useful information coming out of the countries who are ahead of us in this pandemic, and this has largely been very helpful. But there is also a lot of opinion and numbers that can be presented in different ways to make headlines. Always evaluate whatever you read. And remember these countries have different healthcare systems and have responded to the pandemic in different ways.
So in summary, in my humble opinion:
Look after yourselves, stay positive, active and help others. Be objective as evidence for potential treatments unfolds, and in the interim aim to do the simple things well.
We are lucky to be the group with the lowest risk from this virus. Lets make the most of that and help those who need it. We will get though this together.
All the best,