Until July 2, 2021, I felt confident I had done everything possible to stay safe and avoid contracting Covid-19. Throughout 2020 and well into 2021, I worked from home, socialized very little, quarantined when necessary, wore my mask, and constantly washed my hands. In fact, I may have dry skin on my hands for the rest of my life, but I still wash my hands frequently. The Covid-19 virus has become a controversial issue over the past two years, but my story is from real experience.
Keeping your fever under control is a necessity when battling Covid-19. Photo credit: Melanie Taylor
As I prepared to have a safe, but fun, Fourth of July weekend with a few vaccinated friends, I was winding down my Friday at work and started to feel achy. I headed home, excited for a 3-day weekend, but I still felt like I was dragging. My husband and I had plans to meet up with friends at a restaurant with outdoor seating, but before I left the house, I decided to take my temperature, just to be cautious. To our surprise, I had a fever of 99.9. We canceled our dinner plans and I took some acetaminophen, went to bed early, and we prayed it was not Covid-19. It was kind of an unspoken prayer because neither of us wanted to admit we were a little nervous about my symptoms. As the weekend carried on, I felt sicker as the hours and days went by and barely left the sofa or bed. On Sunday morning, I woke up with a bad dry, hard cough so my husband called my doctor. To be totally transparent, I am immunocompromised, so we both knew there was a chance I could have a breakthrough case even though I was vaccinated. Based on my symptoms, my doctor recommended I go to the emergency room and be evaluated since it was a 3-day weekend. I followed his directions, had a chest x-ray, which, thankfully, was clear, but I tested positive for Covid-19.
Let me honestly say, this was the sickest I had ever felt in my memories. For about twelve straight days, I laid on the sofa, took my temperature and oxygen levels, had no sense of taste or smell, ate food with no taste to keep up my strength, hydrated, and slept. The body aches, fever, dry cough, and fatigue were debilitating. I had every Covid-19 symptom listed by the CDC except for a headache. I thought to myself many times how bad and scary this could have been if I had not been vaccinated. My doctor clearly expressed his opinion that if I had been unvaccinated, I would have been hospitalized, no questions asked. Unlike many people, it was not recommended for me to take a regimen of pills or vitamins, so I fought it with acetaminophen, lots of hydration, healthy foods, and tons of rest. When I finally woke up on July 14th and could smell the coffee brewing, I knew the end was finally in sight. It still took two more weeks to feel and return to normal, and I knew firsthand this virus is no joke.
Like many of you, I know people that have tested positive and showed no symptoms, some that felt very sick but were able to stay home and recover, and some that never made it home from the hospital. I work in the field of science as a UF/IFAS Extension Agent and feel very strongly that we can all make simple efforts to reduce exposure to ourselves and others. The most important step is to pay attention to the symptoms and stay home if we suspect illness or exposure. Even though I was looking forward to the holiday festivities, I made a conscious decision to stay home on July 2nd just in case I really was positive with Covid-19. I wanted to keep my friends and family safe just in case there was a remote chance I was contagious. I feel very grateful I did not expose them to this virus.
Checking your oxygen levels while sick with Covid-19 is a must. Photo credit: Melanie Taylor
The positive cases in Florida are lower right now, and that is fantastic. I am very excited about it too, but I also know we still shouldn’t put our guard down. Please stay aware. Be aware if you or a family member(s) have been exposed or do not feel well, and check for symptoms. I highly recommend every American household have a reliable thermometer, a pulse oximeter (safe oxygen levels should not go lower than 92), fluids for hydration, and foods of different textures because eating food without being able to taste and smell is very difficult. Different food temperatures, spice levels, and textures made eating to keep up my strength easier for me to handle.
The past two years have been stressful, emotional, and very exhausting. We still cannot forget to stay aware and diligent in our everyday lives to keep our families, friends, and communities healthy. Please revisit these CDC websites as needed and always consult your doctor when you have questions and concerns. Stay aware and healthy out there!
Some house plants are very easy to keep alive, even if you are a first-time gardener. Photo source: Melanie Taylor
As July begins, one mental health topic we repeatedly hear or read about is how stress is negatively affecting so many Americans right now. In these unprecedented times, many people are reaching out for guidance from their doctors, therapists, friends, and family. Depending on how your stress levels are affecting you, there are numerous suggestions ranging from exercise to therapy to medication and the list goes on. There may be one solution right at your fingertips that can help you begin to find a little peace of mind starting today. Gardening…. Let’s DIG IN!
Gardening does not have to be growing a large vegetable garden in the backyard. It can be planting flowers and plants in your landscape, maintaining potted plants on your front porch and deck, or growing houseplants inside your home. One easy way to start if you have never been a gardener is by growing herbs inside or out. Many people find gardening helps them escape to a place of peace as they dig in the soil and watch their plants and flowers grow and prosper.
This idea is not new. Horticulture is the art and science of growing plants. Horticultural therapy is the practice of engaging people in plant or gardening activities to improve their bodies, minds, and spirits. Research confirms that healthful benefits accrue when people connect with nature and plants by viewing and/or interacting with them.
Enjoy socializing with friends and neighbors in the garden. Photo source: Julie McConnell
Horticultural therapy has been around for a very long time. In the 1600’s, the poor often worked in gardens to pay for their medical care. Physicians quickly noticed these patients recovered faster and had better overall health than patients who did not work in the garden. Today, many hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, prisons, schools, social-service facilities, and community centers use people-plant interactions as a form of treatment for persons with physical or mental disabilities. Horticultural therapy may include meeting with a therapist specializing in this area or trying something on your own or with family, friends, or a local gardening group.
Saturday mornings are family time at the local community garden plot. Photo source: Julie McConnell
Some benefits you may receive from gardening include:
- Physical: Provides exercise at various levels. (Easy, medium, and strenuous levels – it all depends on what you decide to create.)
- Emotional: Promotes and satisfies your creative side, increases your feelings of confidence and self-esteem, promotes a new interest and enthusiasm for it, and even relieves tension.
- Physiological: May help lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and ultimately relieve stress.
Even if you think you do not have a “green thumb,” you should try gardening on any level and see if it will be a healthy mode of stress release for you. Happy Gardening!
UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Document ENH970: Horticultural Therapy, Elizabeth Diehl and Sydney Park Brown.
Did you know that over the past ten years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a partner in research to determine the physical and mental benefits of having a pet? It turns out that pets not only steal our hearts, but they can contribute to better cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pets can also help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. This was helpful to many people suffering from loneliness during the pandemic. In fact, between March and July of 2020, there was a surge in pet adoptions and some shelters could not meet the demand. Since people had more free time, less socializing, and lots of alone time, many people found a pet was just what they needed to fill that void.
Cali, a tortoiseshell cat, posing to get attention.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor
Although many of us are slowly returning to the normal stresses of daily life, a pet can still give us those same health benefits. Just think about it: on those stressful days with busy work schedules, running kids around town to their activities, etc., what’s better than being greeted at your door in the evening by a dog with a wagging tail or a cat’s purr as they snuggle with you? Of course, do not forget those unique pets, such as birds, bunnies, hedgehogs, reptiles, fish, and lots of other furry and scaly friends of ours.They all greet you in their own special way.
On a safety note, always remember pets can carry harmful germs that can make us sick even when the pet appears healthy. People with compromised immune systems and pregnant women should always take extra precautions when interacting with pets. Some tips on staying safe and healthy around your pets are to always wash your hands after handling your pets and be sure to maintain your pet’s health by regular visits to the veterinarian. Also, practice good pet hygiene by keeping pets out of the kitchen, cleaning their toys, beds, food, water/food bowls, etc., regularly sanitizing areas the pets frequent, and, of course, cleaning a cat’s litter box daily and picking up dog poop outside and disposing of it properly. When pets are added to your family, always teach your children how to properly interact with the animal(s). Small children should always be supervised when interacting with any pets.
Sonny, a tabby cat, enjoying play time with his mouse toy.
Photo Source: Melanie Taylor
On a fun note, if you are a pet owner, you already celebrate your pet(s) everyday, but there is an annual day of celebration for our pets. National Pet Day is April 11, 2021. This is an extra special day to give your pet extra snuggles and maybe even an extra treat. Be sure to use this day to remember why your pet is so special to you and your family. Reminisce about your pet memories while giving him/her extra attention and maybe even share your special memories on social media. People love seeing pictures of pets. It makes everyone’s day brighter. Here are the top four ways people report making National Pet Day special for their pet, 1) I give my pet a special treat, 2) I tell my pet “I love you”, 3) I buy or make a special gift for my pet, and 4) I let my pet sleep in my bed with me. (https://nationaltoday.com/national-pet-day/)
So, be sure to remember your pet this National Pet Day in April.
To see the importance of pets in our lives and families be sure to check out the interesting insights below from surveys about people and their pets.
Interesting Insights about People and their Pets:
- 95% of pet owners say their pets are part of the family.
- 94% of families with an autistic child benefited from having a pet.
- 67% of households in the United States have a pet. Americans spend approximately $75 billion a year on pet care and products.
- 44% of people reported they would rather cuddle with their pet than their partner.
- 22% of Americans are attracted to people who treat their pet like a family member.
- 11% of Americans hang out with their pets (ex. watch TV, read books, etc.).
- 10% of owners are allergic to their pets.
- 10% of Americans consider their pet to be their best friend.
- 10% of Americans talk to their pet in a special voice.
- 10% of Americans carry on conversations with their pet.
As April approaches and spring weather arrives, be sure to get outside with your pets and enjoy some stress relief, feel the sunshine on your face, smell the fresh blooms, and take in the beauty of nature around you. It will provide positive health benefits for you and your pet as you take a long, relaxing walk together. If your pet is an indoor only pet, be sure to sit in the floor and play with your pet like you did when they were kittens, etc. They will love the extra time and closeness with you. No matter what type of pet you have, be sure to let them bring you happiness and relaxation, and you, in turn, can help them live their best pet lives possible.
Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC):
The Washington Post:
Melanie Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Extension Agent III, Bay County
Melanie Taylor grew up in Virginia. After getting married in January 2009 and wanting to support her husband’s career in Panama City, she officially moved to Bay County. Melanie received her bachelor’s degree from Radford University. She then furthered her education with a M.S.Ed from Virginia Tech in 2004 while working full time for Virginia Cooperative Extension. She followed in her Dad’s footsteps by becoming a 4-H youth development Extension agent and worked with Virginia Extension for over eight years. Upon moving to Bay County, she worked in Gulf County as the 4-H and Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent for 10 years. She transferred to UF/IFAS Extension Bay County in December 2019. Her FCS focus areas are health and wellness, prevention of chronic diseases, and strengthening families within our communities.
Melanie at the 4-H booth at the Sunbelt Expo
Melanie is very excited to now work within the community in which she lives and to assist with helping Bay County residents recover from Hurricane Michael and Covid-19 damages. Be sure to contact Melanie if you have any needs in the area of family and consumer sciences. She is ready and willing to answer questions and design programs virtually for now and face-to-face in the future.
Like so many in Bay County, Melanie’s home in the Cove was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael, but she is excited to announce they finally moved back into their repaired home on September 26. She and her family could not be happier (her family includes husband Bryan and their two cats, Sonny and Cali). Outside of work, Melanie is active in the Junior League of Panama City. It is very likely you will see her out and about with her husband at local events.
Melanie Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Bay County
2020 has been a year of many changes and challenges due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which unfortunately will continue into our holiday season. To protect our friends, family and community members we must continue following the science-based guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local guidelines to prevent exposure and the spread of the virus.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 epidemic numbers are rising again. Gatherings of any kind, both small and large, are contributing to the rise in positive cases. We can all make choices based on the scientific research that can protect us and others by making small changes in our 2020 holiday celebrations. Limiting the risk and being diligent in our actions should be our main goal until a vaccine is approved and dispersed throughout the country.
Photo Source: UF/IFAS
Some unique and easy ways to celebrate the holidays this year are to “gather virtually” with those not in your immediate household or to gather in-person only with members of your own household. These two types of gatherings offer the lowest risk for spreading the virus. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your home. People who do not currently live in your home, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including those college students returning home, offer varying levels of risk. The level of risk is difficult to determine because people may have been exposed and/or are a carrier and may not be aware of it.
Here are some specific things to consider when deciding how to celebrate your holidays.
- Number of cases in your community – Be sure to know the number of positive Covid cases in your community. If the numbers are rising or are already high you should take precautions based on the data. You can check your specific county or city Covid rates at your local health departments website.
- Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, rest stops and hotels are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. Be aware if you will be traveling or if you have guests traveling to your home.
- Location of your gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation, expose your family to more risk than outdoor gatherings.
- How long will your gathering last? – Time is an important factor to consider. The longer the gathering lasts the more risk those attendees will have of being exposed. Being within 6 feet of someone who has Covid for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
- Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people bring more risk than gatherings with fewer people. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations.
- Behaviors of attendees before the gathering – People who do not consistently follow social distancing, wearing masks, regular handwashing and other prevention behaviors cause more risk than those who consistently practice the recommended safety measures.
- Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing, offer less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and may make it more difficult to practice Covid safety measures.
Be sure your technology is charged and ready for your virtual holiday visit. Photo Source: Kendra Zamojski
Other high-risk holiday related activities to avoid to help prevent the spread of the virus:
- Going shopping in crowded stores.
- Participating or being a spectator at a crowded parade, race or other holiday celebration.
- Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
- Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice Covid safety measures.
Things to consider before your gatherings:
To make the holiday less stressful be sure to practice a virtual session before the virtual holiday gathering. Make sure everyone involved knows how to connect to the virtual holiday celebration so the gathering will go more smoothly and hopefully experience less technical problems on that day.
We all had to adapt to many unexpected changes this year and the holidays will be no different. Just remember being diligent now will protect family and friends and help control the spread of the virus in our communities. Be sure to enjoy your unique holiday season this year, but here’s hoping for a less challenging 2021.
Stay safe! Enjoy your family and friends from a safe distance! Happy Holidays!