COVID-19 is the biggest threat to human existence in living memory. We are all feeling shocked, dismayed, and a degree of helplessness, as we watch the way of life we have lived and loved—disappearing. The virus doesn’t discriminate by country or creed—but it does affect men differently than women.
Read on and find out a few facts which are especially relevant for men, and what men can do to help themselves and their partners/families during this time of crisis.
Although equal numbers of men and women appear to have been infected with COVID-19, men are more likely than women to die from the disease, states a recent report in the medical journal The Lancet. CDC data report a death rate for men of 2.8%, and 1.7% women. This may be because women, in general, have a better immune response due to their levels of estrogen. It may also be because much current data is derived from China, where men are much more likely than women to be overweight, diabetic and smoke.
Alcohol dampens the immune system response—and right now, you need your immune system functioning properly! Drinking enough to impair long-term liver function puts you in the disease category of people at higher risk of developing severe complications from the infection.
And don’t be fooled into thinking that as alcohol kills the COVD-19 virus. This is far from the case. The effect of alcohol used as a disinfectant outside the body is very different from what happens inside your gastrointestinal tract. Firstly, to kill the virus the alcohol needs to be around 70% proof, and in contact with the virus for at least a minute. Once you swallow it, the alcohol is mixed with other body secretions and diluted. The addition of mucus has been shown to reduce the effect.
Social distancing doesn’t mean you’re chained to the couch. Walking, running, and/or cycling are all recommended, so long as you stay 6 feet apart, or you could do an at-home workout via apps like Beachbody or Openfit. However, team sports and large sporting events are not recommended and have mostly all been canceled around the world for the next few months. This is because of the need to avoid large crowds of people and help reduce the spread of the virus.
Physical health is closely associated with mental health, and this is a time of great anxiety. It’s important to decide on a fitness regime that suits you and stick to it.
It’s understandable that many people, both men and women, will feel stressed, depressed and anxious during this time. It may be that men are an especially high-risk group because historically, suicide rates in men are three times higher than in women.
Try to think positively and take steps now to protect your mental health. WHO has issued the following advice:
- Don’t be judgemental about people who are infected with the virus—they are unlucky and have done nothing wrong.
- Try to be kind and sympathetic to others. Being kind to others often makes you feel better about yourself.
- Avoid listening to too many news broadcasts—it can make things worse.
- Deal with your stress.
There are many ways to relieve stress. For example, why not start with Your Mind Plan from the UK, an interactive quiz offering top tips and advice?
Yes, it’s true that one medical center sent a memo to male staff to ask them to consider shaving off their beards. This is because if they become infected with COVID-19, and need respiratory support, the respirator masks do not fit well as they cannot make a good seal with certain types of beard, or too much stubble. The weak seal can mean that vital oxygen is escaping. In addition, more viral particles are being emitted, increasing the risk of transmission.
Have you considered you could be incubating COVID-19 in your car? One in 10 drivers admit to cleaning the inside of their car less than once a year. The average car carries 19 times more bacteria than are found on a toilet seat!
COVID-19 like a warm, moist environment. It can exist on an inanimate object such as a car steering wheel, or a seat belt, for 9 days. To clean your car effectively requires the use of a cleaning solution containing 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite for one minute. Government advice is to use diluted bleach for domestic cleaning—this contains sodium hypochlorite.
It’s been suggested that women genetically engineered COVID-19 in order to get men to stay at home, stop playing sports, help out with the children, and get on with the DIY. Joking aside, men can play a big part in helping their partners through this difficult time.
A 2019 survey of 8,500 heterosexual couples found that women do more housework than their male partners in 93% of homes! This is even when women are the main bread-winners. According to Relate, many couples argue over who should be doing the household chores.
Now we are all self-isolating there should be no excuses! See what you can do to support the household. Being stuck at home for 12 weeks is likely to result in a lot of stress on any relationship. Why not get out the Hoover and get busy!
More common in men than women, snoring is sometimes associated with obstructive sleep apnea—a serious medical condition which can cause heart strain and premature death. If your partner has been nagging you about this, now may be the time to get help.
One of the treatments for sleep apnea is the use of continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP), which involved wearing a mask and having pressurized oxygen overnight. At present, it is not known if snoring or sleep apnea increases the risk of COVID-19 infection. However, the American Sleep Association does recommend regular, careful disinfection of the CPAP mask.
Smoking is generally more common in men than women, although different countries show a great disparity. Current research does not suggest smoking is a specific risk for acquiring the infection. However, one recent Chinese study of 78 patients with COVID-19 admitted to the hospital in Wuhan concluded that 27.3% of smokers went on to develop severe complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), compared to only 3% of non-smokers.
Concern also exists that vaping may increase the risk of COVID-19 infection. Vaping results in damage to the cells lining the respiratory tract. These cells have tiny hair-like structures on the cell surface called cilia, which function to beat pathogens like viruses and bacteria up and out of the airways. When these are damaged, by either real cigarettes or e-cigarettes, this protective effect is lost.
The liquids in e-cigarettes contain toxic substances including propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and acetaldehyde, for example. Acrolein, also a common ingredient, is used as a weed killer and has been shown to cause lung cancer.
Giving up smoking and vaping is especially important now we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Phone the I-800-QUIT-NOW helpline—or speak to your doctor about how to quit.
So, guys, it’s time to take stock. Your health matters. Your social and exercising habits need to change. Your mental health is important. And there is a lot you can do to be kind and supportive to those around you. If you think about it, every situation is an opportunity! If you really take these messages on board, you can emerge not just a healthier and happier man, but a healthier and more empathetic person.
Dr. Deborah Lee is a medical writer at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 50 Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.