As the first line of defense against the coronavirus pandemic, health care workers were put on the front lines in long service last year to provide people with the medical care they need. The real heroes in white must constantly wear personal protective equipment (PPE such as face protection, masks, gowns, gloves and goggles) while treating patients. Healthcare workers are at the highest risk of Covid-19 infection. With longer work shifts, insufficient rest time of the PSA, high stress level, poor nutrition and eating habits; Adequate nutrition and hydration are very important to them.
Frontline healthcare workers have a very small window of time to feed and hydrate themselves. Diet and hydration are crucial as they help combat dizziness, fatigue, dehydration, headaches, and other symptoms. Overall, diet and hydration will help support the immune system and reduce the susceptibility and risk of Covid-19 infection.
Given the short time frame, it’s imperative for frontline workers to work on the essential nutrients listed below:
Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, helps regulate the body’s consumption of sugar. It helps keep hunger and blood sugar in check. It contributes to satiety and fullness.
Incorporate high fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, beans, legumes, and legumes.
Protein is an essential macronutrient. Combining meals with small amounts of protein throughout the day will help you feel full.
Incorporate protein in the form of lentils, beans, legumes, dairy products, food bars, dietary supplements or shakes, nuts and oilseeds.
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for our body. Just as our cars need gasoline to function, our bodies need a good amount of carbohydrates every day.
Avoid too much simple sugars or carbohydrates – which are usually found in processed foods, baked goods, maida, cornmeal, sodas, candy, and carbonated beverages.
4. Vitamins & Minerals
Following dietary recommendations is an important step in building immunity. Important vitamins A, C, E and minerals like zinc are essential.
Add small servings of fresh fruits, vegetables, functional foods, nuts, and oil seeds
Getting enough of the food sources listed above from diet alone becomes a pretty arduous task – so frontline health workers can take advantage of nutritional supplements – vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc supplements.
Long lasting hydration tactics
Adequate fluid intake is essential for proper bowel function, circulation and the regulation of body temperature. Water also transports nutrients around the body and removes waste. Dehydration, on the other hand, can put stress on the heart, increase core body temperature, and contribute to fatigue.
Healthcare workers wearing PPE kits need to be extra careful to stay hydrated.
To promote immune system health and avoid extreme forms of dehydration, follow these few drinking tactics
1. Drink plenty of water on a regular basis after work. Bring a large bottle of water to work and keep it full during your shift times.
2. To ensure full water intake throughout the day, add fruit slices or fresh herbs to your water to increase nutritional value.
3. Use electrolyte solutions instead of water – sometimes it is a hassle to take water breaks to bring an electrolyte solution to combat dehydration instead (you can try rehydration solutions from Fast & Up India, Pedialyte, or all Abbott India products, or tender coconut water).
From double shifts to missed meals, little to no sleep to days away from family, the psychological and physical stress experienced by frontline workers is unimaginable.
Here are a few self-care tips for the frontline workers:
1. DO NOT SKIP MEALS
If you skip a meal, your body goes into fasting mode and uses less efficient sources of energy. When your blood sugar levels drop, you feel tired and irritable. Skipping meals leads to food cravings, which in turn affect your ability to make decisions and make you physically unstable.
2. Don’t BING during a single meal
This is very difficult to keep due to the long hours of work – but try to spread your nutritional load as much as possible over the day instead of eating everything together in one meal.
3. Limit your caffeine intake
While caffeine can increase your alertness, consuming large amounts of caffeine frequently during the day can lead to insomnia and other stomach problems
4. RELAX while eating – Practice mindful eating
High levels of stress or distraction from working while eating lead to hunger curbs and poor food intake. Save 5-10 minutes on just what you eat, with no distractions, as this will help digest your food properly and make you feel energized.
5. Plan your routine meals
Stick to your meal plans as much as possible. Inconsistent or sporadic meals can lead to fatigue. Meal times may vary depending on the shift time, but avoid more than 6 hours between meals.
6. Opt for mini-breaks of 10-15 minutes
During this time, try to do some stretching or light walks to relieve stress and accumulated muscle tension or wounds from long hours of work.
7. Get enough sleep
Sleeping is quite difficult with irregular working hours. Get enough sleep or other forms of relaxation techniques (yoga or meditation). Practice the times of your sleep schedule and also practice sleep hygiene.
8. Practice food hygiene and safety.
When handling or preparing food, pay attention to the following:
o Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds before and after preparing or eating food
o Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and remove it to wash your hands afterwards
o Wash fruit and vegetables with water or disinfect with fruit and vegetable washing liquid
o Keep raw and cooked foods separate to prevent harmful microbes from being carried over from raw foods to ready-to-eat foods
o Make sure that you cook and reheat food to appropriate temperatures (> 72 ° C for 2 minutes).
9. Prepare for the unexpected
Keep this in mind when shift times change. You won’t be able to sit down for a break. If this happens make sure you have a box of dried fruit or a high protein, high fiber protein bar or protein meal replacement drink with you.
Health care workers have played an important role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Protecting the health of your patients is of the utmost importance to you. However, make sure beforehand that you are not endangering your health and well-being. A slight change in your eating habits will have a huge impact on your energy levels and build strong immunity.
Consultative Clinical Nutritionist and Nutritionist
Certified specialist in eating disorders