Expert: people who wear non-medical grade masks should consider doubling up for better protection

PHOENIX – Masks have become a part of our lives during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as studies prove that masks help minimize the virus’ transmission.

At President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, all in attendance were wearing masks, and some were even seen wearing two. Wearing two masks is starting to become more common, as more people are looking to do so, as a way to provide themselves another layer of protection.

Medical experts, including Dr. Rand McClain with LCR Health, say it actually isn’t a bad idea.

“The idea of doubling up on the mask is to up the mesh, if you will,” said Dr. McClain. “Those who have made their own out of cotton fabric will get and give better protection.”

Due to the shortage of the N95 masks, many people had to get creative by making their own face coverings out of cotton materials, or use bandanas for protection.

“The problem with those is the filter, if you will, isn’t as tight as an N95 mask,” said Dr. McClain. “More virions can pass through the mask that way, and this is where the second mask may come in handy. You are limiting the number of particles so you might not come down with it.”

Dr. McClain says those who wear surgical masks probably won’t need to double up, but those using non-medical grade masks or homemade masks should consider doubling up.

COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

Expert: If NCAA athletes follow protocols, there should be a football season

While the growing number of college football players testing positive for coronavirus is a cause for concern, one expert says the 2020 season is far from doomed.

Since the NCAA announced that voluntary practices could resume June 1, players have tested positive at LSU, Clemson, Alabama, Kansas State, Auburn, Florida State, Iowa State, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma State, South Florida, Texas State and Troy, according to Inside Higher Education.

But these positive tests at the onset are exactly why schools are doing testing up front, and aren’t at all unexpected, said Dr. Rand McClain, a Southern California-based physician specializing in regenerative and sports medicine.

In fact, McClain said, if student-athletes follow the protocols put into place by their schools, they’ll actually be more protected than the general public.

A few weeks ago, 20 Arizona Wildcat football players resumed voluntary workouts, with the rest of the team being phased in each Monday and the whole squad set to be assembled by July 6.

The players are being split into pods of 10 and will maintain at least 6 — and ideally 15 — feet of separation at all times, train outdoors or in open-air environments and wear masks during all activities, including exercise. During the first phase of the University of Arizona’s return-to-play plan, there will be minimal use of equipment and no shared spaces, including locker rooms.

The streak of positive tests coincided with a warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s leading infectious disease expert, that football may not be possible this fall unless players are isolated in a “bubble” set apart from the general public.

McClain contends that the situation will likely be a little discouraging at first, as positive tests continue to roll in, but that he expects there to be a season, although one with some asterisks in the record books.

“What did we expect? These are people that haven’t been on campus and we don’t know to what degree they’ve been following social distancing protocol,” McClain said, adding that this is the reason schools are doing testing as soon as players return to campus.

“After that, it comes down to execution. And when you talk about colleges, you’re talking about for the most part, teenagers.”

The difficulty will be in getting student-athletes to adhere to the protocols. In the case of LSU, at least 30 players were quarantined after either testing positive or coming into contact with infected individuals, with some players having been found to have visited popular campus bars.

“What needs to be stressed is to remind them it’s not about them,” McClain said. “And if the average person in public can follow (safety protocols) and stay safe, players should be able to, too.”

Once scrimmages begin, shortcomings in protocols or players adherence to them will become clear.

“There should be no surprises if people are following the rules,” McClain said. “I think once we get start and get through the initial screenings, as long as players and staff follow the rules and combined with frequent testing, we should be able to complete a season.”

While infection rates are climbing, especially in younger populations, the upside is that the death rate is consistently lower, McClain said. And while a small number of people who don’t have underlying health issues are becoming extremely ill when infected, for the most part, symptoms amongst people who are otherwise healthy have been mild to moderate, according to McClain.

“And athletes are the healthiest of groups,” he said. “But it’s still important to make sure that coaches are advising players to not overtrain, which can weaken the immune system, to eat nutritiously, limit alcohol and get adequate sleep.”

And looking out for players’ mental well-being is especially important when talking about playing games with no fans in the seats, which McClain thinks will be one of the most interesting aspects of the season.

“Particularly at the collegiate level, athletes have confessed that that’s a big part why they play the game. They literally depend upon the crowd noises and the risk of being booed and cheered on,” McClain said.

“It’ll be interesting to see how athletes adapt to that.”

And while it may be a new technique to current college players, there’s already a tried-and-true method for how to prepare for this situation: Turn inward and visualize winning.

“It’s been around for a long time and it’s very effective,” McClain said, adding that the method has been practiced since the 1970s. “The locker-room talk has got to change a little bit, but coaches can certainly teach these guys about these techniques.”

And after a spring filled with throwback and barebones workouts, as gyms across the country were shuttered, it only makes sense that the sports world would return to another technique from yesteryear.

“That’s been great for me, being an old guy,” McClain said. “Guys and gals will call me … and we’ll spend three minutes talking about virus and the next 15-20 minutes talking about how to work out without the luxury of a gym and training facility.”

But it’s important as players get back into formal workouts and the use of specialty equipment, they remember to not push themselves too hard.

“They have to remember that some tendons, ligaments and muscles haven’t been exercised the same as before,” McClain said. “Unfortunately, just by the nature of it and the odds, we’re probably going to have more injuries.”

With state school systems and individual universities having different sets of protocols and different plans on how to handle positive tests, things could get complicated if players test positive after the season has started, which McClain thinks will translate to asterisks in the record books.

“Everyone will have a different approach and it will effect everyone else, because rankings are based on playing other teams,” McClain said.

“If a higher-ranked team goes into quarantine when you’re supposed to play them, that will affect your record.”

Still, despite all the unknowns and complications that have already arisen, McClain is confident that college football can and will happen, provided players stick to the protocols.

“This has to be given to the players as, ‘This isn’t just about you.’ They have to look at it as one more challenge,” McClain said. “But I think we’re going to pull this off and after the early going, there won’t be too much gnashing of teeth.”

Experts Say a Strong Immune System Can Help Protect You From Contracting COVID-19

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — COVID-19 infection and death rates reached new highs this weekend across the nation and in West Michigan, and health experts said they expect the trend to continue.

Dr. Rand McClain, an expert in regenerative and restorative health, said an increase was expected as temperatures began to drop.

“This is particularly a bad time because the rational behind more transmissibility is we’re in doors more. We’re not moving as much. Ventilation isn’t as good. Exercise isn’t what it’s supposed to be,” said McClain, who is the chief medical officer at LCR Health, a restorative health clinic and research center in California. “Yes, we’re more at risk and likely to see an increase.”

Many hospitals, including Bronson HealthCare Michigan, have added new pages to their websites with additional information on COVID-19, including what everyone can do to reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and other viruses.

Bronson’s recommendations to reduce risk of COVID-19 and other viral infection include:

  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Social distance
  • Wear a facemask
  • Immunize
  • Follow travel guidelines

McClain said it also is important to remind people to address the importance of their immune systems, and the role it could play in protecting people from contracting COVID-19.

“Just being cognizant of where you might get infected, to avoid that fine line where the dose is important, where you might get infected, but it’s not enough to get sick because your immune system is strong enough there’s other things you can do,” McClain said.

To have a strong immune system, McClain suggests:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a balanced diet with vegetables, fats, omega 3’s
  • Getting a moderate amount of exercise
  • Staying hydrated

McClain said staying hydrated is critical to everyone’s health.

“When you’re around heaters and getting exercise, drink enough fluid because your immune system and your general health is dependent on proper hydration,” McClain said. “Keep the fluids going.”

There are also some things people could be doing that actually harm their immune system.

McClain said avoid doing the following, because it could be harming your immune system:

  • Smoking
  • Eating too many sweets
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Having too much stress
  • Skipping the daily teeth flossing

A lot of people don’t realize the role dental hygiene can play on our immune systems, McClain said.

“Dental health not where it’s supposed to be, it can drag your health down. Something as simple as an abscess tooth could make you more vulnerable to the flu and COVID-19,” McClain said.

For people who want to take additional preventative measures, McClain suggests adding in some B, C and D vitamins and Zync, but he recommends consulting with doctors beforehand.

Recover Your Immune System Through The Holidays

It’s the holiday season, and this Thanksgiving, most people engaged in activities that can lower immunity, like eating a lot of sugar, drinking alcohol in excess, in addition to experiencing increased stress due to the holidays.

Dr. Rand McClain, an expert in restorative and regenerative health and the Chief Medical Officer of LCR Health, shows us how Thanksgiving traditions and habits could be harmful to our immune systems and what we can do to get our immune systems back on track and stay healthy.

Here are a few of his suggestions:

1) Adequate sleep – Aim for regular sleep – 7 – 9 hours nightly and during roughly the same
period (ex. 11p – 7a each night rather than at varying times, especially as occurs with
“shift work”).

2) Daily exercise – Anything is better than nothing but ideally a minimum of 30 minutes, 3
times per week of effort that amounts to brisk walking. 5 – 6 times per week would be
even better, and efforts of an hour each time would be even better. However, more
than that is not necessarily better.

3) Proper nutrition – This includes staying hydrated, eating a balanced array of whole, non-
processed foods, and spending the time to find what diet works best for you (one diet
does not fit all). In addition, avoid overeating. Most people eat more than is necessary
for good immune health. Keep sufficient fiber in the diet to maintain regular bowel
movements and a healthy gut microbiome – now considered a major factor in
maintaining healthy immune function.

4) Modulate and avoid excess stress – Breathing exercises and other methods (eg,
meditation and yoga) of reducing stress (and excess cortisol levels) can help keep the
immune system functioning at its best.

5) Avoid excess alcohol consumption and smoking – both known to have negative effects
on immune function.

Drinking too many energy drinks can lead to a litany of health issues

Energy drinks have become the beverage of choice for the sleep-deprived and many people looking for an extra performance edge, including athletes. 

They’re marketed as a way to boost alertness and, of course, heighten energy levels. And it’s worked. The energy drink industry was valued at $61 billion last year and is projected to nearly hit $100 billion by 2027. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, 34% percent of adults ages 18-24 regularly consume energy drinks. But nutritional experts warn that chronic use is linked to serious adverse health effects.

Though energy drinks are sometimes confused as sports beverages, they are a completely different type of product. Many energy drinks contain almost 200mg of caffeine — about two cups of coffee — and as much or more sugar as soda, according to Harvard Health.

“A lot of people are not aware of the possible dangers and keep drinking them all day,” Dr. Amy Lee, chief medical officer of Lindora Clinic in Southern California and an expert in weight control, obesity and nutrition, told PhillyVoice. “It is critical to always read labels and to understand what could happen if you overdose on certain herbs or other ingredients.”

Breaking down the energy drink 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows energy drink manufacturers to classify their products as beverages or dietary supplements based on several variables, including packaging, serving size and recommended conditions of use. 

The ingredients in beverages must be pre-approved by the FDA, but dietary supplements face less scrutiny. So, it isn’t necessarily easy to know the exact health effects of energy drinks. Most research has focused on the caffeine and sugar in them.

“Caffeine can affect quality of sleep,” Lee said. “Consuming too much of it can lead to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. Lack of sleep then affects your cognitive abilities which may lead you to eat more bad foods in an effort to boost your energy and focus.”

Caffeine and other stimulants also can have an adverse effect on the heart and blood pressure, research has shown. 

Overdosing on caffeine can cause vomiting, palpitations, high blood pressure and, in severe cases, seizures and death. Children and teenagers are particularly vulnerablebecause they may not understand how much caffeine energy drinks contain. 

In 2017, a 16-year-old boy died of a caffeine overdose after drinking soda, coffee and an energy drink. The caffeine caused a heart arrhythmia. 

It isn’t totally clear how overconsumption affects a person’s health because there is little research on the other ingredients in energy drinks. For example, some energy drinks contain B vitamins, which can cause skin conditions, liver toxicity, blurred vision and nerve damage when consumed in excess. 

And because these drinks are sugar-laden, chronic use can cause dental issues, including cavities, and increase the risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes.

However, caffeine and sugar are not the only potentially unhealthy ingredients included in energy drinks. A Texas A&M University study found that theophylline, adenine and azelate caused the most adverse effect on the heart.

Theophylline, a chemical similar to caffeine, relaxes the muscle around the lungs’ airways. Adenine is a small molecule that is used for nutritional supplementation. When combined with ribose, it is known to cause heart blockage in people suffering from supraventricular tachycardia — a condition where the heart beats faster. Azelate is the salt of azelaic acid, an acid known to reduce inflammation.

The Texas A&M researchers tested the effect that 17 brands of energy drinks had on the heart’s function using lab-grown human heart cells. They found they caused improper heartbeat cardiomyopathy, increased blood pressure and other heart conditions.

“Even legal stimulants, when chronically used, can overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system — our fight or flight response — which causes blood pressure and heart beat to rise, leading to dangerous health effects,” Dr. Rand McClain, chief medical officer of LCR Health and a longevity and restorative health specialist who treats professional athletes, told PhillyVoice.

This overstimulation can cause negative effects to the heart’s rhythm and to cellular function, he said. The sympathetic nervous system is designed for short flight or fight. Chronic release of these hormones, like through the regular use of the stimulants in energy drinks, increases inflammation and can cause organ damage.

Though the Texas A&M study improves the understanding of the way ingredients in energy drinks affect health, McClain, who was not involved in it, stressed that more research is needed. 

Other possible adverse health effects include increased stress, aggressive behaviors, alcohol and cigarette abuse, increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to Harvard Health.

Yet, health experts are most concerned about the lack of regulation around energy drinks and the aggressive marketing to teens. Their nervous systems are still developing, putting them at greater risk of damage.

“Most younger kids didn’t grow up with a cup of coffee in hand, but it is so accessible to buy energy drinks,” Lee said. “They don’t understand the possible bad effects.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children and adolescents shouldn’t be consuming the amount of caffeine and other stimulants found in energy drinks at all. 

Nearly 1,500 adolescents ages 12-17 visited to the emergency room for an energy drink related emergency in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also, combining alcohol and energy drinks has been a growing dangerous trend. Over 30% of adults ages 18-28 reported mixing the two substances at least once in the last year, a University of Michigan study found.

Natural energy boosts are better

So what should you do if you need a little energy boost before a workout or a big presentation? 

McClain offered the same advice his grandmom used to give him: it’s most important to get an appropriate amount of sleep each night.

“We are the only animal on the planet who goes without sleep on purpose,” he said. “The importance of getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis isn’t hard to comprehend, but it can be hard to do.”

A healthy diet, which includes plenty of water for proper hydration, is also critical. If you need a little boost, he suggests drinking an espresso or a green tea instead.

“Energy drinks should only be used for break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency use,” he said.