With many of us are glued to the news of the spread of the novel coronavirus, we want to address the questions we’re receiving daily. Preventing illness altogether may be out of our control, however preparing our bodies, minds and homes can help us to navigate this era with more confidence. Our goal is to give you some clear and actionable tips to boost your immune system and reduce the impact this virus has on your family’s daily life.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less. - Marie Curie”
COVID-19 is the name given to a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus of unknown origin which is currently spreading quickly throughout the world. Symptoms can be similar to a mild cold, or may exacerbate to pneumonia. A lot is still to be learned about the defining symptoms of this particular virus.
Like other coronaviruses, such as those which cause the common cold, this year’s novel coronavirus spreads easily. In fact, the virus causing COVID-19 seems to have a slightly longer incubation period than most, which means that individuals may unknowingly carry and spread the virus for a few days before symptoms appear. Herein lies the reason for the vast reach this virus is having. Therefore, everyone is at risk.
As with all illnesses, certain individuals are at a higher risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. This includes anyone over the age of 65 and those with co-morbid conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. You are also at a higher risk if you suffer from any health issues that might compromise your immune system such as cancer, or your respiratory system, such as asthma.
In fact, any underlying health condition is reason to take extra precautions to avoid catching the virus and boost your immune system to fight it off more effectively should you catch it.
Many individuals who contract COVID-19 will have minimal symptoms and some may not even realise they have it.
Calculating the rate of mortality during the current outbreak is difficult, as many illnesses are unreported or not confirmed with tests, and many individuals have cases so mild they may seem to have been from a common cold.
To illustrate this difficulty, consider South Korea as an example. A rigorous campaign of testing tens of thousands of individuals has shown a mortality rate of 0.6%. In contrast in the U.S., at a point last week when only a few hundred tests had been administered to individuals showing symptoms, the mortality rate among confirmed cases was reported as above 5%.
If these fluctuating and inconsistent figures show us anything, it is that numbers change, there are many factors involved, and panicking over them is not helpful.
As with anything, there are things that you can do to minimize your risk and help protect or reduce the severity of symptoms from catching a cold, the flu, or the current Coronavirus.
This one may seem obvious, but wash your hands well and frequently using warm water and soap. Here is a link to the World Health Organization’s recommended hand washing technique. A good strategy is to implement a policy of everyone washing their hands as soon as they enter your home. It is also a good idea to regularly sanitize high traffic areas around your home such as door knobs, light switches, TV remotes etc.
Even though we are all extremely busy, make sure you are getting enough sleep. When you sleep your body goes through natural healing and detox processes that are important for maintaining a strong immune system. It is important not to deprive yourself of that healing time.
“You are what you eat” is a phrase that almost feels outdated. But guess what? It is true. Make sure that you are eating a healthy diet with plenty of foods such as leafy greens, healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Try to avoid prepared foods with ingredients that you can't pronounce, and of course, do your best to minimise white sugar. If you need to use sweeteners, use a natural version such as stevia, monk fruit sweetener or the lower-glycemic coconut sugar.
Here are also some foods that are considered to be immune-boosting. If you are unable to find them fresh, frozen is also good.
Now is a good time to use some of those supplements that are cluttering up your cupboard before they go out of date!
A good base for boosting immunity starts with increasing your intake of vitamins D and C.
If you’re not already taking a probiotic, look for a high quality version containing multiple strains. L. rhamnosus is a strain of probiotic which is often studied for its protective effect in respiratory infections.
Of course nothing can provide 100% protection, but a good base of immune support can give you a fighting chance.
One of the things people find the hardest to do when busy is remembering to drink enough water. The rule of thumb is that if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
What you should aim for is at least 8 - 10 glasses of water per day. This is so beneficial to every aspect of your well-being. Water helps those vitamins & micronutrients to move around between cells, helps your cells clean themselves out at night, and your lymphatic and urinary systems to flush the bad stuff out so that you feel refreshed and healthy. Being properly hydrated helps your immune system, skin, nails, hair, muscles.. the list goes on!
If you are someone who just doesn't like water; try adding in a squirt of lemon. Not only does it add a more palatable taste but it contains vitamin c and has liver cleansing properties as well.
Stress reduction is top of the list of healthy lifestyle habits, and is particularly important at times like these. Find small ways to calm things (and yourself / kids) down throughout the day, and definitely try to avoid blasting CNN 24/7.
When we are feeling stressed out our body feels it too. This is not just a psychological issue, it’s physiological as the stress hormone cortisol changes the body’s reactions to food, sleep and immunity.
Take a bubble bath, break up the day with some outdoor time, take up meditation, read a good book, start a craft project, sing a little karaoke… the list is endless - whatever feels calming, make a little time for it daily.
Despite your best efforts, the novel coronavirus might still infiltrate your home or community. For most of us, this will mean a mild to moderate bout of illness, whereas for others it may be more severe and require hospitalization. If you feel your symptoms may be consistent with COVID-19 there is no need to panic, it is always best to deal with the facts of the situation calmly and to call Public Health.
First and foremost, telephone your family doctor or your local public health department or telehealth service to find out what your next steps are. This may include specific instructions to go to a local testing centre, rather than going to a clinic or emergency department.
Should you be advised to stay home, here are some things you can do in hopes of making your illness as short and painless as possible:
You likely will not be overly hungry during this time so sticking to soups and/or bone broth is a good plan. Drink plenty of water, and add some apple, blueberry or pomegranate juice to help with your electrolytes.
Herbal teas such as Ginger, Peppermint, Rooibos and Chamomile can be soothing as well as hydrating to help you feel better.
Using a neti-pot or humidifier can help to relieve chest congestion. If you don’t own either, try closing the bathroom door and running the shower as hot as possible to create a makeshift steam room. A few drops of Eucalyptus oil in the bathtub can help bring some relief to the lungs as well.
Studies have found that Elderberry syrups and extracts, readily available in health food stores and integrative pharmacies, help to reduce the duration of colds and respiratory infections. Keep a bottle in the fridge for a targeted remedy to take at the first sign of symptoms.
Taking Zinc orally can also help reduce the duration of a cold, flu or respiratory illness, especially if taken preventively or within 24 hours of symptoms starting.
Once your symptoms ease up and you are feeling more like yourself, it is generally a good practice to sanitize everything that you can. Make sure you change your bedsheets and your toothbrush.
Secondary infections such as pneumonia are a real risk with COVID-19, so it is important to keep tabs on your symptoms.
If your fever climbs to 39.5° C or higher, you have trouble breathing with only slight exertion, feel chest pain or pressure, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe vomiting - these are all symptoms which warrant a call to 911 or your local public health department’s telehealth number.
We hope this information helps you to feel calm and confident in your ability to handle whatever may or may not come your way. If you would like to discuss a long term plan to keep your health and immune system in the best shape possible, please give our clinic a call, we’re here for you!