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I’ve been getting a lot of questions from patients about coronavirus lately and it’s certainly been the topic of conversation among my family and friends. Everyone is wondering how worried they should be, how to support and protect their immune system and what supplies they need to gather.
I’m going to give you some practical tips for both supporting your body and preparing at home. First, let’s cover some basics.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus refers to a group of common viruses that can cause respiratory symptoms. Certain coronaviruses may cause the common cold, more seriously MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) or SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and now COVID-19. COVID-19 refers to the respiratory disease caused by 2019 novel coronavirus, called “novel” because it is new and we don’t know a lot about it.
COVID-19 is receiving a lot of press lately because it appears to spread more easily and cause more fatalities than other coronaviruses. COVID-19 originated in China and has now spread to over 141 countries with China, Spain, Iran and Italy reporting the most cases. At the time I wrote this article (March 17, 2020), there are 1,678 confirmed cases in the United States and 41 deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person through close contact, through respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing and through contact with a contaminated surface.
The most common symptoms are a fever and dry cough. In some, the disease can progress to pneumonia, and like other respiratory illnesses, the elderly and those who are immune-compromised are most at risk of complications and death. Luckily, COVID-19 appears to be quite mild in children.
The Immune System
If you should happen to come in contact with COVID-19, a strong and healthy immune system is going to be your best defense. Your immune system is your body’s protective army. It has the ability to distinguish between what is “self” and what is “non-self,” such as a virus. When a virus is detected, the body makes antibodies to the virus. The body works to kill the virus by increasing body temperature (fever) and sending immune cells to attack the virus. Often, the symptoms you experience from a virus are from your own immune system doing what it is supposed to do.
The immune system can be weakened by many common lifestyle choices including:
How To Boost Immunity, Naturally
The immune system can be strengthened by many of the root cause health behaviors that functional medicine relies on. To prepare your body for COVID-19 and to maintain good health in general, I recommend the following:
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Since prevention is truly the best medicine, please don’t underestimate the power of washing your hands! Because of how COVID-19 spreads this is especially important before eating and after touching public surfaces (door handles, touch screens, railings). Wash hands with soap in warm water for 30 seconds or if you are away from a sink, use a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
Because COVID-19 is more harmful to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, it might be worth rethinking travel (especially flying and cruise ships) and taking measures to isolate from public spaces if you fall into this category.
Preparing Your Home
Because of the nature of COVID-19, people who are sick are asked to stay home as to not spread the virus to others. It can be helpful to plan ahead a little and make sure you have enough food and supplies should you need to quarantine for a couple of weeks. This doesn’t have to be extreme at all, but here are some things you might put on your list:
While we can’t be certain how far and wide coronavirus will spread, instead of sitting in stress and worry, be prepared. Prepare your immune system with gentle and nurturing lifestyle choices, be a little more vigilant with hand washing and get set up for a little staycation at home, should you need to. If you have elderly or immune compromised people in your life, you can help them do the same. Really, these are simple and practical things that we can do all of the time and now is the perfect opportunity to increase awareness and build some new health habits!
If you begin to feel sick, contact your primary care physician, but do not go in to your doctor or hospital. You doctor will be able to provide you with the next steps.