When winter comes and many of us are cooped up indoors, it’s no surprise that this is when illness seems to strike the hardest. While we know the flu can be quite rampant, recently we’ve seen the outbreak of another serious and sometimes deadly virus called the Coronavirus. Though these can be scary, there are several steps that can be taken to prevent catching a virus and even those that can help combat them if you do.
What is Coronavirus?
So what exactly is the Coronavirus and why is it receiving such widespread attention? Like other viruses, there are no vaccines or antiviral medications that can be taken to treat the Coronavirus. All in all, there is not much a doctor can do unless a patient has respiratory issues and needs to be put on breathing equipment – it really must run its course.
So far, symptoms of the Coronavirus have included a cough, low-grade fever, general malaise, and fatigue. It has about an eight-day incubation period and can be spread through coughing and sneezing. While it can’t necessarily be treated, steps must be taken to prevent it.
Avoid Major Public Areas
It may seem like a no brainer, especially during the winter season, but it’s important to be cautious of going to highly populated areas. Being exposed to more people naturally means being exposed to more germs and viruses.
Even if illness strikes, it’s best to think twice about heading to the doctor. Not only can a doctor’s office expose an individual to more illness, but it can expose others as well. Call the doctor, explain the symptoms, and take his or her direction about whether it is best to come in or stay home.
Get Adequate Sleep
The body needs adequate rest to heal, repair and restore itself, and this includes restoration of the immune system. Sleep deprivation leads to immunosuppression and makes the body more susceptible to infection.
To get the most out of sleep, it’s important to shoot for at least eight hours of sleep per day. Specifically, being asleep, not just in bed, between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am can have an extremely positive impact on restoring the body.
Yes, everyone knows that sugar is not good for the body, but most don’t realize that it can actually crash the immune system. Immune cells don’t function well when they are exposed to high levels of sugar.
With so much sugar hidden in food, our bodies are being poisoned to the detriment of the immune system. This, over time, leads to the immune system being unable to protect the body against environmental antigens and viruses.
Eat Real Food
Next to avoiding sugar, it’s important to simply eat real food. Stay away from the overly processed items found in the middle of most grocery stores.
It also helps to steer clear of restaurants. Not only are there poor food options, but there is an increased risk of spreading germs from those cooking or handling the food. Choosing to eat real food ultimately enhances the strength of the immune system.
Enjoy the Sunshine
While it may be hard to get outside during the winter months, it’s actually crucial to improving or maintaining immune function. Sunshine helps the body to create Vitamin D which is antiviral and helps to regulate the immune system. Without Vitamin D, immunity may tank leaving the body exposed and unable to fight off harmful infections.
Be Aware of Certain Medications
Some medications can actually suppress immune function, and increase the risk for developing an infection. These include:
- Steroids – These can hinder the ability to fight infection and include asthma inhalers, steroids for pain medication, and steroids for inflammatory conditions.
- Antihistamines – These suppress the immune system’s activation.
- Acid Reflux Medication – These limit stomach acid and stop the ability to fight infection, especially if exposed through food. Medications include antacids, Nexium, Tagamet, and Zantac.
If you are taking medicines that suppress the immune system, talk to your prescribing doctor to discuss possible other options.
Consider your Lifestyle
Another way to protect the body from viral outbreaks is to consider harmful lifestyle behaviors. These include drinking alcohol and smoking. Alcohol, because it is a diuretic tends to dehydrate the body and rid of its important vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, smoking cigarettes and marijuana, vaping, and exposure to secondhand smoke all can cause immunosuppression.
Even exercising can be risky during outbreaks. Going to a gym that is filled with others sweating and breathing heavily can create an environment that leaves one highly exposed to germs and illness.
Don’t Forget Hand Washing
Though it seems like common sense, don’t underestimate the value of washing your hands often. For those who have been in an office or school all day, washing their hands regularly, wiping down desks and work spaces and even changing clothes when arriving home can all go a long way in preventing the spread of harmful agents.
Prevention starts with good nutrition, and supplements can be an excellent way to support your body’s immune system. Nutrients with research backed immune support include:
- Vitamin C – Helps support the immune system. Take five grams in a powder form spread throughout the whole day.
- Vitamin D – Levels of Vitamin D should be between 70 and 100. If supplementing, take 150,000 IUs for three days, unless kidney problems are a factor.
- Vitamin A – Regulates the immune system function and helps to recruit and activate white blood cells. It’s also necessary for epithelial cell regeneration. These cells coat linings that serve as barriers to viruses. Take 25,000 IUs for only a few weeks at a time.
- L-Lysine – 1-2 grams per day is considered a meaningful dose to support the immune system’s ability to fight viruses.
- N-Acetyl-Cysteine – 1-2 grams per day is considered a meaningful dose to support the immune system’s ability to fight viruses.
- Elderberry – Upregulates certain types of immune cells that help to fight viruses.
- Echinacea – Up regulates certain components of the immune system.
One Step at a Time
While a list like this may seem overwhelming, it really just takes small adjustments to incorporate them into your lifestyle. Being aware of how to protect and support the immune system today could make all the difference during this current Coronavirus outbreak.