How To Avoid Coronavirus and Boost the Immune System
Please note that I am not a doctor. This blog post is for entertainment purposes only and nothing in it is intended to constitute medical advice. Please always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you feel unwell, have health concerns, or before starting nutritional supplements.
I highly recommend that you read my two part blog post Tiny Tips for Common Colds for detailed information about avoiding and fighting viruses. Although some of the information is repeated in this post, it will not be covered in as much detail.
With coronavirus panic sweeping the nation, what else could I possibly write about this month?! Actually, I had actually planned to write about the bladder regeneration cycle, but rather to my disbelief, people seem so worried about the coronavirus and so unaware about the practical steps they can take to avoid it that I have been persuaded to write about that instead!
First of all, some facts. There are actually several strains of coronavirus and, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people are infected with one during their lives. They are believed to account for a large percentage of common colds in adults, especially in winter and early spring. The specific strain that is the subject of all the current media attention is SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease COVID-19. COVID-19 is now being used by the media to refer to that strain of coronavirus as well as the disease it causes.
As the name suggests, coronavirus is a virus not a bacteria, so antibiotics, which target only bacteria, are not effective against it. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses; this means they live inside a ‘jacket’ that helps them to access host cells. All viruses multiply in the same sort of way: they must get inside a host cell, where they take themselves apart, photocopy themselves using the equipment inside the host cell, and reassemble themselves. They make many, many copies of themselves, until the host cell is filled with replica viruses. Eventually, the host cell is so full that it bursts or dies, scattering the virus copies so that they too can go off, invade other host cells, and replicate. Viruses may move from person to person carried in snot, saliva, faecel matter and other bodily fluids. In essence, when you catch a virus, you have transferred someone else’s bodily fluid into your own body, most commonly via your mouth. Now do you feel like washing your hands when you’ve been out in public places?!
Because coronavirus is an enveloped virus, it is very adaptable and can mutate quickly in order to evade the immune system. It can also cause persistent infections in those affected. However, there is good news! Enveloped viruses don’t survive well outside of a host (in contrast to enteric viruses such as norovirus, which can survive for weeks on a surface if conditions are suitable) and they typically transfer directly from host to host. They can survive on surfaces, but for nowhere near as long as non-enveloped viruses. Enveloped viruses are also easier to kill when they are on surfaces, because their jacket is there to allow them to access host cells rather than to protect them while they are out and about in the world. The jacket is actually quite delicate as it is partially made from lipids, which are sensitive to heat, dryness and detergents, including alcohol. This is why we are being encouraged to practise frequent and thorough handwashing and use hand sanitisers with an alcohol content of at least 60%.
It is quite possible that you could be exposed to COVID-19 and not actually get it. Every single day of your life your body is exposed to and deals with countless pathogens, without you ever knowing they were there. It is what a healthy immune system is supposed to do! We can therefore decrease our chances of succumbing to coronavirus in two ways: firstly we can limit our chances of being exposed to the virus; and secondly we can try to maintain a robust immune system.
Limiting our chances of being exposed to the virus is what the media is largely concerned with at the moment. I find it astonishing that people don’t do all these things anyway as a matter of routine, but here are some of the recommendations:
- Wash your hands when you have been out in public places. Do this for at least twenty seconds, or two renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’. Be sure to include your fingertips and your thumbs, and get some suds up your fingernails too.
- Wash your hands before eating.
- Wash your hands after going to the toilet. A worrying amount of adults do not consider this necessary in public toilets. If I were in charge of the world, there would be immediate and harsh punishments for such people. It would be practically impossible for most tummy bugs to spread if everyone consistently put down the toilet lid before flushing and washed their hands properly when they had been. For those of you who say, “Oh, but I don’t like touching the communal taps and you have to touch the door handles on the way out anyway,” – poppycock!! Increasingly, public restrooms have contactless taps or taps with levers that you can turn off with your elbow. And you can always carry tissues with you or use a few sheets of toilet paper to turn off a normal tap and open a door. COVID-19 can spread through faecel matter, so it is important to practise good bathroom hygiene at all times to protect both yourself and others.
- If you are out and about and can’t wash your hands after touching communal things, use hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of at least 60%.
- Do not touch your mouth, nose, eyes or ears if you have touched communal surfaces or other people and have not first washed your hands. Again, I find it astonishing that adults have not been practising this as routine hygiene anyway. Why would anyone think it a good idea to go round a supermarket or travel on a train and then lick their fingers or itch their eyes with their bare, unwashed fingers?! Maybe I’m super neurotic, but if I’m out and about, I try not to touch things and if I must, I try to keep my ring fingers out of contact so that if I do need to touch my eyes or nose, I can use them. Where possible, I use my sleeves or elbows to do things, so that my hands can stay clean.
- Clean communal surfaces in the home and workplace with disinfectant sprays that are proven to be effective against viruses as well. Door handles, kitchen counters, taps, computer mice, keyboards – anything that is shared a lot and cleaned infrequently! The first thing I do upon entering any kind of hotel or holiday accommodation is always to wipe around everything with disinfectant spray. Nobody is allowed to touch any high risk surfaces, unpack or eat anything until I have done so. It takes maybe five minutes and gives me peace of mind for the rest of my stay.
- Avoid close contact with people you don’t know well (handshaking, hugging, etc.) and with ill people. It is not selfish to refuse to kiss your partner, parents or children if they are ill!
- Put plasters (band aids) on any cuts to your hands when you are out and about.
I absolutely assure you that making the above recommendations a habit will drastically reduce your incidence of all types of virus. When I was young, I had no idea that we caught colds by transferring viruses into our mouths, noses, eyes or ears. I imagined that they floated about in the air and we breathed them in. The simple act of keeping my hands away from my face in the supermarket and washing them as soon as I got in reduced the number of colds I caught massively.
Now here are some things you can do to protect others if you are ill:
- Wash your hands before touching communal surfaces.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Do this with a handkerchief/tissue or with your sleeve/the crook of your arm. Do not do it with the bare hand that you will then use to touch communal surfaces.
- Self-isolate. Why in the world this seems to be new terminology for coronavirus, I do not know. Anyone who has anything contagious should, wherever possible, stay at home until they are better. I have no time for the kinds of people who proudly brag that they have never had a day off work in their lives. I’m sure all your colleagues are delighted when you roll into work spreading your germs all over them. Even worse when people brag that their children have never had a day off school. Really, what is so important in Class 2 or Year 9 that it can’t be missed? Nothing! The illness that was only an inconvenience to you might be caught by your co-worker who isn’t as brave as you, has a big life event coming up, or tends to get sinusitis, and THEY might have a special occasion ruined, or end up on medication with nasty side effects because you wanted to be a martyr. There are very few people whose jobs are so vital that they can’t be managed without for a few days. Get your importance in this world into perspective and if you’re ever ill with anything contagious, please just do us all a favour and stay at home!
- Do your grocery shopping online if possible. I think a lot of people are still reluctant to do their grocery shopping online, because they have heard that you get given all the short date products and things that are not of high quality. This used to be the case, but it is really, really good nowadays. If you’re not used to doing it, it will be difficult for the first couple of times, but I can’t recommend it highly enough! Our weekly shop that used to take around two hours now takes us about fifteen minutes. You can choose a one hour timeslot that the drivers almost always manage to meet and they will phone and let you know if they’re running early or late. You are not obliged to accept an early order – they must wait until your official slot time if it is not convenient for you. The online ordering system saves lists of your favourite products, things that you order regularly, things that you have ever ordered, and what you ordered last time. And what you don’t see, you can’t be tempted by, so you save an absolute fortune and it’s much easier to keep away from the junk food! I haven’t done a big shop in a supermarket for years now!
- If you must be around other people, let them know that you are unwell and keep your distance. Don’t get into their space, coughing and spluttering on them. Don’t share utensils with them. Say something like, “I’m sorry, but I think I have a cold. You might want to keep your distance/wash your hands/wipe that after I’ve gone.”
If everyone did all of this whenever they were poorly with anything, we’d all get ill much less often and it would benefit us all!
Now we’ve dealt with how to limit our exposure to viruses, including coronavirus, let’s take a look at how we can maintain a healthy immune system on a day to day basis. Much of this is covered in my previous two part blog post Tiny Tips for Common Colds, so I would recommend that you read both parts of that. I do not intend to repeat in detail here what I have written there, so that’s where you will find detailed information that is as applicable to COVID-19 as to any other virus.
- Eat nutritious meals and avoid sugary foods and alcohol. How often have you caught a cold after a heavy night out, or over the Christmas period when you’ve been hammering the boxes of chocolates? Two cans of fizzy pop can lower our white blood cells’ ability to fight viruses by up to 40%. The effects begin within half an hour and last up to five hours. A single night of binge drinking also interferes with our immune system and the effects can last for 24 hours. The dietary choices we make really do matter!
- Take a high quality daily multivitamin supplement to provide a wide array of all the nutrients considered important for good health. Aside from the Desert Harvest one stocked here at Tiny Pioneer, other brands I recommend include Biocare and Lamberts.
- Take 2 grams (2000mg) of vitamin C per day, ideally divided between two or three doses. If you have happened upon this website by accident, do be aware that the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C can cause bladder pain in sensitive individuals, so if you’re prone to UTIs or you have a sensitive bladder, go for a form that ends in the word ‘ascorbate’.
- Take vitamin D3, especially if you don’t get much sunlight. I like to get at least 1000iu a day, which is included in my multivitamin, but if I ever feel I am getting ill, I take extra on top of that.
- Make sure your multivitamin contains 7.5-15mg of zinc. If it does not, supplement with extra. Men may also wish to supplement with extra, because they lose quite a lot when they ejaculate. Long term high doses of zinc can knock your copper out of balance, so I would never exceed 50mg a day long term, though I’m happy to do it short term if I have a virus.
- Consider taking a garlic supplement (NOT an odourless one!) or incorporating plenty of fresh garlic into your diet.
- Consider drinking elderberry juice daily – it is quite delicious made into a hot drink with Manuka honey, especially for those of you with interstitial cystitis who may have to avoid tea and coffee. Elderberry has amazing antiviral properties – it coats virus spikes, rendering them ineffective and may also disable enzymes used by the virus to damage the cell membrane. I use the Schoenenberger brand, but you could also use Lamberts Imuno-Strength.
- Consider taking Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort) extract daily, ideally under the guidance of a qualified medical herbalist. Hypericum perforatum contains an ingredient called hypericin which has been found to inactivate enveloped viruses, but not non-enveloped viruses. It has not been tested specifically on COVID-19, but it has been shown to be an effective virucidal against herpes simplex and influenza virus A. Incidentally, I have a general antiviral herbal mixture that I keep on hand and take whenever I feel a bit run down or as if I am getting ill. I take it daily throughout the winter months too. A medical herbalist would be happy to have a consultation with you and make you something similar.
Those of you with interstitial cystitis who already take Desert Harvest’s Super Strength Aloe Vera Capsules daily will be delighted to know that aloe vera too has some antiviral properties!
If you do become infected with coronavirus (or any virus!):
- You can increase your dose of vitamin C to 400mg every twenty minutes, or a gram an hour, or three grams every four hours – whichever is most convenient! You can do this up to bowel tolerance. Note that if you are taking magnesium ascorbate, you may reach bowel tolerance earlier because magnesium has a stool loosening effect, so when trying to take large doses of vitamin C, it may be best to use another form. I use magnesium ascorbate as my daily vitamin C supplement (I get anxiety and find the extra magnesium helpful), but I have Desert Harvest Buffered Vitamin C and also a sodium ascorbate on hand for times when I need to take more. There are people pointing out that there is no evidence that vitamin C is effective against COVID-19. That is quite true – it is a new virus and there have been no studies up to now. However, it is worth noting this excellent point made by Patrick Holford in his own blog post on coronavirus: “There is no virus yet tested that isn't significantly compromised in a high vitamin C environment, hence the need to have high oral or intravenous doses during an acute infection.” Patrick also links to this YouTube video by Doctor Cheung which beautifully explains the logic behind using large doses of vitamin C in cases of COVID-19.
- You can increase your daily dose of vitamin D3. I take 4000-8000iu a day if I am unwell.
- You can take extra zinc. I only go as high as 50mg a day, but I know some people go up to 100mg a day during times of infection. I do not advise going any higher than 105mg a day without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
I know there is concern that people might start to panic-buy various cleaning items, so if you should find yourself unable to get hold of antibacterial sprays or hand sanitisers, here are some things to bear in mind:
- Lemon juice and vinegar exhibit antiviral properties and were used as cleaning products in the olden days. There are an abundance of videos on YouTube that show you how to use them to disinfect surfaces.
- Alcohol is highly effective against enveloped viruses, so anything with a reasonably high alcohol content might be effective as a disinfectant if you’re in a bind.
- There is a handy list of common household cleaners and products that are effective against coronavirus on the National Environment Agency’s website. Many of these are not cruelty free and are harmful to aquatic wildlife, so please keep that in mind when deciding a) whether to stick with them as your long term cleaning products and b) how often to use them.
- Iodine sprays and solutions are very effective against both bacteria and viruses.
- Antibacterial soap is no more effective against coronavirus than ordinary soap.
- There are various videos on YouTube that show you how to make your own hand sanitising gel. Many of the recipes contain aloe vera gel!
I have been taken aback by the attention that coronavirus is receiving and the extent to which the public seem to be buying into the hysteria. I have been asked am I not worried about it. My answer is a resounding no. Perhaps I am cynical, but here are some of the reasons why I think coronavirus might be getting special media attention:
- It paves the way nicely to introduce a highly profitable vaccine at some point in the next five years.
- It makes China look bad, which certain other world leaders may find advantageous.
- It deflects attention away from other current affairs, which certain governments might find advantageous.
- It has already created issues with the stock market, which will doubtless have been advantageous for some people.
- It stands to create panic buying situations alongside much talk of doom and gloom for the economy. The overall effect of this may well be a boost as governments, businesses and individuals strive to do their bit to keep the economy going.
I am not worried about coronavirus and I don’t think most of you should be worried either. You are unlikely to get it. If you do get it, you are very unlikely to die or even be hospitalised. You remain very unlikely to die from it even if you are over the age of 60. You remain very unlikely to die from it even if you have pre-existing health conditions. At the time of writing, data from Information is Beautiful involving a study of 44,672 cases in mainland China showed that of those with cardiovascular disease – the group deemed most likely to die from coronavirus – 89.5% survived. Among over 80s, the survival rate was 85.4% – and that includes over 80s who had co-existing health complaints. Among people aged 60-69, the survival rate was 96%, again including people considered at high risk. Only 0.9% of the total number of people who died from coronavirus across all age groups had no pre-existing health conditions. That means of the people who caught coronavirus, 99.1% of those who had no other serious health conditions survived.
In short, please try not to worry too much. Worry is another thing that weakens the immune system! There are plenty of ways that you can be proactive in protecting yourself and others. And on the plus side, many of these apply to all viruses, not just coronavirus, so in years to come you may enjoy better ongoing health as a result of the habits you form this year!
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