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  • Writer's pictureSophia Kamveris, MS, RDN

Coronavirus 101. Tips to Stay Healthy!

When flu season rolls around, I try to remind people about the importance of maintaining a personal and vigilant approach to keeping their immune system in check. This year, we are even more challenged by the most recent global health crisis that is going on, namely the novel (new) human coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that can have mild to lethal outcomes.

I’m just going to take a few minutes to recap some history of previous coronaviruses. In the news 20 years ago, China (again) was battling “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome” also known as SARS. Hundreds of people died and to this day, experts are not sure of its transmission but many of these coronavirus pathogens appear to be animal sources. What helped to contain it was the public health measures that were enforced and kept it from spreading further.

In 2012, another virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) may have resulted from animal to human transmission with bats or infected dromedary camels being the intermediate hosts. This virus situation still exists.

Right now, we are facing the latest coronavirus, which is an incidental pathogen that can cause the “common cold” in otherwise healthy people. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. This current crisis traces its origin to animal to human transmission at live game markets in Wuhan, China in December.

It’s important to be vigilant when dealing with unknown pathogens. It can’t hurt to be overly cautious. I have been traveling on a plane for years now donning a medical mask. I suspect no one would look twice at me today, but I have gotten strange looks for sure in the past! At this time, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency. Practicing safe measures is foremost important. This includes regular hand washing; respiratory etiquette like covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs in the infected, geographic areas.

Common side effects of the virus mimic flu-like symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. As always, it is advised to check with your health care practitioner if you don’t feel well. While it is difficult to initially diagnose the virus (at this time), there are test modalities in place to rule it out. The coronavirus can spread in close contact, so keeping your distance (3-6 feet away) from a person exhibiting some symptoms; although they are finding that you can be asymptomatic (without symptoms) and still be a carrier.) In my opinion, practicing sustained preparedness is an easy thing to do.

Our immune system is a complicated one but we know that it has an enormous capacity to fight off microorganisms. But if the bug is stronger, an infection will set in. Here are some natural ways to fortify your immune system during prime time cold season:

  • Get plenty of sleep. Your body reenergizes itself when you sleep. Researchers have found that someone who gets 8 hours of sleep a night is less likely to get sick.

  • Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizers. Rhinoviruses don’t spread easily in the air but do through skin contact. Lather up for 20 seconds, or the amount of time you can sing (or hum!) Happy Birthday twice.

  • Keep the humidity level in your house high. A lower humidity helps viruses spread, where as a moist environment doesn’t. For that same reason, use a saline nasal spray to keep the hair-like structures, cilia, in your nose moist. A moist membrane is a great barrier to viruses here, as well.

  • Manage your stress. Take a B-complex vitamin if you have a high stress level or relax with a cup of chamomile or decaffeinated green tea, meditate, or soak in a tub with a few drops of lavender oil.

  • Fresh garlic and oregano are antibacterial and antiviral herbs, so use them regularly in cooking.

  • Supplement with 500 mg of Vitamin C and eat Vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, grapefruit, red pepper, broccoli, and kiwi.

  • Drink plenty of fluids; honey and tea help to sooth a sore throat.

  • Exercise regularly. Studies have found that those people who exercise four times a week are less likely to get sick, as it can strengthen your immune system.

Remember, all of the “Gesundheits” won’t keep you from getting infected! Be safe and stay well.


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