With concerns rising about the new coronavirus, we are all looking for the best ways to keep safe. But it’s starting to get confusing out there – Amazon has just removed tens of thousands of over-priced and over-hyped products from its site that were claiming to help prevent, or even cure, the disease. But, at present, we have no vaccine and no cure – though plenty of medical care from our amazing NHS to support us if we need it. Luckily, 4 out of 5 of us may only have a mild version, if we catch it at all.
So, what can we do to keep safe as the reported cases continue to rise?
1. Sanitise and self-isolate
Over the years we have gone overboard with cleaning products and view every bug as a mortal enemy … which may not have helped us in developing a healthy immune system. In fact, we now realise that healthy bugs are vital. But, when fighting the COVID-19 threat, we do need to be fastidious about hygiene. Government recommendations are to wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds in soap and water after using the toilet or changing a nappy, before and after handling raw foods like meat and vegetables, before eating or handling food, after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing or in any other circumstances where there is potential for spreading germs.
If you don’t have access to soap and water, alcohol gels of at least 60% strength, or those containing povidone-iodine have also been shown to kill harmful microbes including coronavirus. Avoid being within 3m of someone who is coughing. And if you need to cough or blow your nose, do it into a tissue that you then throw away, before washing your hands again.
Other countries have made additional suggestions for reducing risk – Japan advocates using iodine-based gargles, for example. Though prolonged or excessive use of iodine-based products could affect your thyroid function, so caution is needed. The US, as well as the UK, doesn’t recommend face masks for general preventative use as most of them offer little protection. However, facemasks do discourage you from touching your face – apparently we do it without thinking up to 30 times an hour! If you think you may be infected, facemasks can help reduce the risk of you passing it on to others….though you should keep away from anyone wherever possible. Nasal sprays may possibly help reduce the chances of viruses taking hold, though there is no definite evidence. Worth considering before a flight, perhaps, though air travel is best avoided between high risk areas, as outlined by latest official recommendations.
If you are worried that you may have coronavirus, phone 111 or your local GP surgery for advice – don’t attend the surgery or hospital unless instructed, other than in an emergency.
2. Eat well
A vital way to reduce your risks from COVID-19 (new coronavirus) and other diseases is to keep your body in the best possible health. With spring finally here (in theory), we want to get back in shape anyway, and focusing on good, fresh, nutrient-rich food is a great way to trim up…but will boost your immune system too. A rainbow of veg, berries and salad on your plate will give you plenty of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help you fight infection. Kelp and other seaweed products have similar benefits, though take in moderation as too much can be counter-productive to thyroid function. Healthy fats from oily fish, nuts, and olive oil are also great for brain, heart and immune system. And loads of fibre from veg and wholegrains as well as fermented foods like kefir, live yoghurt, sauerkraut and more can boost your healthy gut bacteria – valuable allies in keeping you fit and well.
3. Sleep well
A bad night’s sleep will drop your immune function, making you more vulnerable to all sorts of diseases. What’s more, studies showed that it can make vaccines less effective – people given a standard flu vaccine showed fewer antibodies if they were sleep deprived, than well rested, indicating they were less able to fight back if they got infected. Yet more evidence that a good night’s sleep is great for your health and immunity.
4. Get outdoors
Filling your lungs with fresh air and flooding your system with natural light rather than staying cooped up in a dark, stuffy room has to reduce your chances of exposure to any air-borne viruses or bacteria. It’s why these things are more common in the winter. So, consider walking to work rather than getting the bus or tube. It will help your weight and sleep too, and any exercise will also help to boost your immune function.
5. Bin the smoking
Now’s a really great time to finally make the break with cigarettes, vaping or other inhalational habits. Smokers are at greater risk of serious problems from coronavirus which can hit deep in the lungs. So, if your lungs are weakened to start with, you have more of an uphill battle on your hands than someone who has never smoked. The good news is, that within days of chucking out the fags or vapes, your lungs start to recover some of their inbuilt protective function and it just builds and builds.
With spring weather on the way, we will hopefully see a natural wane in the coronavirus threat…but the more we can do to stop it in its tracks, the better. And if the worry of coronavirus gives us an early kickstart to creating healthier spring habits, then it will have had some positive effects amongst all the gloom that it has brought.