Dr. Mark Kestner (crop)

Kestner

COVID-19 is nothing to make light of.  It is a very contagious virus that has the potential to have devastating effects in the body, even to the point of causing death. Besides the illnesses and unfortunate deaths that have resulted from this virus, its impact on the economy of the world has been enormous. 

It is important to realize that while being smart and proactive about reducing our risk of COVID-19, we should not live in a state of panic or fear. 

Most cases of COVID-19 illness are mild. However, due to the potential of serious illness we should take all reasonable and sensible steps to protect our health and that of those around us.

First of all, the basics are still very important. 

• Wherever possible, keep your distance from others. Physical distance is one of the best ways to reduce your exposure to the virus. Six feet is the most frequently suggested distance.

• Wear an appropriate mask in appropriate circumstances. While masks are controversial to some and some masks that are being used are of negligible benefit, wearing an effective mask does reduce the spread of any contagious disease at least to some amount. The main problem I see with recommending masks is that some people tend to think of them as an impervious shield that protects the wearer to such a degree that they are invincible to the virus. That is probably why there are cases of people getting sick that swear they always wore their mask. Masks help by partially reducing spread. They are not a magic shield of complete protection.

• Wash your hands frequently. This is probably the most important and valuable physical step we can take to minimize our risk of most infectious diseases including COVID-19. Even with social distancing and mask-wearing we are vulnerable to incidental contact with viruses and other pathogens on our skin, especially our hands. 

Getting germs such as viruses on our hands is not likely to cause an infection by itself. Our immune system can usually handle that well. We infect ourselves, however, by constantly touching our face. As we bring our hands near our face, we expose our mouth, nose and eyes to the virus. These are the vulnerable gateways for the virus to enter our body.

This is another way that masks can help, by reducing the number of times we touch our mouth and nose directly.

Hand sanitizer works especially well for this virus as it is very susceptible to outer cell wall disruption by alcohol and other disinfectants. However, washing with regular soap and water are still the best option for clean hands.

• As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available your doctor may recommend this for you.  Check with your local health department for availability.

Besides these often-repeated recommendations to minimize risk of exposure to the virus, what can be done to minimize our vulnerability to COVID-19. Obviously, some people are exposed and don’t become ill at all. Others may experience an illness but it is very mild compared to the small portion of patients that become severely ill.  What makes the difference?

It all boils down to the health and strength of our immune system. Our immune system is very adept at fighting off viruses on a regular basis. Think about the countless times in your life that you have been exposed to a virus yet did not experience significant illness.  Our immune system in an ideal healthy state is capable of fighting a virus such as COVID-19.  That is why so many people that test positive have few or no symptoms.

Some nutritional supplements have been recognized as significantly helpful in prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Hospitals are currently providing the following supplements as a means of helping patients’ immune system fight the virus. Eastern Virginia Medical School recommends the following amounts:

• Vitamin C - 500 mg Twice Daily

• Vitamin D3 – 1000-4000 iu Daily

• Zinc – 30-50 mg Daily (Lozenge form recommended)

• Melatonin - 2 mg Daily (Likely to cause drowsiness, best taken at night.)

• Quercetin – 250 mg Daily

The research on these particular nutritional supplements is strong enough to recommend their use in prevention and treatment for COVID-19.

I have previously written about Vitamins C and D, Zinc and Melatonin in this column. Quercetin has been added to the list because it appears to be effective in helping your body actually use the zinc effectively as well as playing other important roles. 

There are other steps to take to boost your immune system so it is more effective in fighting all potential infections. 

• Regular daily exercise or physical activity of a half hour or more is a really great idea. 

• Getting fresh air and some sun exposure every day helps. 

• Staying hydrated is especially important during the winter months since indoor heating dries the air.  Drink more water. 

• Avoid sugary and highly processed foods as much as possible. 

• If overweight, begin taking sensible healthy steps to reduce excess body fat. 

• Stop smoking immediately. 

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