[NOTE: This post was written with the most up-to-date information we had at the time on 3/9/20. Please monitor public health department notifications for updates to our understanding of COVID-19]
This strain of coronavirus is new and spreading quickly, taking over news channels and social media. Since it was initially reported in China in December, there are now 100,000 cases and counting. The US now has over 500 confirmed cases and public health experts agree that there are probably many more that are undiagnosed.
And all of this is cause for concern. But how concerned am I? How concerned should you be?
To put it in perspective, the CDC estimates that there have been between 34-49 MILLION seasonal flu (another virus) illnesses this season. The coronavirus is so new that the data we have on it is not as accurate as flu data, but we are still far, far away from it being as impactful as the flu is every year.
All of that is to say that, yes, I am concerned about the coronavirus, but no more than I am about any other virus, including the flu. Many viral infections can cause serious symptoms, but there are ultimately only 2 things you can do to prepare:
- Limit your exposure to the virus
- Boost your immune system function
That’s all you can do.
Increased anxiety and stress will actually lower immune system function, so invite you to take a big, deep breath with me….
Now then, in addition to managing stress, there are several important, evidence-based steps that can help protect you against coronavirus that I highly recommend (because I do them myself!).
Limit your exposure to the virus
Coronavirus can ONLY enter the body through the mucosa of your mouth, nose and eyes.
So the likelihood that you will get the virus directly from someone else is slim to none unless someone infected with the virus sneezes in your face. The vast majority of infections occur from touching surfaces that have the virus and then touching your face.
So this is why the most important steps to limiting your exposure are washing your hands and avoid touching your face! It has been estimated the average person touches their face 90 times / day. It is therefore unlikely you will stop completely, but be aware of this and try to avoid touching your face unless you have clean hands.
Boost immune system function
There are a lot of important considerations for boosting immune system function. Here are the ones I am most focused on:
- Sleep – Aim for 6-8 hours as consistently as possible. This is the ONLY time certain processes essential to immune system function can occur.
- Manage stress – Notice the goal is not to eliminate stress. It’s not going to happen. But taking steps to limit the amount of “fight or flight” activity will greatly improve immune system function. Effective, evidence-based ways to manage stress include exercise, yoga, mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, acupuncture, bodywork, or taking a walk outside.
- Watch what you eat – limit sugar and processed foods, increase intake of colorful fruits and veggies, as well as herbs with anti-viral properties (raw garlic, oregano, ginger, fermented foods, etc.)
- Incorporate supplements and herbs to boost immune system function. Evidence-based (and personally tested) recommendations are Elderberry syrup (buy at People’s pharmacy in Austin), Propolis Throat Spray (buy online or at People’s), Yu Ping Feng San (buy at Balance Wellness), Vitamin D3 (buy at BalanceATX online pharmacy or at People’s), Zinc (buy at BalanceATX online pharmacy or at People’s).
- Get Acupuncture – Two of the many amazing benefits of acupuncture are reducing stress and increasing immune system function. Just what you need!
So much is outside of our control, but you can control how prepared your immune system is for whatever it comes across.