Just about anyone could catch the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that is spreading around the world, but it is especially affecting those who have compromised immune systems.
The City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Health Department, Inova Health System, and Alexandria City Public Schools officials will host an online virtual information session on Thursday, March 12, from 8 to 9 p.m., to provide information and answer questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The session will be accessible at alexandriava.gov/Health and residents may submit questions in advance through that website.
The virtual info session will provide useful details about how to protect yourself, plus information about how government and the health care sector are preparing for additional impacts from the virus; and how businesses and nonprofit organizations can protect themselves and help.
At this point, national health officials have said it is very likely that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 will reach people in all 50 states. There are cases in 16 states right now, although there are no diagnosed cases in Virginia yet.
For individuals, prevention is key. Even people who are normally healthy may consider doing a few things to boost their immune system for additional protection against this virus. While there are no guarantees that taking these steps will help, they are very unlikely to hurt.
The most important tip from all health professionals: Wash. Your. Hands. (And do it correctly.)
If soap and clean running water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. There are organic hand sanitizers available.
With all of the advice below, it’s important to remember to check in with your personal doctor or health professional before any change in your habits, whether it’s taking vitamin supplements or starting an exercise program.
It Starts with Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep will help you keep your immune system healthy. The reason: Sleep helps your T cells stick to and attack infections. With less sleep, your T cells are less “sticky” and aren’t as strong in fighting off viruses.
A “good” night of sleep varies from person to person, but general guidelines are for 7 to 9 hours of solid sleep each night. If you have restless sleep, wake up every night or snore, you may want to talk to a doctor.
“One really good thing to do is to not panic, because anxiety weakens the immune system,” said Joanie Stewart, an acupuncturist and health professional in Alexandria. Being stressed can cause your body to release extra cortisol, which over time can negatively affect sleep quality and your immune system.
Add a Healthy Diet
Put away the candy and soda.
A well-balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables can help increased your immune function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the three most important vitamins for your immune system are Vitamin C, B6 and E.
It’s best to get these from whole foods, as your body absorbs the nutrients more efficiently than with processed supplements. In addition, taking too much of certain vitamins can actually be harmful. If you do take supplements, try to take them early in the day and with food. Always check with a doctor before taking any supplements, even multivitamins.
Jade Screen may be a supplement that can help, as it was used during the SARS epidemic, Stewart noted. (She recommends Mayway Plum Flower brand.) But, again, check with your health professional.
A number of studies have shown that a strong immune system goes hand-in-hand with being fit. This doesn’t mean to go out and run a marathon — in fact, exercising too much and too vigorously can actually suppress your immune system for a few days while your body recovers. Moderate exercise can be good for your immune system.
Several studies have shown that acupuncture can have anti-inflammatory effects and can help boost your immune system. The ancient Chinese treatment uses tiny needles to stimulate certain parts of the body.
“The point of acupuncture is to strengthen the immune system by balancing and fortifying certain organic systems,” Stewart explained. “One of the things acupuncture does is fortify the lungs and the kidneys, which also are very important in boosting immunity.”