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Home Learn Coronavirus – What Can We Do to Help Ourselves?


Coronavirus – What Can We Do to Help Ourselves?

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Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses with COVID-19 being the most recently discovered coronavirus. Since it is a newly identified strain of coronavirus, little is known about how it behaves. This has made many people feel vulnerable and apprehensive.

How is it spread?

Although we don’t know much about COVID–19, it is suspected that it spreads in a similar way to other viruses in that it is primarily spread through close contact (within 1 meter) of someone with the virus who coughs or sneezes. The respiratory droplets produced by the infected person can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and possibly be inhaled into the lungs. In cold weather, droplets can stay suspended in the air for longer than they are in the summer. This is why we are hopeful that the virus will decrease during the summer months.  It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.  COVID-19 seems to be a highly infections virus which spreads rapidly.

Who is at risk?

People with the highest risk of infection and severe symptoms are those who:

  • Are elderly
  • Have an immune deficiency
  • Have a pre-existing health condition
  • Young children
  • Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding

It is thought that fatalities from COVID-19 have all been people with one of these risk factors.

What are the symptoms?

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness.

The following symptoms are common:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

It is worth noting though that these symptoms may not appear for 2-14 days after exposure.

How can I reduce my risk of infection?

You will have read all the advice about how important it is to wash your hands regularly and avoid contact with people who could potentially have the virus. But, what else can we do? There is a mistaken belief that there is nothing you can do to reduce your risk of infection and fear that if you get the virus, your recovery is out of your control. Actually, there is much we can do to reduce the spread of the infection and improve the probability for having a mild case if we are infected. Although we do have to take this very seriously, there is a lot each of us can do to help protect ourselves and our family. There are several things you can do to improve your resilience and increase the probability of an infection being mild. One important thing is the need to focus on combatting viral infections naturally by harnessing the power of our immune system.

Our nutrition for example, is important for our immune system and it may be well worth putting into practice some of the tips below.

Practical Tips:

  • Get enough sleep, preferably 7 to 9 hours. Sleep is vital to keeping immune cells   ready to fight viral infections. We know that sleep deprivation suppresses your   immune system’s innate ability to act as the first line of defence. Make sure you   prioritise sleep, relaxation and reduce your stress. Sleep is the opportunity for our   body to ‘rest and   repair’ and is as important when looking to strengthen our immune system. Research has shown that those with less than 7 hours sleep per night were up to 3 times more likely to develop the common cold after exposure. Help your sleep by the use of an eye mask or ear plugs. Avoid exposure to screens of any type for at least two hours before bed and consider having magnesium in your supplement to help your sleep.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water vigorously for 20 seconds and avoid shaking   hands to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • Stay home if you become ill. If you develop a cough, sore throat, and runny nose, do   not go to work or frequent public places, which will spread the disease, perhaps to an at-risk individual for whom an infection could be deadly.

Nutritional tips:

Keep your immune system nourished with the right nutrients it needs to function properly.

  • Vitamin D – It could be well worth checking what your Vitamin D levels are. This can   be done by a home test that   you can order online or asking for a test from your GP.   We are all prone to low Vitamin D levels especially during   the winter. Low vitamin D   levels can affect your immunity.  It is difficult to get enough Vitamin D in your diet so it can be beneficial to take a Vitamin D supplement either on its own or as part of a good quality multivitamin and mineral. Taking it in a multi can be beneficial as you will also be getting other nutrients that can help our immune  system. Take a supplement with at least 400iu of Vitamin D.
  • Vitamin C – It is worth taking Vitamin C to help our immune system. Vitamin C is   known to reduce the symptoms of the common cold and may be protective against   other respiratory issues including pneumonia. Look for a multivitamin and mineral   which includes Vitamin C preferably at a dose of 100mg.
  • Zinc – Zinc deficiency is very common in those with chronic disease. Adding zinc during the winter months may be a wise protective measure for anyone worried about COVID-19 risk.  Again, it can be beneficial to take this is in the form of a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Look for a dosage of 12mg.
  • Vitamin A -This is one vitamin that gets much less attention when it comes to the   immune system – but it’s no less important! Like vitamin C, vitamin A is essential for   healthy skin and the linings of the body that stop germs getting  through. And like   vitamin D, it’s thought to have roles in activating immune cells and helping regulate the immune response too. Most foods provide carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which our body has to convert to vitamin A. The problem is that some people may not absorb carotenoids very well, and may only convert a very small amount of them to vitamin A. For this reason, vitamin A could be a vital addition to an immune-boosting supplement.
  • Selenium, copper, iron, folate (folic acid) and vitamin B12 are other minerals and   vitamins that can boost the immune system so consider taking a multivitamin and   mineral which contains these nutrients

It is probably more important than ever to make sure you have a good intake of nutrients so ensure you have a good diet with plenty of vegetables. Concentrate on dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli. Enjoy eating plenty of berries which can help our immune system. Enjoy your food but avoid anything with too much sugar. Remember that alcohol can negatively impact our nutrient load! Overall, do what you can to have your immune system up and running efficiently and try to avoid contact with people who may have the virus. Make sure you contact your Healthcare provider if you have any further questions or concerns.

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About the author
Katie Hipwell - Katie is an AfN Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) with a specialism in food and is Head of Nutrition at Feel. Katie has worked in the food supplement industry for 10 years. She has completed a Master's degree in Human Nutrition and an undergraduate degree in BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition.
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