27 Mar Coping with COVID-19
Who knew a flu could close all pubs, isolate over 100 million Europeans and cripple the economy? Taking thousands of lives, the COVID-19 challenge is changing the world in ways that call for calm, caution and camaraderie.
COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, a group of viruses discovered in the 1960s. They cause respiratory tract infections varying from mild to severe including the common cold, Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the new COVID-19. This crowned curse originated at the hellish animal markets of Wuhan, China in November 2019 and has since spread to over 173 countries. As of March 20, there are 209,839 cases of COVID-19 with approximately 83,000 recovering and 8,778 dying. Since COVID-19 has spread speedily, particularly in China, Iran and Italy, the long-term toll is unknown. What is known is that it’s preferable to respond rapidly to a pandemic rather than suffer regrets. Some say precautions are disproportionate to the threat as seasonal influenza kills an average of 290,000 – 650,000 people annually according to WHO (the World Health Organisation.) Others feel if we can prevent premature deaths and increase awareness of healthy practices then new coronavirus protocols are essential. Hence governments are implementing emergency management measures to slow the transmission and minimise fatalities. Changes include millions working from home, travel restrictions, the closure of schools and facilities. This incredible interruption to everyday life and the economy is causing widespread worry and wives tales.
Fiction posing as facts are rife on facebook. Be aware that the following are fallacies – drinking water will prevent the infection, gargling will kill COVID-19, a runny nose means you don’t have COVID-19, if you can take a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds then you don’t have COVID-19, the flu vaccine will protect you from COVID-19, it will pass by summer, exposure imparts immunity, it can’t survive warmth, its only fatal to elderly, routine surgical masks will protect you and antibiotics can treat COVID-19.
Empowering information will help us survive and thrive through this threat. Rather than scouring social media myths, read reliable resources including cdc.gov, who.int and health.gov.au. Health practitioners can access therapeutic guidance through their professional society, fellow practitioners and medicine providers.
Don’t stand so close to me
COVID-19 is considered highly contagious via droplet infection from the nose, mouth, in the air or surfaces. There’s also evidence that it can spread through fecal matter if people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. A recent study by the US National Institutes of Health found the virus can survive up to three hours in the air, 24hrs on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic or stainless steel surfaces. Studies showed it can be inactivated within a minute by disinfecting surfaces with 62-71% alcohol or 0.5% hydrogen peroxide bleach or household bleach containing 0.1% sodium hypochlorite. Hence standing 1.5 meters away and sanitizing like a germaphobe is the new norm.
Many suspect they’ve contracted COVID-19 but may have a simple cold. According to WHO, COVID-19 can cause mild to serious illness or be asymptomatic. It can take 1-14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure, most commonly 5 days. Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients have aches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Though around 80% recover without needing serious treatment, 1 in 6 will become seriously ill and have difficulty breathing. Research suggests that up to 10% of people can develop Acute Respiratory Syndrome which may require hospitalisation, oxygen and a respirator. The virus is potentially fatal in those with compromised immune function such as the very young or elderly and those with co-morbidities. Children appear to have milder symptoms but may still be carriers. The death rate for people under 40 is 0.2%, in 40’s 0.4%, 50’s 1.3%, 60’s 3.6%, 70’s 8% and over 80 14.8%.
For a precise diagnosis it’s recommended that those with cold, flu-like symptoms who are returned travellers in the last 30 days, or a contact of a confirmed case, be tested for COVID-19. Samples for testing can be taken directly by GPs or at a range of private pathology sites suitable for collection or at public hospitals across Australia.
It remains uncertain how long immunity lasts, if any, after infection. The UK governments chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance and medical advisor Prof Chris Whitty said it is rare to get an infectious condition again as there is normally some short-term immunity at least.
As there’s no failproof prevention or cure for COVID-19 the best we can do is optimise our health and minimise the impact should we become infected. Just as we have antiviral software to gaurd our computer we can reduce the risk and severity of symptoms in viral conditions by supporting immunity and recuperative capacity. Good hygiene, rest, exercise, nutrition, supplements, herbs, essential oils and attitude combine to create the healthiest you possible.
Precautionary measures include avoiding contact with others through touching and contact with fingers on surfaces as you may touch your face afterwards. Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet. Cover your cough/sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use a minimum 62% alcohol-based hand sanitiser for hands and surfaces. Consider wearing latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves. Wear a N95 or N99 mask and gloves when in confined spaces with infected people. Don’t sleep in the same room as those with COVID-19. The WHO states, “Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. If you’ve travelled in the last month and start to experience symptoms such as fever, headache or stuffed nose self-isolate by staying at home until you recover and wear a mask if around others.” Avoid unessential air travel, crowds, alcohol, excessive exercise, processed foods, smoke, sugar and stress which can impair immunity. If in a confined space with others open doors or windows for ventilation. Have two weeks supply of essentials in case of contagion and isolation.
Though there’s no conclusive evidence that natural remedies will assist this specific strain of coronavirus there are scientifically verified aids for cold and flu symptoms. A recent study from Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University in the Journal of Medical Virology recommending that patients’ nutritional status should be evaluated before any conventional treatment. The hospital recommended a regimen including Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, Omega-3, Selenium, Zinc and gammaglobulin.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C can block the enzyme neuraminadase which viruses need to reproduce. A study on 470 people found vitamin C decreased flu symptoms by 85%. (Pubmed PMID 10543583, 634178, 16169205, 12876306.)
Vitamin A – nicknamed “the anti-infective vitamin,” A is essential for maintaining an epithelial barrier to prevent penetration of harmful organisms.
Vitamin D – enhances the epithelium to produce endogenous antibiotics and suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines. A recent study of 19,000 people showed those with low levels of vitamin D suffered more colds and flu. Enjoy some sun for natural D.
Vitamin E – An immune booster that decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a which increases inflammation.
Colloidal silver – a Deakin University and Osaka University study found that colloidal silver significantly protected cells from H3N2 flu infection and prevented viral growth in the lungs.
Curcumin and Quercitin are potential COVID-19 inhibitors according to recent research. For natural sources of quercitin eat apples, berries, broccoli, capers, citrus fruits, onions, grapes and drink tea.
Medicinal Mushrooms – Reishi, Maitake and Cordyceps can boost natural killer cells as a defence force.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – can alleviate lung damage due to oxidative stress.
Oregano – contains the antiviral compound carvacrol.
Propolis – its anti-inflammatory and antiviral actions can ease the initial sore throat often accompanying a flu.
Prebiotics and probiotics support a healthy microbiome which assist immunity.
Resveratrol – red wine’s antioxidant inhibits viral penetration and replication.
Zinc – can reduce the duration of the common cold (also a coronavirus). Supplement or chew on pumpkin and sunflower seeds to boost zinc.
Herbs that can reduce viral impact include Astragalus, Baical Skullcap, Cats Claw, Echinacea, Elderberries, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Olive Leaf extract, Holy Basil, Oregano, St. John’s Wort and Thyme. Ginseng and Astragalus were used extensively in China for COVID-19 treatment and the journal Sciencepublished a review out of Yun-nan Academy of Agricultural Sciences explaining the provinces with the lowest infection rates used TCM formulas.
Eating a rainbow of nutritional food makes your cells smile from a happy microbiome. Try an immunity-boosting soup with split mung beans, sweet potato, onions, garlic, turmeric, garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Legumes are excellent as they reduce mucus, have high fibre, phytonutrients and protein essential for immunity. A kudzu dessert is neuroprotective and relieves aches.
Sip green tea as an antiviral and to decrease the inflammatory onslaught. My favourite flu tea is Ayurvedic using 2 antiviral star anise (with natural shikimic acid used in Tamiflu), 2 stimulating cinnamon quills, 3 warming peppercorns, 4 thin slices of fresh ginger, 4 antibacterial cloves, 5 squashed soothing cardamom pods and 10 basil leaves. Add to 3 cups of water. Boil down to 2 cups. Strain and drink 1 cup while lukewarm with a tsp manuka honey twice daily.
Preventing a secondary respiratory infection is vital to overcoming COVID-19. If there’s respiratory congestion its pivotal to promote drainage with steam inhalation with a few drops of eucalyptus oil, sitting upright when not sleeping with head/chest slightly elevated when sleeping plus lower lung percussion if advised. A Sydney doctor is advocating on his website that if hospitalised with COVID-19 to ask for intravenous vitamin C 15Gms.
Prescribed herbs can help with ache, breathing, energy, expectoration, fever and inflammation. Your qualified naturopath can devise the best brew for you and may include Astragalus, Barberry, Echinacea, Elderberry, Elecampane, Ginseng, Grindelia, Holy Basil, Ivy, Licorice, Marshmallow, Mullein, Pleurisy Root, Reishi, Sage, Thyme, Turmeric, White Horehound, White Willow Bark, Winter Cherry, Withania or Yarrow.
Love in the time of Corona
Despite disappearing toilet paper, declining ASX and increasing infection rates many remain resilient. We need to echo recently recovered Rita Wilson’s Quarantunes playlist, “I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna give up…” COVID-19 has brought both a contagious kindness and a savage selfishness. When asked what positives arose from this planetary pandemic here’s some insightful answers –
“Every gripe offers an opportunity to grow. I’m more grateful for my health, work, friends and family.” Karen, teacher.
Noah, “This makes me aware of how my already minimalistic lifestyle is best for the planet.”
Nadi, “This is a much needed recalibration for people and the planet. A message that we need a more sustainable approach.”
Ian, “This reminds me to care for senior citizens.”
Eloise (former commuter for 2 hrs now working from home), “This has given me back work/life balance, family time and I’m reducing fossil fuels.”
Kerry Frances, “I’m learning to live in the ever unfolding present moment.”
Samantha, “I’ve never felt more connected to the global community.”
Vaidya Rama Prasad, “It reinforces vedic wisdom to be clean, compassionate to animals, enjoy home cooking and namasthe!”
Warwick, “It’s an awakening of the populace with respect to the treatment of animals and fellow humans. We’ll continue to pay the price if we keep animal markets open, thinking we can escape the consequences.”
If you have to isolate, indulge yourself. If you can’t go out, go within and emerge from your retreat better than ever. As we spend time out we may ponder the precarious planet we’re passing on to children. A place where it’s dangerous to breathe air, hug, swim in waterways and walk barefoot. A world where wet animal markets are still operating.
Undoubtedly we can decelerate this disease and flatten that curve to cruise back to everyday life. But for how long? We need to heed this warning and have a radical reset, uprooting the cause of these health hazards and enjoy a healthy, happy life.
Caroline Robertson is a naturopath and homoeopath with thirty years experience. For phone or skype consultations please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For the appropriate dosages or if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, on medications or experiencing symptoms seek specific advice from your qualified health care provider. References available on request.