As news spreads of the novel coronavirus illness known as COVID-19, we want to provide some assurance and reminders about key prevention strategies.
Despite sensational headlines, COVID-19 is in most cases a mild infection characterized by fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Many have no symptoms at all. Other symptoms may include those commonly seen with influenza, such as fatigue, body aches, nasal congestion, and nausea.
The risk for a person in otherwise good health developing a serious or life-threatening case of COVID-19 is low. Because not every case of COVID-19 has been tested for, it is highly likely that the current death rates from COVID-19 (1-3.4% worldwide) are significantly overestimated. By comparison, for the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that in the U.S. alone, at least 14,000 people have already died from the flu and 250,000 people have been hospitalized.
As with influenza, those at increased risk of COVID-19 include elderly individuals and those with preexisting health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and compromised immune systems.
The prevention strategies listed below can help you with both the flu and the novel coronavirus. The following are taken directly from the CDC’s website on Coronavirus Disease 2019 Prevention & Treatment:
- Stay home if you are ill.
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Avoid touching your face, especially nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Please cough or sneeze into a tissue, and then dispose of that tissue.
- Use household cleaning sprays or wipes (as tolerated) to sanitize frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- A face mask is not recommended for those who are well. They are, however, recommended for those who show symptoms of COVID-19, and healthcare workers and caretakers in close contact with COVID-19 patients, in order to reduce spreading the illness.
- Please wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more (sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice!), before eating, after using the restroom, and after cough, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, if soap and water are not readily available, must contain at least 60% alcohol.
Additional preventive health strategies include:
- Get adequate sleep – aim for at least 8 hours per night. Sleep is essential for all bodily functions and is a key component of immune regulation.
- Get adequate sunlight – now that it’s warming up out there in the Sacramento area, the sun is back to help you get your vitamin D levels up. Vitamin D has many powerful activities related to both boosting and balancing healthy immune function.
- Stay hydrated – clean water flushes the bad stuff out and helps get the good stuff in. Drink plenty of water, especially if you are sick.
- Avoid high-sugar foods, excess alcohol, and highly refined foods. These foods are hard on the liver and immune system and require the body to devote its resources to detoxification. Eat plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and small to moderate amounts of pasture-raised animal products.
- Get outdoors – especially in the forest. Research in Japan has shown that exposure to forested areas boosts the activity of natural killer cells (a type of immune cell), opens up the lungs, and calms the nervous system.
- Stay physically active – the right amount of exercise promotes circulation, detoxification, and increased immune activity. On the other hand, exercising too hard or for too long can deplete the immune system.
- Manage stress and don’t let fear get the better of you. You got this! Cortisol (a key stress hormone) mobilizes white blood cells to the skin, meaning they’re less available where they’re needed in the blood and lymph to detect and fight infections.
Talk with your naturopathic doctor if you have preexisting health conditions or a compromised immune system, and we can provide you with some additional measures you can take to protect yourself and prevent infection. Naturopathic medicine has many powerful tools to improve immune function in addition to the above key prevention strategies, including botanical medicines, nutrient supplements, nasal ozone insufflation, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and IV therapy. We are here to help you during this viral upper respiratory illness season, as with any other, and we understand that the headlines can be scary. A central principle of naturopathic medicine is that when the conditions are right, health is the natural state of being. We can work with your body to help you achieve that.
However, if you do experience symptoms of COVID-19 or suspect you may be infected, please call the California Department of Public Health to arrange for testing at one of their locations. If you are unsure based on your symptoms, you can schedule a phone or telemedicine visit with one of our doctors and we can help you determine the most appropriate approach.