COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, is all anyone is talking about, and it’s something we want to take seriously. With it being a new virus, we don’t have a natural immunity built up yet. As a pharmacist with a retail business on the front lines of this pandemic, I find myself on edge. It’s a different kind of worry than what we experience during a natural disaster or other emergencies. We can’t hear it and we can’t see it, but we know it will be spreading through our community if it isn’t already.
On March 11 ,2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the current global situation as a pandemic due to the spread and severity of the outbreak. Currently, there are no FDA-approved treatments for COVID-19. However, preventative measures, such as hygiene, diet, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations still are important for immune support.
So what steps can we take to protect ourselves? We can only practice social distancing for so long before we as humans will want to interact with others in real life and not just on social media.
Like you, I wanted to know what I could take safely to optimize my immune system during this outbreak. I do know that the human body has amazing innate healing properties beyond our understanding and if just given the proper nutrition and fuel, it can for the most part take care of itself. While I haven’t seen any exact studies saying certain supplements are effective specifically against COVID-19, there is plenty of evidence to support the use of supplements in order to boost your immune system.
There is a lot of information floating around out there, and as a pharmacist, I wanted to provide objective information from what I know and research I have been following on:
What is COVID-19?
While COVID-19 is new, it is similar to Dengue and SARS, which are all members of the Corona family. They get into the cells via the ACE (angiotensin-I-converting enzyme). Because this is a new virus to affect humans, there is currently no vaccine and we don’t yet know how it will behave in the future. COVID-19 is thought to have originated in humans from contact with animals, but it now spreads person-to-person through “respiratory droplets.” The recommendation for 6 feet of distance is related to how far these droplets are likely to spread when sneezing or coughing.
As we learn more, it’s important to be paying attention to trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), WHO and your healthcare team. We can all play our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by following the CDC’s guidelines.
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
According to the CDC, Coronavirus is thought to primarily spread from person-to-person – those who are in close proximity (within six feet) and through droplets from coughs or sneezes.
Who Is At Risk for COVID-19?
Anyone can get COVID-19, but older adults and those with preexisting conditions have been the most vulnerable to COVID-19’s more serious consequences. If you have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung diseases (including asthma), take extra precautions. Be sure to follow recommendations from the CDC as well as local mandates.
How Can I Minimize My Exposure to COVID-19?
While the Coronavirus is not the flu, the recommended steps to avoid it are similar:
- Wash your hands. Soap and water are your most powerful defenses against exposure to all viruses, including both influenza and COVID-19. Wash your hands often for a minimum of 20 seconds, especially if you have been in a public place or have coughed or sneezed. Wash thoroughly, including between your fingers, under your nails, and up your wrists. Soap and water are best, but in a pinch use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol, rubbing your hands together until dry. (If you need some, we can make it for you).
- Don’t touch your face. Viruses can more easily enter through your mouth, nose and eyes so minimize contact with these vulnerable spots as much as you can.
- Keep your distance. Avoid crowded places and keep your distance from others as much as possible (at least six feet).
What Should I Do if I Get Sick with COVID-19?
While most people who contract COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms, it is our collective responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus.
- Stay home. Do not go to public spaces or take public transportation. Do not leave the house until you have not had a fever without the use of a fever-reducing medication for at least 72 hours and other symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath have improved. If you were tested for COVID-19 and will be tested to determine if you are still contagious, follow your doctor’s directions about when it is safe for you to leave home; your doctor will follow CDC protocol.
- Call your doctor. Call your doctor if you develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If you
need to go to your doctor’s office, walk-in clinic, or the emergency room, be sure to call ahead so that they can prepare. If you need to call 911, tell the operator that you have or may have COVID- 19.
- Separate yourself. Isolate yourself as much as possible within your home, keeping others out of your bedroom and, if possible, using a separate bathroom to avoid getting family members sick.
- Cover your coughs/sneezes. Use a tissue and discard it in a lined trash can then wash your
hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t
- Wear a face mask. When interacting with others or entering a medical facility, you should wear a face mask if one is available. Caregivers should wear a face mask when tending to someone who is sick.
- Clean high touch surfaces often. Clean and disinfect your room and bathroom while leaving
other areas of the house to family members to clean and disinfect. Be sure to clean such high touch surfaces as phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, fixtures, toilets, and keyboards. If a caregiver needs to clean the room or bathroom of someone who is sick, they should wear a mask and not clean the bathroom immediately after use.
The CDC recommends cleaning with soap and water and then use a household
disinfectant. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product label to ensure effectiveness and safety. For a full list of EPA-registered household disinfectants, visit EPA.gov.
How Can I Boost my Immune System?
Though COVID-19 is a new virus, other coronaviruses are not new. Even the common cold can be caused by a type of coronavirus. Taking certain supplements have provided anecdotal evidence that they can help boost your immune system and prepare it to fight off viruses that are introduced.
Supplements that are thought to boost your immune system include:
- Quercetin: 400mg daily used in combination with zinc to reduce an inflammatory lung response.
- Zinc: The benefits of zinc include, boosting immune system, eye health, and tissue production. I prefer glycinated vitamins and minerals as they have better absorption from the stomach into the blood. For example Chelated Zinc is 240% better absorbed than zinc sulfate and 390% better absorbed than zinc oxide.
- Vitamin C: 2000mg AM and 2000mg PM. Has been shown to stimulate both the production and function of white blood cells, especially neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes. These guys have been shown to to accumulate high concentrations of vitamin C, which can protect these cell types from oxidative damage.
- Vitamin D3: 5,000IU-10,000IU/day to boost immune system. In a previous blog article I wrote about the importance of Vitamin D3 as it's required for the formation of immune cells.
- Vitamin A: 10,000u (3,000 mcg) is thought to possess antiviral activity. 1 capsule AM and 1 capsule in PM. If you have an active infection ed increase to 2 caps AM and PM. If your having a hard time finding Vitamin A, consider Professional Grade Cod Liver. It taste better than it sounds.
Table 3: Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for Preformed Vitamin A * Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation 0–12 months 600 mcg 600 mcg 1–3 years 600 mcg 600 mcg 4–8 years 900 mcg 900 mcg 9–13 years 1,700 mcg 1,700 mcg 14–18 years 2,800 mcg 2,800 mcg 2,800 mcg 2,800 mcg 19+ years 3,000 mcg 3,000 mcg 3,000 mcg 3,000 mcg
- N-Acetyl Cysteine: 600mg daily - used in combination with Zinc, helps to reduce inflammatory lung response within the lungs. Recommend 600mg daily.
- Selenium: great for antioxidant support and maintaining inflammatory balance within the body.
- Melatonin: 3mg to 40mg each evening is thought to reduce the severity of the immune
inflammatory reaction. Recommend 6mg SR 2-3 tabs at bedtime. It has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant inducer and helps maintain normal inflammatory balance.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.