Coronaviruses are in general quite common. You may actually get one once every year or two. However, we’re experiencing mass panic over the current novel coronavirus strain, which has killed a few thousand people in China among the many thousands infected, and sent entire nations into a panic.
There are a handful of truths regarding this novel coronavirus:
- Most of the people who contract the worst form of the novel coronavirus will make a full recovery without any required medical intervention, just like most people who get a common cold or the flu.
- The death rate of the novel coronavirus is actually quite low. About 1-2% of people who have reportedly tested positive for it have died from it, and almost all of the deaths have been in China and Italy, where tens of thousands (again, nearly all known cases) have been diagnosed. Virtually all of the people who have died from the novel coronavirus either have seriously compromised immune systems or live in abjectly unsanitary conditions (and that’s assuming all stats are accurate, which is highly questionable). Sure, I’d be worried about the health of either population, but the vast majority of those reading this are in a much better situation.
- Regardless of anything anyone does, there’s little people can do to prevent its overall spread, quarantines or not. It’s an airborne virus, and a common type of virus at that. It’s like trying to eradicate or quarantine the flu or common cold. Good luck.
- The current quarantines are more a product of systemic panic than necessity.
- Other governments are semi-thoughtlessly following in kind with their own over-reaching quarantines, not realizing they’re parroting a needless overreaction from a totalitarian government. This never minds major events that have elected to cancel said events in response to the hysteria. In most cases, they’re making a panic-driven mistake.
All of this said, this novel coronavirus strain is worth concern, the same way any major flu strain or flu season is worth concern.
As always, there are things you can and should do to safeguard yourself from illness and give your body the best chance to flush and resist that illness should it find its way into your system.
However, I have useful advice beyond the standard “wash your hands, take your vitamin C, avoid crowds, etc”. Here are some tips for you to help your body and immune system withstand any potential exposure to any illness, not to mention the novel coronavirus.
Drink a lot of HOT water
Yes, you should take in large quantities of fluids. But there’s a lot of value to taking in hot fluids rather than simple cold or room temperature fluid.
- The heat can kill bacteria that a virus feeds on and potentially disable viruses on contact. A lot of bacteria and viruses can travel into your bloodstream through ingested cooler liquid. Heated liquid helps minimize or prevent that.
- The heat aids digestion. Warm and hot liquid digests more easily in your gut, whereas cold liquid can interfere with the digestion of any food ingested with it, plus cold liquids like water often get passed completely through your digestive tract and urinate back out rather than be absorbed.
- The heat helps regulate body temperature. If you’re in cold environments, this can minimize the effort your sympathetic nervous system has to expend to keep your body temperature normal. It also eases pressure on your immune system, which obviously has a lot of work to do right now.
Any hot or boiled water drink is fair game: Coffee, tea, soup, even just hot water by itself. Boil drinking water. Drink it.
Eat a clean diet of food prepared or stored yourself.
A sneaky method of infection is eating food handled by someone else who has the illness. Chances are very good that any food prepared for you was handled by someone who has or has been exposed to the illness you’re worried about.
Another key thing to remember is that your immune system is powered by nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The crappy processed food most people eat today is devoid of these nutrients. Without those nutrients, your immune system has no ammo to fight any incoming impurities or illnesses, and chances are good you’ll get sick.
I harp endlessly on about the value of a clean diet built around whole unprocessed foods. they become supremely important during an illness epidemic. Even if you get an illness in your bloodstream, a strong immune system bolstered by as many key nutrients as possible will stand the best chance of fighting off the illness and building an immunity before it actually makes you ill.
You’re already on the wrong track if you’re asking any form of, “Which vitamins should I take? Vitamin C? Vitamin B? Zinc? (etc).” The answer is: Yes. You should eat a robust diet that will expose you to as many positive nutrients each day as possible. Eat your vegetables, grains/legumes/nuts, and whatever fresh fruit you like. If you’re not vegan, eat clean cuts of meat/fish.
However, I’d take it easy on dairy, which can trigger histamine reactions in many people. That won’t help ward off an illness that also likes to trigger and feed off those reactions.
Wash and cook everything you eat.
Raw fruit and vegetables probably have bacteria and particles of that airborne illness on it. Washing off your fruit beforehand becomes mandatory reading. Cooking all your vegetables will help kill the bacteria in high heat while inhibiting and potentially disabling any trace of any virus.
Again, it helps if you’re the one doing the cooking and washing, and you know you’re not ill. Tread with caution if anyone else is doing the cooking and washing.
If you don’t have a problem with doing so, get a flu shot
There’s all sorts of vaccine debates, and I’m not going to get into them. I understand if some people are opposed to them.
That said, if you haven’t yet, you probably should get a flu shot… even if the flu shot won’t specifically protect you from the novel coronavirus or any other viruses. The flu itself is a difficult illness to deal with, and not worth the trouble if you can avoid it. The flu can also be a conduit for other illnesses like this dreaded novel coronavirus, whether other illnesses piggy-back off its infection, or the weakened immune system from the flu allows a virus to infect more easily.
I have gotten a flu shot every winter for the last several years. I was talked out of getting one for this year, but at this point I think it’s better late than never for me to get one for this winter.
Spend a lot more time alone
During my last couple years in Chicago this was not much of a problem. I lived alone, and worked mostly in isolation, so I didn’t need to interact with anyone that often if I chose.
In the case of a rampant illness or illness threat, the far and away biggest contributor to catching an illness is being cooped up inside with other people, many of whom have the illness and are contagious. If you can minimize your exposure to other people, you can minimize your potential exposure to an illness while it is hot and you have yet to build up the needed antibodies.
This is not to say you should turn into a hermit. But if you know people who are sick, the best thing you can do for yourself is distance yourself from them for a little while. Now is a good time for some self-reflection and to work on yourself in some way.
Most people do work in an environment where they must interact with others, and cannot help their exposure to that. This is about maximizing your exposure outside of that setting and observing the law of averages. If you can spend the majority of your time not exposed to the illness, you can minimize your chances of that illness making you sick.
If you live with people, spend more time outside and in open space than at home
Obviously, some people cannot help their exposure to other people, because they live with them. Whether your company is a significant other and/or kids, or multiple roommates, or a cell block you share with a couple dozen felons… you should make a point to spend some extended time outside whenever possible.
The outside air generally is diluted from germs and any illnesses. There is just too much open space in outdoor air for the most compacted collections of a virus to take hold and get ingested by breath in any sort of substantial quantity. Getting outside, even if it’s cold, is good for your lungs in not just giving you some relatively clear air, but also helping to cycle out any indoor air and inhaled germs from your lungs. No guarantees, but it will absolutely help.
Plus, taking a walk gets you some exercise and generates circulation that can help flush any toxins and illnesses from your system, while cycling in any nutrients and vitamins ingested. It gives your immune system a boost by helping accelerate the flush of any bad plus the absorption and exposure of any good ingested.
Don’t buy the old wives mythology of cold outdoor air being bad for your lungs. You breathe in dusty air ten times worse anytime you’re indoors. (By the way, consider buying an air purifier for your bedroom/home if you don’t have one yet) Plus, if you’re moving around, the heat generated should help compensate for whatever coldness you breathe in. Your body has an average temperature of 98-99°F (37°C), and it doesn’t go down much in cold unless the temperature is deadly low (and unless you’re in Siberia or Canada, it probably isn’t). Wear a scarf over your mouth and stay close to your front door if you’re still worried.
Don’t share meals.
One of the great pieces of cultural Western mythology is that it’s always healthy to converse with other people while eating. In reality, it often interferes too much with the eating process plus adds stress to what should be (and sometimes needs to be) a relaxing activity by forcing participants to multitask an activity that wasn’t biologically designed for multitasking. The only people who have seen benefit from regularly eating socially have other inherent difficulties with eating and diet habits that they aren’t reconciling, and consorting with others while eating helps distract and artificially aver them from those unreconciled problems. But I digress.
Everything I’ve said above about lots of people leading to lots of potential exposure to an illness applies here. Everything I’ve said about the value of maximizing alone time when an illness goes around applies here. Everything I said about preparing and eating your own food handled by yourself applies here.
Don’t share meals when an illness is going around unless you want to get sick.
Buy a neti pot and flush your nostrils with distilled nasal-saline water every day
Your nose and its membranes take in a lot of bacteria and other dirt every day. If it sits in there long enough, it can get into your bloodstream and make you sick. Or it can irritate your nasal passage and produce histamine reactions that can help make you sick. Blowing your nose in itself often isn’t enough, especially if your nasal passages are dry (in fact, if they are wet with mucus, that could mean you’re already getting sick).
Flushing your nose with a neti pot (which I’ve gone over in this previous post) is not only useful when you actually are sick and are trying to speed along healing. It is also useful when illnesses are going around, because using it and subsequently blowing your nose can help flush away a lot of potential trouble hiding out in your nasal passage.
As always, use distilled water only… not filtered water and certainly not regular tap water (again, using tap water is how those brain eating amoeba from neti pot cases happened).
And the pots are meant to be used with a special nasal-designed saline solution, so make sure to use the special salt with your distilled water when using the neti pot. If you buy a neti pot at a store, and a sample packet of the solution isn’t included, there should be a supply sold right nearby on the shelf.
Take a multivitamin
Yes, the common tale with multivitamin supplements is that when you take vitamins you just pee them back out. And for the most part that’s what you do. But there’s a lot of those vitamins that you actually absorb. That’s why it’s called a supplement: Your digestive tract generally absorbs what you need and passes the rest.
Ideally, you eat a sound diet and get all the vitamins you need from that. But it’s 2020, most people’s food comes out of a pre-processed package devoid of nutrients, and we know better. Your food should provide a good quantity of needed vitamins, and your vitamin supplements should provide the rest.
Find and take a good multivitamin every evening shortly after dinner. Your body’s immune system will make good use of the vitamins. The varieties you see at stores like Whole Foods are probably okay, and the cheap/crappy varieties you see at a regular drug store or supermarket probably aren’t. One particular multivitamin that’s very effective is Source of Life, which while pricey is whole-food-based and thus very potent. Most vitamin stores carry it.
Also: Unless you already take them daily as a standard practice, don’t fall into the common Western mythology of pounding vitamin C or fool’s gold remedies like Emergen-C or echinachea to prevent illness. Those who preach taking these (assuming they’re not just trying to make money off you) missed the forest for the trees on how those nutrients aid the body, and are overlooking all the other important elements to good immunity habits. It’s like expecting to build a two story house out of a hammer, three nails and a brick.
Those alleged immune remedies by themselves will not help you much at all, and probably add little to nothing when done on top of the above recommendations. Eat a sound whole food diet prepared as recommended, and take a multivitamin supplement.
Get moderate cardiovascular exercise every day you can.
Recall above I mentioned the benefit of circulation from walking. That benefit is magnified if you can and do engage in moderate cardiovascular exercise, like running or accordant cross training. Since most of you reading this are runners, I imagine you already do this all the time.
It becomes super important to continue exercising outdoors as often as you can. A moderate intensity need not be beyond an easy, relaxed pace, as long as you extend the workout beyond 30-45 minutes. You want to get a good amount of circulation, metabolism and calorie burn generated. This prevents an illness from settling into your bloodstream and getting situated. Your body’s sympathetic recovery process will effectively shove a lot of any lingering illness from your bloodstream as it pushes to generate recovery and growth in your body.
The biggest risk is that you’re sick and exercise could enhance the effect of the illness, which is why you want to avoid it when you are very sick with the flu or similar. But then again, this piece is about avoiding getting sick in the first place, or preventing an illness from making you full-blown sick. Moderate exercise will help you stay healthy and ward off those tough illnesses.
If there is ever one time where it’s important you turn in on time and get as much sleep as your body needs every night you possibly can, it’s during the spread of an illness.
Like your recovery from exercise, your immune system relies heavily on the positive hormonal effects of sleep to maximize the prevention of illness. If you’re sleep deprived, chances are much greater that any illness entering your system becomes an actual full-blown illness you get to deal with.
Stay active. Stay clean. Follow this advice. Stay well.
And the novel coronavirus is not a pandemic of doom. Don’t buy the media-fueled hysteria, most of which is being pushed by one or a variety of agendas. Tread with caution with any person, organization or source that tries to convince you otherwise.
Get outside, get some exercise, and be smart. You’ll probably be okay even if it hits your neighborhood.
Bonus: Here’s some additional tips for avoiding illness while training.
[…] the lines of my avoiding illness post, I want to offer some additional tips for runners who are seriously training for a goal race […]