COVID-19 March 22, 2020

After Social Distancing—How Do We Protect Ourselves?

As there is only one known strain of COVID-19, scientifically, there must be reasons why some healthy individuals have no symptoms, and others die of the virus. The more we explore these differences, the better protected we will be.

One supposition is that the dose may matter. An abundance of droplets may be lethal, but an attenuated virus laying on a bannister for hours may provide low dose immunity. Without immunity, quarantining will have little effect on another surge of infection once we return to life as we knew it, and hiding forever is a sad option.

Lastly, I heard it said about COVID-19 that we are fighting an enemy without ammunition. That is anything but true. Our immune system is comprised of three, well-organized, lines of defense, with a well-equipped arsenal of ammunition. Only when these fail, do we become sick. Using this fundamental principle, I have applied some common sense, everyday strategies to make use of them when we venture back into the world.

The first line of defense for a virus is our barrier. Our skin, nasal hairs, stomach acids, mucus, and tears guard our portals of entry by either trapping and flushing out pathogens, or producing an enzyme to destroy them. We also have killer cells that attack your first line of defense by not over-bombarding it:

—Practice good hygiene by washing your hands and not touching your nose, eyes and mouth.

—Wear a mask in public places to protect yourself and others from infectious droplets.

—Do not stand in another’s direct line of fire. If someone coughs, sneezes, or talks too closely, do not breathe in the immediate air. If possible, wash, or at least wipe your nose and mouth. To reiterate, a large dose of droplets may be far more infectious than a few virions that have lost their potency on an inanimate surface.

—Breathe through the nose, not the mouth, so that hair particles will trap microbes, and enzymatic mucous will flush and destroy them. Be sure to clear the nasal passages by blowing out regularly, and not sniffling back up into the sinuses. Blow nose one nostril at a time without excessive force to avoid forcing mucous back into sinuses, and use fresh tissues rather than turning and reusing if hands are contaminated.

—Take regular deep exhalations. This will expel air trapped in the lower lung where germs breed.

—Take regular deep inhalations to expand and maintain lung capacity.

—Drink and breathe in the steam of hot fluids to kill nasal pathogens.

—Gargle with hot water and salt to cleanse pathogens in throat and tonsils, before they are inhaled.

— Avoid cough suppressants, and cough periodically to expel pathogens in the bronchi before traveling to the lungs.

—Drink plenty of fluids to help flush toxins that have been swallowed, and avoid antacids, as stomach acid is an unfriendly environment for most pathogens. 

— Maintain fresh air indoors by opening windows, and using air purifiers. HEPA filters can be purchased in sheets, and cut to fit standard air filters.

—Check your oxygen levels and temperature if you suspect you have been infected. Temperatures over 100 degrees F indicate a pathogen, and oxygen levels which have dropped 8 mmHg within days indicate the pathogen has likely moved to the lungs, at which point serious risks are likely, and one should seek care.

— The lungs and rib cage work in unison to replace stale, carbonated air with fresh, oxygenated air. Stress inhibits this system, and tightens the muscles between the ribs, inhibiting lung expansion. Take deep breaths and massage the tissue between your ribs to reduce muscle spasm and increase lung capacity.

The second line of defense is non-specific immune responses which attack foreign particles. This line of defense also includes fever and a generalized inflammatory reaction. 

—Don’t be a good host. Viruses love body temperature and below. Keep your body warm, particularly the neck and chest where the virus settles. Avoid attempts to lower a temperature of 103 degrees F or less with medication like Tylenol. The fever is the body‘s way of killing the virus. Don’t interfere.

— The inflammatory process is meant to attack and kill the invaders indiscriminately. Avoid anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil, Aleve, aspirin, as well as prescription anti-inflammatories. Unfortunately, there is an occasional overreaction, and the process attacks the body tissue. 

—Do not overburden your second line of defense with contaminated food, hands, teeth, etc., as will have less reserve to combat a virus. You may also prevent an over-reaction.

Our third line of defense is immune responses which produce specific antibodies to battle the individual invader that made it past the first two lines of defense. We have specific and general antibodies on hand. When we encounter a new strain or virus, the antibodies have to redesign and reproduce to combat the new virion. This is the principle behind the vaccine, but it happens naturally as well. Usually this occurs within four to seven days of exposure.

—Get plenty of rest. This third immune response occurs mostly during sleep.

— Chronic stress can impact the way immune cells in the brain function and increase inflammation. Genetic variants within that stress response can further affect the function of immune cells.  Experience peace and gratitude instead.

—Sugar lowers the immune response for hours after being ingested. Enjoy a healthy, well-balanced, sugar-free diet, or at least refrain from sugar before possible exposure.

—The immune system requires vitamin D, of which most people are deficient. Get plenty of sunshine (or salmon) to replenish.

—Exercise daily to keep the blood, antibodies, and oxygen circulating, and stress reduced.

What to do if someone sneezes on you:

Hold your breath until you can distance yourself six feet, or stand behind the person. Then remove your mask, and breathe freely.  As an extra precaution, you may want to wash your face.

“People should remember that they’re as healthy as they feel, and shouldn’t go around feeling as unhealthy as they fear.” 

— Dr. Viscidi

May we fully employ our three lines-of-defense to enjoy long, healthy, interactive lives.

Dr. Pauline M. Canelias, 15 East 40th St., Suite 201, New York, NY 10016