At the end of 2019, health authorities in China alerted the world to a new type of coronavirus (now named 2019-nCoV infection or COVID-19) that had caused pneumonia in a handful of people in Wuhan since mid-December. The number of cases has since ballooned, with thousands of cases now getting reported. The entire city of Wuhan is on lockdown, and those infected getting quarantined. The virus has been confirmed to be a new coronavirus, in the same family as SARS and MERS. So what can you do to protect yourself against COVID-19? Be vigilant in preventing the spread of the virus and ensuring you keep your immune system strong:
Wash your hands regularly: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Throughout the day, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to continue disinfecting your hands. On average, we touch our face and mouth 20 times an hour, so this is a big one to limit exposure to COVID-19!
Wear an appropriate mask when traveling: There are two main types of face masks that are being used to do that. One is a standard surgical mask, which does not fully protect against all airborne bacteria but lessens exposure and one is N95 respirators, which offer more protection. Such devices are designed to prevent 95 percent of small particles from entering the nose and mouth area. But they only work if they fit properly, and are not suitable for children or people with facial hair.
Avoid contact with people who are sick: Especially as the virus progresses, try to limit exposure to people who are actively sick and coughing. A good rule of thumb is to assume that everyone you interact with could be a carrier for COVID-19 and act accordingly, keeping a good distance.
Keep surfaces clean: Touching contaminated objects is one of the leading causes of contracting an illness. Throughout the day you touch so many things other people may have touched – doorknobs, stair railings, appliances, your phone – and then you do the unthinkable without even realizing it: touch your face (or even worse, your mouth!). In your home make sure to keep surfaces clean with cleaner, particularly one containing tea tree oil because it is a natural antiseptic.
If you’re sick, stay home: When you’re already under the weather, your immune system is reduced, it’s best to stay at home and get better!
Get fresh air and sunlight: Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D correlate with an increased risk of respiratory problems, so it’s extremely important to get your daily dose of sunlight. Make sure to put on some sunscreen!
Eat fruits and vegetables: When eating fruits and vegetables, always look for variety; you want to have brightly colored food. Citrus fruits are a number one when it comes to strengthening your immune system as they pack a ton of vitamin C in them. Some leafy green vegetables contain a strong amount of vitamin C, such as kale and spinach.
Get enough sleep: Every night you should get seven to nine hours of sleep. Not sleeping enough can throw your body off and lead to increased inflammation and the spread of germs. When looking to fight off illness sleep will be your best friend. Read our list of best foods to eat to promote sleep.
Drink Tea: Tea: Researchers at Harvard University found that drinking five cups of black tea a day quadrupled the body’s immune defense system after two weeks, probably because of theanine. Tea also contains catechins, including ECGC, which act like a cleanup crew against free radicals. We recommend you drink 3 cups of tea a day during flu season and read our Healthiest Teas list.
Exercise regularly: Daily exercise does the body plenty of good. Exercise doesn’t have to be extremely strenuous – or even strenuous at all to qualify as exercise and allow your body to reap its benefits. Even walking for thirty minutes a day will make a difference in your immune system. Someone who doesn’t workout is more susceptible to getting sick rather than someone who does.
According to the CDC, if you traveled in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
- Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Not travel while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.