Avoiding COVID-19 Until You Get Your Vaccine

MY TOP 5 IMMUNE BOOSTERS

I’ve spent the past three weekends helping out Liz Ranko, pharmacist and owner of the iconic Rankos Stadium Pharmacy, vaccinating people in the “1A” group: health care workers, first responders, and nursing homes. Last Sunday we vaccinated over 200 of the Tacoma Police Force.

I got my second dose last Saturday night. In Washington, the vaccine is given according to the risk group you are in. So, it might be weeks before you can get your vaccine.

In the meantime, there’s plenty you can do to give yourself the best fighting chance if you are exposed.

  • Sleep
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Quercetin
VITAMIN D

One of the first things I’m advising my patients to do is to take adequate amounts of Vitamin D, especially up here in the Pacific Northwest where we have very little sun even in the summer. Vitamin D supports the immune system by tempering inflammation and boosting immune cells’ production of microbe-fighting proteins.

For most of my patients, I recommend 10,000 international units of Vitamin D per day. Some people worry they might overdose on Vitamin D by taking 10,000 international units. After all, the RDA of vitamin D is only 400 IU. That number was set in the 1950’s because it was the amount that was in 30 cc (1 tablespoon) of cod liver oil: enough to prevent rickets in inner city children. But vitamin D has more roles. In fact, it is not even a vitamin, it is a steroid hormone, similar in structure to testosterone and estrogen. The definition of a vitamin includes that it must be consumed and can’t be made by the body. Just like testosterone and estrogen, D is made in the body from cholesterol. So D is not a vitamin, because your body turns cholesterol into vitamin D. If you were to find that nice tropical island near the equator and lay out naked in the sun for one hour, you’re going to get about 20,000 international units of D, so don’t worry that 10,000 IU is too high a dose.

Avoiding COVID-19 Until You Get Your Vaccine
VITAMIN C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, has a host of health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, and improved cognition. It especially excels at boosting immunity by encouraging the production of white blood cells and becoming a part of the skin’s defense system.

Humans, guinea pigs, and a few other primates are the only animals that can’t make their own Vitamin C. When your dog gets sick, his immune system will produce a lot of Vitamin C. Humans cannot. We really are dependent on external sources of Vitamin C, and you’re just not going to get enough from orange juice, which is loaded with sugar anyway.

How much to take? Everyone is different. I often recommend dosing Vitamin C to what is called “bowel tolerance.” Vitamin C is great a relieving constipation, but too much can cause the runs, so I usually suggest starting with 1000 mg of a buffered, powdered C and increasing it until your bowels are moving comfortably 2-3 times a day. If you get diarrhea, drop the dose a bit.

ZINC

I suggest 20-60 mg of zinc a day. In addition to supporting the immune system, zinc can make it harder for a virus to get into your cells in the first place: if a virus in the air lands on your nasal or oral mucosa, a coating of zinc can prevent the virus from penetrating the cell. Even if you are exposed, zinc just might make the difference between getting infected or not. In addition to taking as a tablet or capsule, Zinc is available as an OTC nasal spray, throat spray, and lozenge: Zicam is a name brand I’ve been taking faithfully for years every time I fly, and I believe it has kept me from catching colds (including other corona viruses that cause colds) and flu over the past ten years; I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a cold or flu. At high doses over longer periods of time (and we are definitely getting there!), we will need to consider copper intake, zinc can affect your needs for copper, so sometimes I am measuring zinc and copper levels.

MASKING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

We can’t talk about Covid without a discussion of masking and social distancing, right? You should wear a mask when you’re in an enclosed space with other people you don’t live with. You’ve heard plenty on this and I won’t belabor the point.

RESPIRATORY DROPLETS: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

An understanding of viral transmission can help you know how to keep from getting it. Covid-19 is mainly transmitted like other viruses, in respiratory droplets. This is just a fancy name for spit. Spit can only be suspended in the air for so long before it falls to the ground, and of course this depends on conditions such as wind and sunlight. It cannot be suspended in the air for long, as happens with the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Six feet is the distance chosen based on how far coronavirus can effectively travel in water droplets indoors. Masks are pretty effective at preventing respiratory drops from traveling in the air. And if they do, they are not likely to survive more than six feet of air travel.

GROCERY CARTS AND DOORNOBS

Well, yes. But you have control over this. In medicine we refer to objects that inadvertently transmit a disease as fomites. This virus can survive on some surfaces for varied periods of time, and it can live a short time on the surface your hands, too. What you need to know is: it does NOT have the ability to infect you through your intact skin – it can only get into mucosa cells. It needs you to place it in a favorable spot: like your nose, mouth, or eyes. Now, your nose and mouth are full of other bacteria and viruses, so the virus will have to compete with them, and most viruses and bacteria that you put in your mouth are destroyed. Your eyes, on the other hand, have very little defense against viruses. So, when out among other people, it is super important to be aware of your hands and face and especially refrain from touching your eyes until you can wash your hands.

There are many things that can be done to help prevent catching Covid-19 in the first place, in addition to masking and social distancing. If you do become infected, there may also be things that can be done that may decrease the severity of the illness. Feel free to ask at your next visit.

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