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Preventing exposure first line of defense against COVID-19

by Dr. Seth Lukens, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics

As we know, the first line of defense against coronavirus is preventing exposure.

These are things like masks, hand hygiene, social distancing, reducing unnecessary travel etc. all of which are very important. In case we are exposed to Coronavirus (though there are no confirmed cases in Clearwater County yet) we do have a limited number of tests. We recently acquired the ability to do rapid tests for COVID-19 infection that have results within about 30 minutes. Currently these are mostly reserved for emergencies. We don't have the antibody test yet.

There are a number of lifestyle choices and habits we can make to help keep our immune system in a healthy condition and ready to fight the virus; if need be. These are also, of course, beneficial for the whole body and can help with many chronic conditions.

First let's talk about simple water. Adequate amounts of water are very beneficial for overall health. Drinking 6 to 8 cups of water is adequate for most people. Of course, working hard and sweating will increase your water requirement. Water can also be applied externally for immune system benefits. Taking regular showers helps to keep the skin clean and eliminate toxins.

Also, something called hydrothermal therapy has been shown to help the immune system and help with blood circulation. This can be done by slightly increasing the body's temperature through application of warm water through methods like Jacuzzis, warm baths, saunas, warm showers, and warm compresses. For most people about 20 - 30 minutes of heat application followed by about 30 seconds to one minute of cold water application is beneficial. This can be broken up into cycles of 5 minutes heat then 30 seconds of cold for a total of 20 to 30 minutes. Ideally this would be done about 3 times a day (60 to 90 minutes total per day). People with certain conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, and neuropathies will need to speak with their doctor before doing hydrothermal therapy. Hydrothermal therapy was found to be helpful during the 1918 flu pandemic. There is some evidence now that this will also help with the Coronavirus infection. Further studies are ongoing.

The immune boosters exercise, sunlight, and fresh air can be combined in outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, and walking outside in the sunlight. At least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week is recommended. Strength training provides even more benefit. Vitamin D is easily obtained from sunlight. For most people, about 20 minutes of midday sun on as much skin exposed as possible during the summer months is a good amount. Too much sun can of course burn the skin and lead to skin cancer. So, it's important to get the right amount. Studies have shown that just being out in the woods has benefits for the immune system.

A healthy diet with a lot of unprocessed foods is very beneficial to the immune system; particularly eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods rich in antioxidants such as berries, kale, spinach, beans and many others, are particularly helpful for the immune system.

Temperance is very important for overall health and the health of the immune system. Avoid harmful things like smoking, illegal drugs, refined high sugar and/or high fat foods. Taking time for balance in our lives is essential. If our work is chiefly mental, we need to get some physical activity and vice versa. Getting adequate rest enhances our physical and mental health. Most people need about seven to eight hours of good quality sleep per night.

Finally, trust in a higher power through activities like prayer and meditation and music is also beneficial for health. Some of my favorite verses are in Philippians chapter 4 and especially verses 6,7 and 13. This is a stressful time for many people with unemployment or other financial stress and stress from disruption in our normal routine. I want to encourage people not to worry too much (and don't watch the news too much). Get back into a healthful routine by incorporating the above health principles into your life if you haven't already. This will help you stay healthy in body, mind and spirit.

Photo: Dr. Seth Lukens

Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Phone: (208) 476-0733
Fax: (208) 476-4140