It’s easy to panic about the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The fact that it’s a fast-spreading and far-reaching virus is frightening, but experts agree that we should stay informed, take precautions, and try not to freak out. “Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing or stopping their outbreaks,” the World Health Organization says on its website.
If you’re wondering how to make your immune system stronger so that your body is less hospitable to novel coronavirus, or any other virus, the usual rules still apply. Here are some easy ways to boost your immune system.
Eat healthy foods ...
It’s pretty basic: if you put healthy foods in your body, your body gets healthier. A diet made up of lots of fruits, vegetables, good fats, and healthy grains will help keep your immune system in fighting shape.
... but remember that there are no miracle cures
There are a number of healthy foods that are good for your immune system and can help contribute to a well-balanced diet, like citrus fruits, garlic, turmeric, and spinach. And lots of supplements, like zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin B6, are making the rounds as “immunity boosters” right now, too.
But it’s important to remember that there are no miracle fixes. “There are a lot of products that tout immune boosting properties, but I don’t think any of these have been medically proven to work,” Dr. Krystina Woods, hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West, told The New York Times about zinc and other foods and supplements specifically advertised as immunity boosters.
Vitamins and minerals probably won’t hurt, but there’s very little research proving that they’ll do much. The best course of action is to talk to your doctor about your vitamin levels, and let them tell you if there are any supplements you should be taking.
You already know this, but regular exercise lowers blood pressure, improves your cardiovascular system, and generally contributes to good health, which also strengthens your immune system.
Smoking impairs the immune system in a few different ways. It can weaken your immune system’s defences, making you more susceptible to infection, and can also make your immune system more likely to develop harmful pathogenic immune responses.
And because the novel coronavirus is a respiratory illness, smoking can exacerbate the risk of contraction, according to Stanton A. Glantz, the director of the Center for Tobacco Research Control & Education.
Drink in moderation
Excessive drinking impairs your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
Get enough sleep
Try to minimize stress
I know, I know: this is a tough one right now. But lots of research shows that stress can compromise immune systems. So if you can find ways to calm down and introduce some self-care into your routine, you’ll be better off.
Also, another finding from that research is that healthy and robust social contact can benefit your health. So seeing friends is a good way to combat stress.
In order to stave off coronavirus, here are your best bets:
Wash your hands
Don’t touch your face
Yes, once you hear this you just want to keep touching your face. But the World Health Organization says that hands can easily pick up infections — that’s why washing them is so important — and the face, eyes, and nose are quick ways for the virus to enter your body.
Cover your mouth when you sneeze
Droplets spread the virus, so make sure to contain them by coughing or sneezing into your elbow.
Stay home if you feel sick
That’s the most effective way to stop the virus from spreading.
This article originally appeared in HuffPost Canada.