The coronavirus has been the main topic of discussion on almost every platform for most of 2020. Everybody has an opinion – be it on the wearing of masks, the sale of tobacco or whether schools should reopen. While voicing an opinion surely makes you feel better, it is very frustrating that there is basically nothing you can do, except wait it out.
While scientists across the world are working night and day to find a vaccine against the Covid-19 infection, they are warning us that it may still take a while.
Nevertheless, good progress is being made in that a new study was published in May 2020 by Dr Alessandro Sette and Dr Shane Crotty at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Their research found that the human body’s immune response can recognise the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a few ways. This means that we do not have to worry that our immune system will react inappropriately towards a vaccine.
The research team isolated T-cells from the blood of adults who have recovered from a mild case of Covid-19. They wanted to confirm whether these T-cells could recognise the protein fragments from the virus. The blood samples showed that the patients had good responses from their T-cells, which means that they could produce enough antibodies against the virus, resulting in a successful antiviral response.
According to the researchers, we can now start to examine whether the immune response in people who receive an experimental vaccine is similar to the patients who recovered without hospitalisation, resulting in a protective immune response. This is only a baseline, but it holds promise for the future development of a vaccine!
In the meantime, the dreaded cold and flu season is upon us! Some of us love winter – think endless cups of hot chocolate, snuggling under blankets and binge watching your favourite TV series, but when we are sick and feeling unwell, the allure of a blanket on the couch disappears.
To help you stay healthy and to avoid the usual runny nose and sore throat, here are a few suggestions to boost your immune system:
To keep your immune system in good shape, you will need to stick to a moderate exercise programme. Thirty to forty minutes, three to four times a week is much better than one or two intense workout sessions as it may suppress or overload your immune system. Use the allowed exercise time between 06h00 and 09h00 to go for a brisk walk or cycle. Many dogs that have never been walked are being walked during that period – so join the club!
Get enough sleep
While we might not be as physically tired as we are during normal times, we should still try to get enough sleep as our immune system thrives on a good night’s sleep. For adults it is about 7 hours per night, for teens about 8-10 hours and younger kids as much as 14 hours.
Do not fall into the trap of taking naps during the day – it will influence your sleeping pattern at night. If you are bored, try to use the time effectively and work on a hobby or a project that you do not normally have time for.
Discipline yourself to not play on your smartphone in bed. Put the phone away at least an hour before bedtime as the blue light will keep your brain awake.
Drink a cup of herbal tea, such as camomile, before bed. Camomile is a calming herb and will help you to settle down. A milky drink with honey also works, provided you are not prone to milk allergies.
Keep your bedroom clean – dust can cause allergies and post-nasal drips that can disturb your sleep.
We all know that drinking water is essential to support overall health and is also good for your immune system. However, it is not so easy to drink lots of cold water in winter. Flavour the water with lemon or basil to make it more refreshing and heat it slightly to make it easier to drink. Unsweetened herbal teas are also a good option. Try to avoid too much caffeine and sugar.
Eat healthy meals
To stay healthy and to strengthen your immune system, ensure that you eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Concentrate on foods rich in antioxidants such as seeds, nuts and green leafy vegetables. Remember everything citrus is in season: oranges, pomelo and naartjies are full of natural sugar and contain lots of vitamin C, which supports your immune response. Cook a nutritious soup with loads of vegetables and meat. It is not only nutritious but very satisfying, especially with freshly baked bread. Although tempting in the colder weather, avoid processed, oily foods.
Lower your stress levels
This might seem impossible because stress is part of our normal, daily lives and even more so in these times of uncertainty. With most of us working from home, you need to make sure that you separate your work hours from your personal time. You need to make sure that you can relax, even if you cannot get away. Schedule a lunch with your spouse or a coffee date with your teenager, a movie night for the family or a walk with the dogs. An extended bubble bath with a book also works. Stress is the enemy of your immune system – fight it consciously.
Take care of yourself
Working from home or wearing a mask does not necessarily mean that you do not need to take care of yourself. Dress as usual for work, start at the same time and take breaks as you would usually do, even if you are sitting at the dining room table. Your brain recognises the routine and “switches on” in work mode. Feeling good is part of the programme.
Take the right supplements
Finally, you can support your immune system by taking the right supplements. Vitamin C is well known as an antioxidant and for its immune supporting properties. Look out for products that are formulated specifically with an immune support function: they usually contain vitamin C, a combination of B vitamins and a mineral such as zinc. Taking a multi-vitamin every day is also a good option.
Stay healthy – wash your hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask. Covid-19 is the disease of the year but humanity has prevailed through many other diseases. We have forgotten what it is like being faced with a disease without an immediate solution. It makes one wonder where humanity would be if Alexander Fleming had not discovered penicillin.
Analysis of how immune system responds to coronavirus is good news for vaccine developments.