We are at war, and we are the front liners, not the health care workers. They are our last line of defense if we seriously think about it. We land in their arms when we’ve fallen prey, and our immune system succumbs to COVID-19. To hold the line and buy time for the reinforcement—that is, the cure (anti-viral) and prevention (vaccine) to come to our aid, we need to have clear battle strategies and tactics.
What must we do to build our COVID-19 Home Defense and Resistance Force?
1) Know your enemy.
The SARS-Cov2 is an opportunistic organism that preys on the weak. Like any virus, it needs a host to survive. It thrives in aerosols for as long as 3 hours. It lives longer (days) on steel and plastic.
The point of entry is the respiratory system—nose, mouth, throat, air pipes, and lungs. Direct inhalation is the best route (talking in close proximity and closed spaces) or touching your nose and mouth with infected hands.
How does it harm and kill? By triggering inflammation and causing the immune system to go on hyperdrive leading to the cytokine storm.
Who is at risk? Those who have diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Technically, if your have any chronic inflammatory conditions, be more cautious.
2) Know your resources.
Your immune defense is the only thing that can fight the coronavirus. Even vaccines and anti-virals will still rely on your innate immune response. So how do you protect or build your immune system?
a) Minimize exposure
Aside from staying at home and social distancing, identify other routes of exposure from the outside.
Grocery would be top on the list. Exposure is inevitable. We need to stock the pantry for our grazing family. Although some would say there’s no evidence that groceries and take-outs would transmit the virus, given that it can be transmitted via fomite, there’s no harm in taking caution. There’s no evidence either that says it cannot be transmitted this way. For lack of evidence, I tend to err on the side of caution. As a healthcare practitioner, our family is just hugely germophobe even before this pandemic. It’s our culture and training.
- If you can go every 14 days, that would be beneficial. Why? You know that you’ve not been sick if, for the past 14 days, you’ve been asymptomatic. Thus, you prevent asymptomatic transmission. But this requires careful menu planning and rationing food to your home customers. Ensure they have other ways to manage lockdown other than eat.
- Choose a weekday and the first hour to shop. You avoid the crowd. The shelves have been stocked. You limit previous contamination from others who may have smelled those strawberry plastic containers and returned it on the shelf. Have a list for a quick in and out visit. Buy enough for two weeks, not a year. Ergo, no hoarding, because you’ll end up discarding rotten and expired items.
- Wear a mask. Common sense dictates that you’ll minimize viral load transmission with any barrier. Have a sanitizer in your pocket for a quick alcohol spray on commonly touched items like carts, refrigerator handles, and credit card machines.
- Bring your own washable or paper bags. Chances are grocers will make you bag your items. That will minimize outside handling. The virus will not survive long on your paper bags, and you can wash the reusable ones. Advocate for groceries to abandon the use of plastics altogether.
Other call-to-actions we can present to our local grocery outlets so they can protect the public are the following:
• Train personnel designated to return carts to the entrance to spray the carts and the area with disinfectant. In South Korea, they even disinfect the roads and sidewalks. Shouldn’t groceries at least take care of their facilities? They should include frequent disinfection of door handles.
• Have all employees wear company-made cloth masks. In case anyone does not exhibit symptoms but harbors the virus, the masks can limit transmission. The groceries can also distribute cloth masks at the entrance, so shoppers who may be asymptomatic will not spread the virus to the employees. Print your brand on those face masks with some catchy phrases like “We (Name of grocery) got you covered.” Your customers (internal, i.e., your employees and external, your buyers) will love you. You can even get creative with smiley masks. Put the sun on your lips, not the coronavirus. Charge the expense to marketing or emergency response.
• Groceries can have mobile delivery trucks that can honk early in the morning to cater to nearby communities and sell staples like bread, milk, egg to the elderlies, immunocompromised, and the sick with a non-contact policy between delivery staff and the customer. This can be on a subscription basis to enable easy drop off to the porches. Instead of ten households visiting the grocery to buy those items, you only have a truck driver and delivery assistant going out. Perhaps nearby restaurants can repurpose their delivery trucks and partner with grocery stores.
• Cashiers should disinfect gloved hands after each transaction. They should wipe down credit card machines and surfaces each time a customer makes a transaction. Have a sign near the machine for customers to see that they should use the hand sanitizer before swiping and signing.
These are simple things that groceries can train the staff to do until it becomes a habit.
- When you arrive home, wash food items (like watermelon and cantaloupes) that can be washed or even soaped with non-toxic cleanser (think baby shampoo or gentle hand soaps that babies can swallow).
- Blanch and freeze half of your greens to use for the second week. You need fruits and produce for your anti-inflammatory home defense strategy.
- Wash plastic-sealed and waterproof items with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol wipes. Disinfect credit cards, car keys, cellphones, and doorknobs and handles.
- Start planting in your backyard. If you can produce your food, you lessen the demand on precarious supply and ease the load off the community, ensure your food security, and achieve a more sustainable lifestyle.
Delivered items and mails are the other potential sources of the coronavirus in the form of fomites.
- Consider your mails and delivered items infected. Disinfect or leave untouched for twenty-four hours. Again, plastic and steel materials may harbor the virus longer. Wipe or spray with disinfectant. Wash your hands after handling such things.
- Heat delivered foods. Most pathogens die at 170F, including the virus.
-If you mail items, please stop that habit of licking your fingers to separate papers or licking the envelope tabs. Don’t be the vector.
-Advocate minimizing mail-in marketing materials that just end up in the garbage anyway.
b) Maximize defense.
Protect your respiratory system and enforce lung hygiene
- Exercise every day. Even deep breathing exercises will enhance airway clearance and ventilation, and recruit collapsed air sacs for better lung function. Think of exercise as your mini-dialysis machine that ultrafiltrates your blood and rids your body of toxins.
- Hydrate well. Your white blood cells, the soldiers of your body, swim in the plasma portion of your blood, which is composed mainly of water. Dehydration can affect flow and filtration.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Typically, the body protects itself through the release of inflammatory cells to kill harmful organisms. However, the immune system can go crazy with persistent stimulation. It can even attack itself like in cases of cancer and auto-immune diseases. With the coronavirus, it triggers a cytokine storm and causes multiple organs to collapse.
Some foods trigger inflammation. Whether they contribute to the severity of COVID-19, we don’t know, but we do know that they trigger the release of the same chemicals that promote inflammation in the body. Until otherwise disproven, it may be to our benefit to assume these foods too can compromise us and make us vulnerable to more severe symptoms of the coronavirus.
Advanced glycation end (AGEs) products lead to inflammation. Eating food high in sugar content, dairy products pasteurized at high temperatures, and meats cooked at high temperatures increase AGE products in the body. Inflammation is linked with chronic inflammatory conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD, Alzheimer’s, certain kidney diseases.
Other foods are found to be anti-inflammatory. A hugely unexplored subject is the gut-lung axis. Some studies have shown that when respiratory pathogens attack the lungs, the gut microbiota tilts to dysbiosis. Other studies have shown that when short-chain fatty acids (from a high fiber plant-based whole food diet) are present in the gut, more of the good bacteria predominate with lowering of pH, inhibit the growth of pathogens, enhance the immune system with anti-inflammatory mediators.
The best medicine with the lowest cost is Preventive Medicine.
Culinary medicine is a growing field that would tap on the principles of prevention. Still, it often leads to “cure” when it mitigates the root causes of chronic inflammation through diet and nutrition. Hopefully, adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet will lower our risk for the complications of COVID-19.
- Manage stress. Rest, recreate, meditate, and pray. Making our home a haven of peace ensures a sustainable indoor living. Boost a positive atmosphere with light-hearted movies and music. Encourage creativity in the kitchen and the garden. Talk less and listen more. Respect each other’s spaces. If you wonder why the monastic fathers and nuns live happy, healthy, and holy lives for years, it’s partly due to the vow of silence that minimizes drama and the chance for uncharitable words to escape their lips, words that can kill more than the dreadful virus. If they can do it, so can we.
Let’s not allow the virus to bring the worse in us. Instead, let us use it to build a better home. Perhaps if this movement can go viral, we can become the cure for this ailing world.
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The above information are from the CDC and posted for educational purposes only, and are not necessarily supported in whole by this site. As with any education material, use discretion and diligence in adopting the practices to your personal condition and lifestyle.