Lockdown and our general immunity
I have been concerned about the knock-on effects of the Alert Levels 4 & 3 lockdown on our general immunity.
We hear our PM and her leadership group saying how well we are containing SARS-Cov-2 by “staying home and saving lives”, and we have also heard the Ministry of Health exclaiming how low our numbers for “the common ‘flu” are for this time of year. Of course, we in New Zealand have had the blessing of a long, warm summer with plenty of sunshine, which in itself reduces the incidence of colds and ‘flu’s. And we have pretty much stayed in our bubbles and not had much contact with other people.
So we have been in a restricted environment – great for slowing the spread of Covid-19, but not so amazing for our general immunity.
One of the key ways people build strong immune systems is by being exposed to bacteria and other organisms in their environment. Without a reasonable amount of exposure – which we all experience in a normal day of being out and about in the world – then the immune system doesn’t get the “challenge” it needs to grow and strengthen. This is exactly why children raised in stringently-clean homes often have weaker immune systems and experience more allergies, asthma, common colds, infections, and so on.
It’s a basic tenet of microbiology and immunology.
Said another way: New Zealand’s strict COVID-19 policies could very well make people even MORE susceptible to infections and illnesses once restrictions are finally lifted and people go back out into the community after having spent weeks/months away from normal microorganisms in their environment.
This immune challenge will be greater if, because we are all so eager to resume our daily lives, go to work, meet friends & family whom we haven’t seen for a long time, we plunge into everything all at once.
People are emotionally and mentally taxed by strict social distancing policies (and starved of access to nature and human interaction), and therefore may start to take unnecessary chances – for instance, by being too lax with hand hygiene, not practicing healthy lifestyle habits, and the like – all of which can even further harm immunity. This phenomenon has been termed “quarantine fatigue”.
So – what do we do?
Take a deep breath, celebrate the fact that we have regained some of our freedoms, and pace ourselves. Re-enter the world slowly, if we can – for the first week or two, start going to work again, see a few friends and family during our time off rather than rushing around seeing everyone and going to club meetings every night. Get plenty of sleep, eat sensibly (not too much sugar!), exercise – and remember basic hygiene.
Wash hands often, use PPE where appropriate when in public areas, maintain social distancing. If you are visiting a health professional at their premises, do wash your hands before entering their place AND before leaving.
Consider basic supplementation of nutrients which support a healthy immune system, such as vitamin C, vitamin D3 and zinc.
Other supplements may be appropriate according to your own situation and needs, but the above three are a starting point.
Be safe out there!