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The coronavirus COVID-19 under a microscope.

The coronavirus COVID-19 under a microscope.
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Can you boost your immune system against the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Blog post | 09 Mar 2020

Many Australians are anxious and stressed about the coronavirus, COVID-19. There have been reports of panic-buying at the supermarket. People have been donning face masks when they have no symptoms. You can't make a cup of tea at work without someone bringing up 'coronavirus'.

You might feel a little powerless, but there are a few things you can do to help strengthen your immune system and help protect yourself from many types of viruses. And none of them involve a hazmat suit.

Do vitamin pills protect you from the coronavirus?

No. It's much better to get all the nutrients you need for a strong immune system from a balanced diet. And with a couple of exceptions — folic acid for pregnant women, for example — most healthy people do not need to use expensive supplements.

Social media has been infiltrated by claims that megadoses of vitamin supplements, such as intravenous vitamin C, can treat the flu-like symptoms of COVID-19 but there is no evidence to back this up. Consuming high doses of certain supplements, such as vitamin A and vitamin D, can in fact be toxic.

Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means it's not lethal but if you consume more than your body can store, it's simply removed via your urine. So, excess vitamin C literally goes down the toilet.

While there's no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, there is a vaccine for another global killer, the flu. Look for updates on this season's influenza vaccine and book in a jab when it's available.

Get more sleep

Sleep is important for your immune system. Research shows that sleep-deprived people can have suppressed immunity, meaning that they're more at risk of catching viruses.

If you feel worried or you are anxious (about COVID-19, for example), you're more at risk of sleep problems such as insomnia. And if you're sleep-deprived, you're more likely to be anxious.

So, if you're reading this on your phone in bed right now, put the phone down — looking at a bright screen in the evening can disrupt your sleep. For more tips on having a good night in bed, visit the Sleep Health Foundation.

Clean your phone

As well as keeping you up at night, your phone may also transfer germs.

According to a new study, some viruses (including human coronaviruses that came before COVID-19) can remain infectious on surfaces for up to 9 days. So you should disinfect the 'portable petri dish' that is your mobile phone regularly with a cleaning product that is 70% ethanol.

Washing your hands regularly with plenty of soap and water for at least 20 seconds — or using an alcohol-based hand rub if soap isn't available — is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Should you wear a face mask?

If you’re feeling anxious you might be considering wearing a face mask for protection. But face masks are not recommended for the general population. Only people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who are caring for a person with suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 need to wear a disposable (surgical) face mask.

Where to go for help if you're feeling anxious

Fortunately, if you are feeling stressed or worried about the coronavirus (COVID-19), help is available. Speak to your GP or contact any of these organisations:

  • Beyond Blue offers mental-health counselling 24 hours a day on 1300 22 4636. You can also speak to someone via online chat (3pm to 12am, 7 days a week).
  • Children and young adults (up to age 25) can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 to speak with a counsellor, 24 hours a day. Online chat is also available 24/7.
  • Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 to speak with a trained mental health supporter, 24 hours a day. Online chat is available between 7pm and midnight (AEST), 7 days a week. You can also text 0477 13 11 14 between 6pm and midnight (AEST), 7 days a week.
World Health Organization tips on coping with COVID-19 stress.
Source: the World Health Organization (WHO)

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