In this article will give you a brief summary on what to expect symptomatically with COVID-19 as explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
I will share my recommendations on the natural products you can use to help your immune system in this time of crisis and possibly manage mild symptoms. You will also find some general helpful tips at the end.
Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19
Cases fall into 1 of 3 categories:
- Mild – moderate: A mild case of COVID-19 is not like a mild cold. The symptoms will still be quite severe. Anything less than needing oxygen puts you into this category.
- Severe: need supplemental oxygen
- Critical: defined by respiratory or multi organ failure
Note: I have highlighted in bold the most common symptoms seen in COVID-19 infection.
Incubation period can be anywhere between 2 – 14 days. Incubation means the time in which you may have contracted the virus but are not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic) but can still pass the virus on to other people. Initially it may feel like the common cold or flu. Many patients develop fevers early on (seen in approx. 88% of people who tested positive for COVID-19). Digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting or abdominal discomfort have been noted in some cases.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease meaning it will start and end with the lungs. In the early days of infection the virus invades the lung cells. Specifically they damage the cilia (fine hair like projections on the cells) that move around to keep the airways clear of mucus and debris. When cells get infected with the virus they die and shed off, adding to the debris and hindering your body’s ability to remove anything from the lungs and trachea. This injury to cells causes a reaction called inflammation. The more damage to lung cells occur, the more inflammation occurs. This cycle can continue until there’s no healthy tissue left within that affected area. Inflammation could also be the cause of the dry cough initially and shortness of breath. Later on there will be phlegm production as it is your body’s way of trying to remove the mucus and debris. Other symptoms that will start develop are fatigue, sore throat, headache, joint or muscle pain, chills and a runny nose. Patients with pre-existing conditions may find they have trouble breathing. It usually would take about 7 days before you feel you need to go to the hospital. Mild cases generally clear up within 7 days. This is the time where you are mostly likely to spread the infection to others so it is advised to stay at home in isolation. Limit contact with other family members, do not have visitors over and follow hygiene protocol i.e. wash your hands with soap and water, sanitise counters, wear a mask if possible. Bed rest, lots of fluids, fruit and veg is strongly advised. Avoid sugar and dairy (sugar has been known to depress the immune system and dairy is mucus producing in the respiratory tract. Further explanation below). Those with moderate to severe cases would develop pneumonia. Which can range from non-life threatening to severe. Recovery time can range from a few days to weeks. For some, symptoms can escalate to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. ARDS is an illness that occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs. The inflammation experienced causes a flood of immune cells to the affected area in the lungs. These immune cells are usually isolated to the infected areas however in severe cases the immune system can overreact and immune cells start killing all cells in their path including healthy cells. 30 – 40% of ARDS cases are fatal because of respiratory failure requiring advanced life support. This includes supplementing oxygen and mechanical ventilation to oxygenate the patients’ blood since the lungs are unable to do so. The lungs are too flooded with fluid to oxygenate blood on its own which is the main cause of death in patients with COVID-19. If a patient is fortunate to survive this phase, they are most likely to be left with permanent lung damage and scar tissue. Once a patient is in the recovery period it is still possible for the patient to be contagious. They should self-isolate once discharged from hospital and work with their doctors or health care professionals until they are no longer a health risk. Since there is no target treatment or vaccine at this stage the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid being exposed.
Stay home. Stay clean. And don’t panic.
If you test positive for COVID-19 do not panic. It is not a death sentence as many people think it is. It DOES NOT mean you will be admitted to hospital. You will have to monitor your symptoms or that of a loved one and manage their symptoms accordingly. At any point if you or that person experiences difficulty breathing, high fevers or any other unmanageable symptoms seek medical assistance immediately. There are a few health tips I would like to share with you in the symptomatic management of COVID-19.
Herbs that I combine to combat individual and overall symptoms:
- Olive leaf extract
- is a potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It has exhibited antiviral properties in controlled studies.
- Olive leaf extract has been credited to interfere with critical amino acid production, essential for viruses thus preventing them from replicating.
- an ability to contain viral infection and/or spread by inactivating viruses
- prevents viral shedding (reducing the amount of the virus is saliva etc.), budding or assembly at the cell membrane
- the ability to directly penetrate infected cells and stop viral replication
Olive leaf extract has been claimed in a U.S. patent to have potent antiviral activities against herpes mononucleosis, hepatitis virus, rotavirus, bovine rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza type 3 virus. At this stage no studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of olive leaf extract on COVID-19 but seeing that it has dramatic effects on other viruses it would be advised to take it as a prophylactic anyway.
- May help bronchial tubes relax, stimulating easier breathing and loosening phlegm
- Acts as an expectorant (it promotes the excretion of mucus produced in the respiratory system). It is commonly used to ease those with pneumonia and bronchitis.
- antiviral effects have been demonstrated, including inhibition of the replication of respiratory viruses
- Clinical trials have shown that a formulation of Pelargonium extracts is an effective treatment for disorders of the respiratory tract.
I suggest purchasing these in tinctures (liquid form) and placing 10 drops of each in ½ glass of warm water and drinking this twice daily as maintenance. If you have experienced flu like symptoms in the past 3 weeks or have tested positive for COVID-19 I would suggest taking this combo at least 4 times daily. This combo will help with the viral load, fever and cough.
It is important to note not all herbal products are safe in pregnancy and while breast feeding. Olive leaf extract on its own is one of the few herbs that are safe to be taken in pregnancy, while breast feeding and for infants from birth. There are many herbs that are contraindicated in pregnancy and not recommended for infants so olive leaf is your go to.
- Digestive symptoms such as loss of appetite and diarrhoea are symptoms experienced by some people infected with COVID-19. Other symptoms include vomiting and abdominal pain which is less common.
- The beneficial effects of probiotics have been demonstrated in many diseases. One of the major mechanisms of probiotic action is through the regulation of host immune response.
- I would suggest taking a probiotic that contains 9 strains or more. Looking for one that contains the probiotic yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, would be beneficial as this strain has been seen to be effective in the treatment of diarrhoea.
- I would recommend the Probiflora infant drops daily for babies and young children.
- You can also consume probiotic rich food such as kefir, kombucha (watch for the sugar content), sauerkraut and kimchi.
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased susceptibility to infection.
- Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) are more likely to report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels.
- Seeing that Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin, I would suggest purchasing one that is in an oil base for optimal absorption. Vitamin D3 in tablet form needs to be eaten with a meal that contains fats in order for proper absorption to take place. There are 2 particular products that I keep in my practice or prescribe that are in an oil base and oral absorption. That is Metagenics D3 liquid and Better you DLUX vitamin D3 spray. It is important to note that you can overdose on Vitamin D3 so it is important to know your serum D3 level. At this time of crisis where it will be difficult to test, I would suggest taking 5000ius of Vitamin D3 daily for 1 month if you do not currently take any supplements containing D3 or you do not get 20 minutes of direct sunlight every day for a minimum of 20minutes. The dose can then be dropped down to 4000ius daily in month 2 and 3000ius in month 3 which can then be maintained thereafter.
The above suggestions can be used in conjunction with other immune boosters and vitamins. Remember not to overdose on too many products. Stay calm. Rest. Drink plenty of water. Eat fresh fruit and veg.
If you do experience diarrhoea at home, make sure you stay hydrated. You can hydrate with coconut water (as it contains natural electrolytes or an at home rehydrate solution).
The “Simple Solution” – Homemade Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) Recipe for preparing 1 Litre solution using Salt, Sugar and Water
- Six (6) level teaspoons of Sugar
- Half (1/2) level teaspoon of Salt
- One Litre of clean drinking or boiled water and then cooled – 5 cups (each cup about 200 ml.)
Drink 1 cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool. If extreme weakness and fatigue is accompanied by diarrhoea after rehydrating seeking medical attention immediately.
Avoid sugar (unless you have to make an at home rehydrate solution) and dairy products. Milk consumption has a long association with increased respiratory tract mucus production and asthma. A compound derived from the breakdown of A1 milk stimulates mucus production in the gut. If there is a presence of inflammation in the respiratory tract, this compound causes a similar mucus overproduction in the respiratory tract. This could explain why those who have increased respiratory tract mucus production or asthma improve on a dairy elimination diet. Therefore knowing that COVID-19 causes inflammation within the respiratory system it is advised to avoid diary at this time as a precaution.
Other health tips:
- It has been hypothesized that the virus denatures at a temperature of 56°C so keeping warm and avoiding excessive aircon use is advised. Breathing in steam to keep the nasal passages and sinuses warm can also be helpful.
- Persons with asthma or inhalers need to make sure their inhalers are still within the best before date and have an extra one in case.
- Paracetemol or panado is advised for those with mild pain and fever.
IMPORTANT!! If at any point you feel you have difficulty breathing, uncontrolled diarrhoea or other symptoms that cannot be managed at home then seek medical help immediately.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.