COVID-19: Prevention and Treatment
Resources from U.S. Agencies on Managing COVID-19
The CDC’s “Steps to Prevent Illness” says:
Clean your hands often
Avoid close contact
Stay home if you’re sick
Cover coughs and sneezes
Wear a facemask if you are sick
Clean and disinfect
These simple and effective steps are described more fully in this handy reminder card. Hand washing seems obvious, and it works to reduce risk for most kinds of infections. Still, washing with soap is especially effective against the coronavirus because the soap literally destroys the virus rather than just rinsing it away. See the bottom of our “About the Virus” page to learn more about how that happens.
The CDC’s treatment guidelines for physicians say:
“No specific treatment for COVID-19 is currently available. Clinical management includes prompt implementation of recommended infection prevention and control measures and supportive management of complications, including advanced organ support if indicated.”
Alternative Care Options
“No treatments or vaccines have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health says there is no scientific evidence to suggest alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness.” From an article reporting on alternative treatment options.
The official guidelines say basic hygiene and avoiding possible exposure are the only methods available to reduce the risk of infection. Then if we do become infected, there is no treatment available for us or the doctors to use except for the doctors to provide basic life support. This state of affairs is likely to change in the near future, but it doesn’t give us much to work with right now.
Additional Resources for Managing COVID-19
Required FDA disclaimer: None of the statements on this web site have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is not meant as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please consult with a healthcare professional.
At CIHS we believe people are more than just a complex combination of chemical and electrical interactions. We humans are magnificent and powerful beings who can marshal the resources of body, mind, spirit, and community to support our vibrant health and growth.
The statement above saying there are no proven alternative treatment options for COVID-19 is true. This is a brand new disease. There has not yet been enough time since its discovery to complete a study showing the effectiveness of any non-conventional treatments.
But we can use information collected over the years about effective methods to prevent and treat similar diseases to guide our management of this disease. This strategy is used all the time in medicine to come up with new treatments. Conventional medicine is even now exploring several medications used for different but similar diseases in the hope that they translate into effective treatments for COVID-19.
The information presented below follows a similar pattern of inference in the absence of direct evidence.
The immune system helps us fight off viruses and disease. People with weakened or compromised immune systems are at increased risk from COVID-19, so it makes sense to do all we can to maintain the system’s proper function. The first step toward that goal is not to grab a handful of supplements, but rather to tend to the basics.
Harvard Medical School posted an article titled “Healthy ways to strengthen your immune system” in which they give the following advice “Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle."
"Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
Maintain a healthy weight.
If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
Get adequate sleep.
Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
Try to minimize stress."
Seriously – Do these basic self-care practices daily. If one or more of them is missing, figure out how you can add it to your routine. Notice the final item, minimizing stress. This is especially challenging in the face of a life-threatening pandemic, and important if you want to have a healthy immune system.
So first and foremost, manage your emotions! Living in fear creates chronic stress in your body, which drastically weakens your immune system. Here is an article summarizing the findings of over 300 studies on the relationship between stress and immune function. This analysis also found that the effect was even more pronounced among people who are older or are already sick, exactly the people who are already at heightened risk from the coronavirus.
You may also want to visit our “Healthy Responses to Fear” page for information on how to transform fear into functional responses.
Having a regular meditation practice has been shown to help us better manage our emotions. That’s one of the many physical, mental, and spiritual health benefits people experience when they meditate regularly. Meditation can also substantially reduce stress and improve the functioning of your immune system, both of which are critically important as we go through this crisis. Harvard physician and researcher David R. Vago has written a brief summary here of the scientific evidence showing some of the ways meditation affects the immune system. And here is a more recent article reporting similar results from a meta-analysis of clinical trials.
Managing your emotions and being grounded in meditation is a good starting place for self care. Now let’s consider two more options for reducing our risk of infection. First we’ll discuss selenium as a chemical blockade to the virus’s ability to infect a host cell, then you can click on a link to the discussion on using vitamin C as a powerful immune system booster and direct treatment for related symptoms.
In 2015, another Harvard researcher described the chemical interactions by which having healthy selenium levels significantly and substantially reduces infection risk for these types of viruses. In this paper he wrote, “It is suggested that this inexpensive and readily available food supplement can be an ultimate inhibitor of Ebola and other enveloped viral infections” (p. 319).
Note that he does not refer to the COVID-19 virus directly. It didn’t exist when the article was written. He does refer to Ebola, SARS, and other enveloped viruses. These viruses are similar in structure and method of infection to the COVID-19 virus. They are all RNA enveloped viruses. See our “About the Virus” page for more information on the COVID-19 virus’s structure and function.
There are many studies showing that selenium deficiency lowers immune function, and that selenium supplementation increases immune function. This article provides a summary of that research.
And while there are no studies testing the effectiveness of selenium in treating or reducing risk in COVID-19 patients, there is an interesting study from China that used selenium to treat patients with respiratory tract infections (remember, COVID-19 infects the respiratory tract). These were all very young children infected with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Children who received modest selenium supplementation recovered significantly faster than children who did not, and several markers of immune function were improved in that group as well.
RSV is very similar in structure and function to the COVID-19 virus, as shown in the two diagrams below. They are both enveloped viruses with a phospholipid bilayer membrane, both have protein spikes on their surface by which they inject themselves into the host cell, and both cause respiratory infections.
None of this specifically says that having healthy selenium levels will keep you from getting COVID-19, but the evidence is strongly suggestive.
You can take a selenium supplement to ensure your body has healthy levels, or you can eat Brazil nuts. A study found that eating just two Brazil nuts a day boosts serum selenium to healthy levels. The authors wrote, “the bioavailability of selenium in Brazil nuts is equal to that in sodium selenite for the restoration of both tissue selenium and selenoprotein activity.” As selenium levels vary between Brazil nuts grown in different areas, you may want to eat several each day instead of just two. You would need to eat several handfuls daily for an extended period of time to be at risk of any adverse side effects from Brazil nuts. If you can’t find them in the nut section of your store, you might Brazil nuts in the bulk foods section.
If you choose selenium supplementation, time the administration to not overlap with vitamin C intake as ascorbic acid interferes with proper metabolism of selenium. A few hours separation should suffice.