How to stay healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic
As we are faced with a new surge of the virus (enough is enough, already!), we need to continue to stay diligent about prevention. The truth is, safe and effective vaccines are within our grasp. But they’re not here yet. So in the meantime, we asked Dr. Levine how to protect ourselves now.
What’s the number-one way COVID-19 spreads?
The primary way the virus spreads is through contact transmission: You touch a contaminated surface, elevate your hands to your face, and the virus gets into your body via a portal of entry like your eyes, nose or mouth. (Keep in mind that the average individual touches their face 20 times in an hour—so wear that mask!)
Is the virus easy to kill on surfaces and in the air?
Yes. But in order to understand just how easy it is to kill the virus, you need to know a bit more about how a coronavirus particle works: COVID-19 is caused by an RNA strand, which hijacks a cell’s normal machinery and tricks it into replicating. But RNA can’t travel through your bloodstream on its own. It needs a special protective vehicle that comes in the form of a “lipid envelope.” The lipid envelope surrounds the RNA strand and provides the support it needs to bind to host cells. Hence, an important way to prevent transmission of coronavirus is to interfere with that lipid envelope. This is what we do every time we wash or use sanitizer on our hands (see illustration, below).
How can I protect myself if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?
In a June 2020 study at Cardiff University, researchers found that oral rinses, much like the soap we use on our hands, have the ability to break down the lipid envelope of coronavirus particles in our mouths. The key ingredient in oral rinses? Hydrogen peroxide. At home, you can rinse with hydrogen peroxide using products like ECO Balance Oral Healthcare Booster and Colgate Peroxyl Mouth Sore Rinse. Keeping your nose clean is important, too! Research has shown that in patients infected with COVID-19, the use of a simple over-the-counter nasal saline spray is sufficient to decrease viral shedding of particles.
How exactly does oral health support my overall health?
Use of oral antiseptics and saline rinses to keep your portals of entry clean is only one part of the equation. The other part lies in bolstering your immune system, which you can do via your mouth! According to a recent study out of the University of Toronto, chronic inflammation in the mouth can tax our immune system. This means that individuals with periodontal disease have a greater chance of developing a more severe form of Covid-19. In fact, another study, published in the Journal of the California Dental Association, showed that hospitalized coronavirus patients with prior underlying gum disease have a higher risk for respiratory failure.
To that end, we cannot let our oral rituals break down, whether it be forgetting to brush and floss or eating an unhealthy diet, as it can put the rest of our body’s systems at risk.
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