Coronavirus Myth Busting and Practical Advice
UPDATED 3-4-20 1pm Zinc Lozenge Info Added
UPDATED 3-3-20 6pm Vitamin C Info Added
I’m writing this article rather quickly at the request of many because there are so many important questions that need answering quickly.
Is coronavirus coming for me? Is it related to beer in any way? Will I be ok? Do those big tissue papers really help on public toilet seats? Why are they shaped like human heads?
Let's help you feel better about the impending doom, while stressing that this is serious and you should act—just not as silly as the media is telling you to.
First, A Warning
I’m not a medical doctor, and the most I know about infectious disease is based on my stuffy nose after my last cold. Ok, only the first is true, but I want you to know I’m writing this from the perspective of a skeptical, reasonably responsible healthcare professional who is NOT an expert in the virus itself.
What I can help with is do’s and dont’s. (Where the heck does the apostrophe go in dont’s? Maybe I should stick to holistic pharmacy and less grammar.)
Back On Topic—The Media is a Virus
First thing: the media makes us nutso. We have to realize everything the media makes (social media included) is to get and keep our attention. With the ACTUAL real emergency here, they’re all rushing to cash in the fat check with hysteria.
So, take a breath. Worrying wastes energy and doesn’t change anything.
What will change everything is if we are just a little less gross than normal. Our general hygiene is poor on average, and just stepping our game up will help.
My suggestion is to take universal precautions. That means, let’s act like everyone we could come in contact with has coronavirus.
Now, limit your gross contact. This includes:
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cough correctly (into your elbow, not your hands)
- Stop touching your face so much
- Wipe down surfaces frequently. Use alcohol or a bleach solution. Info here: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/holu/documents/hom-sani.pdf
- And for all that’s good in life...
Wash Yo' Damn Hands!
Hand washing 5 times a day reduces the incidence of respiratory infections by 45%. It’s kind of ridiculous this has to get stressed so much! Wash them with lots of friction and sing Happy Birthday twice. It’s not copyrighted any more, so you’re good there.
What’s the one thing almost no one cleans but should? Their phone! I mean, you probably use it on the toilet, right? I’ll be launching my line of all-natural phone disinfectants called “iPhone-avirus Wipes."
Lets Talk Masks
Yes, N95’s will probably stop you from getting viruses. The problem is, no one uses N95s correctly. It’s so bad, that you might as well not bother.
One positive? People are cool with others wearing masks in public. That stigma must go away. There’s too many of us to think someone trying to stop the spread of germs has leprosy.
Anyway, most masks will definitely prevent you from spreading droplets that carry the virus, so if you are sick even the basic ones will help.
The mask thing brings up another topic: hoarding. Everyone’s out there buying up the masks when they don’t really help because they’re not used correctly, and now people who would benefit from them can’t get it. And now that’s on its way to happening with medicines too.
Patients are demanding 3-4 months of their medicines as if the zombie apocalypse is coming. That's nonsense, and whoever is spreading that rumor should have to chug 3 Coronas, spin around on a baseball bat, and then try to pin the tail on the donkey.
Keep it to 2 weeks extra of all your meds. Anything else is a bit much.
If you take advantage of your local, excellent independent pharmacy that synchronizes medicines, you’ll know they often encourage people to keep 2 weeks on hand for this very reason. You know, emergencies!
Everyone hoarding and fearing a shortage is now causing a shortage. That means people who need their stuff can’t get it. It’s messing the whole thing up, and pharmacies are part of the problem. They’re stockpiling to prevent retail armageddon.
I also believe the wrong people are requesting their medicines early. This virus seems to be fatal in older patients or younger patients with one or more preexisting conditions.
Basically, it's a problem in the normal “high risk” patients:
- Elderly (65+, especially 75+)
- Patients younger than 65 with diabetes, cancer, lung disease, or other severe or immune compromising illnesses.
If you have allergies once a year in the spring and have an inhaler you’ve taken two hits from, I don’t believe you should be hoarding refills.
Also note, that if the apocalypse coronavirus causes drug shortages, your pharmacist and doctor will have strategies to manage it. It might be slightly inconvenient, but you’ll be cared for.
Should You Stay At Home?
Not necessarily. I think you should limit contact and minimize public stuff, especially for high-risk patients. Take advantage of our delivery and shipping if you need to. Our delivery driver never gets sick but our e-commerce fulfillment guy will have to be let go (nyuk, nyuk).
Magical Mystery Cure
No, supplements won’t help with this. "Immune boosting" isn’t real, and it isn’t coming from any products. You make your immune system stronger by resting, eating well, and exercising.
Vitamin C Won't Help Coronavirus
In fact, there are a few jerks/charlatans cashing in by telling people to take silver or Vitamin C injections. Please don't.
Vitamin C won't help you. Not from coronavirus or from the cold.
At least not from supplements. High dose ascorbic acid (whether liposomal, buffered, or sprinkled with the stuff that makes Pan fly), is barely absorbed and quickly excreted.
While our immune cells use Vitamin C, Vitamin C has not been linked to improving immunity. It helps with colds in extreme athletes and those who work outside in extreme weather by reducing the severity only. Everyone else, nothing will happen.
I propose, instead, for you to go buy some oranges and eat 1 every 8 to 12 hours. You'll get lots of excellent Vitamin C, but more importantly all the other compounds like bioflavonoids, essential oils, fiber, and FLUIDS.
The dose is so high, it's almost lethal. There's currently a "clinical trial" in progress in China that people are citing as proof that it works. The thing about clinical trials is, we shouldn't know what the results are until they're done.
We shouldn't make conclusions based on the fact the trial has started either. It's like me registering a trial, "McDonald's Triple Cheeseburger as a novel agent against Cov-19." Would you up your intake based on that registration of a trial only, or would you want to see what's what first?
Zinc Lozenges are a Bad Idea for Coronavirus
Zinc lozenges won’t protect you from coronavirus. In fact, it will probably cause more harm than benefit.
Zinc lozenges are very effective at reducing the duration and severity of colds based on some real solid evidence. Take them 6 times daily for 2-3 days at the onset of a cold.
Colds are upper respiratory tract infections. Zinc stops them from sticking to the back of your throat. In doing so, you coat the surfaces of your mouth and throat with zinc. *This can change your tase perception–-sometimes permanently*
The higher chances of that happen are when you use higher doses for longer durations. Sort of like if you buy a bunch now and take it everyday to prevent the coronavirus.
Don’t do that.
Supplements Reasonable for General Health
Probiotics help with specific immune health functions and are always recommended by me.
Elderberry syrups have been associated with helping with flu symptoms, but make sure you read up here, too.
If a coronavirus vaccine comes out, don’t rush to get it unless you’re high risk. They’ll need it first.
And, we’re checking your social media profiles for anti-vaxx support and you’ll be automatically disqualified. Not really, but we’ll definitely make fun of you for it.
If you haven’t already, get a flu shot. The flu shot won't stop coronavirus, but you probably have a better chance of dealing with coronavirus if you get regular flu shots. Pneumonia and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) isn’t a bad idea either if you’re eligible.
In the future, don’t be that guy… just get your shots early and on schedule!
The Big Message: Community Matters Most
We have to prioritize our high-risk patients. They get a few extra weeks of medicines, masks, and vaccines.
Many people are out there worrying and don’t know what to do. Here’s what I propose: support your world. Meaning, find the high-risk people in your life, and make sure they’re protected and cared for. Keep a list, keep tabs on them, make sure they get foods, meds, and access to stuff they need.
The virus itself is a pain due to its incubation period, how it spreads without symptoms, and how it is a bit virulent, infecting 2-3 people per 1 case. In reality, everyone will be fine. We’ll all be especially fine if us healthy folk chill out, wash our hands and phones, and support the high-risk people in our lives.
Here’s the quick list, in case you don’t like reading words:
- Wash your hands every time they are soiled but minimally 5 times daily
- Cover your mouth when you cough by coughing into your elbow
- Don’t bother with masks unless your sick and don’t want to spread it (any surgical mask) or high risk and don’t want to get sick (n95)
- Make sure you keep the mask seal tight and generally wear it right
- Stop touching your face
- Clean your phone a few times a day. Clean it with zinc lozenges and Vitamin C. Just kidding.
- Don’t hoard meds, just get a couple of weeks extra if you are high risk only
- Get your flu and other shots if you haven’t yet
- Help the high risk in your circle to ensure they’ve got their resources lined up
Just trying to keep it real...
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth
Up Next: The Big Mouth Pharmacist takes on Flu Shot Myths