Looking after our wellbeing and mental health is vital in difficult times. Fear and anxiety can suppress our immune system, so finding ways to be kind to ourselves and others while we deal with the spread of COVID19 will boost our immune system and help fight infection explains Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health and expert in mental wellbeing from Warwick Medical School.
As schools close, some shops shelves become empty and many people go into voluntary self-isolation, most of us are focusing on how to manage in this very different world and there is not much headspace to think about what happens next. One unspoken view many of us are hanging on to that if we self-isolate for a week or so the problem will pass and all will be well. That is very comforting, but likely to be overly simplistic.
What tends to happen with viruses is that we develop immunity or we succumb. The proportions recovering or dying depend on how dangerous the virus is. Rhinoviruses cause symptoms of the common cold and are only hazardous to the very sick, the very old or sometimes very small babies. The proportions are different with Ebola virus. If a virus is circulating in the population all the time, people get sick, get immune and recover, or succumb at a steady state and health services can cope with caring for those who get very sick and need intensive or palliative care. We are used to this happening and take for granted that people who are very elderly or sick could die in this way.
New virus no immunity
When the level of immunity in the population is high it is difficult for a virus to circulate because it only meets people who are immune and cannot spread from person to person. At that point the population is said to have herd immunity. Viruses circulate freely in day nurseries amongst children who have not met them before and so there is no herd immunity. New viruses like Covid-19 create the mayhem we are currently experiencing because at the beginning of the outbreak no-one has immunity and the virus has a lot of choice about whom it spreads to. Hand washing, binning tissues, and self-isolation reduce the rate of spread.
Not everyone who meets viruses gets symptoms. If the immune system is working well and the dose is small it is possible to develop immunity without disease the technical term is sero-conversion. This is the principle that is exploited in the development and administration of vaccines. At present, because we do not have population testing, we do not know what proportion of the population is meeting Covid-19, sero-converting and not getting symptoms. We do not even know what proportion of people self-isolating with fevers and coughs have symptoms caused by Covid-19 rather than one of the many other viruses that cause these symptoms. The government announced yesterday that they will be stepping up their testing programme and so these facts will emerge before too long. Until they do we will not be able to calculate accurate sickness or mortality rates from Covid-19 because we do not have an accurate denominator.
The UK Governments strategy aims to slow the spread of the virus rather than prevent it altogether. It is unlikely that spread can be prevented until there is a vaccine and that could take 18 months. The reason why this helps is that our health services will not be overwhelmed with demand to provide life-saving support to the small proportion of people who meet this virus and become very seriously ill. If we slow the rate fewer people will need this help at any one time. The aim of this policy is to enable herd immunity to develop in a controlled way because that is the only way we can bring this outbreak to a close until a vaccine emerges.
Fear suppresses the immune system
Understanding this matters because it means that we are better able to protect ourselves.
And it suggests that alongside following all governments advice to help slow the spread of the virus, the most important thing we should be doing is boosting our immune systems. Doubtless supplements and herbs which are thought to boost immunity are flying off the shelves at the moment for that reason, but they may or may not work.
What is not widely appreciated by the public and what is not being said by the government because the research is not widely known and accepted by the medical profession is that an important dampener of the immune system is fear and panic. It is likely for example that the Spanish flu after the First World War was so dangerous, and particularly to young men, because the level of PTSD post traumatic stress disorder in the population was very high. We dont know this for sure and will not be able to find out in retrospect but given what we now know about fear and the immune system that is very likely.
There is plenty of fear about at the moment and not much being offered in the way of advice and support about how to calm the nervous system. Many people know ways to do this intuitively: listening to music, singing, walking in green spaces. Others have been taught in mindfulness groups or Yoga classes or a myriad of other approaches like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping). For most of these approaches there is scientific evidence to show that they work calm the nervous system, that they enhance learning and creativity and boost the immune response. One approach with an evidence base not much known about is visualisation of the immune system functioning under self-hypnosis. Ensuring you have enough sleep is another evidenced way of enhancing immunity.
Many people have already learnt one of more of these skills. People who have this knowledge and skill should be using their skills now and practicing as much as they can. Some people prefer to learn in groups, others individually, some self-directed on line and some from teachers. It is difficult for teachers to teach these skills to others now that groups are closed, but it is possible for those who know how to do them to practice themselves. And on-line classes and webinars are appearing for many of these approaches. Some practitioners are also teaching one to one on skype. There are also Apps which can be downloaded. Some children are being taught some of these skills at school in programmes like .B. Now that they are going to be at home all the time perhaps they might be able to show these to their parents.
Positive social contact is protective technology can help
One area of research which is not being much talked about at the moment is that positive social connectedness is an important enhancer of the immune system is. People who are getting together to create WhatsApp groups in their local communities or setting up organisations like CovidMutualAid probably know, intuitively, that it is important to counter the inadvertent fear of others that is created when we are asked to keep away from other people.
Self-isolation when we are ill, at risk of illness or just plain frightened, cuts us off from the beneficial effects of other human beings. Undoubtedly social media and internet connectedness can fill that gap to some extent and we should all be exploiting those resources now. And for those of us self-isolating at home with friends or family, trying to ensure that relationships are positive and supportive is important. At the same time we need to remember that it is difficult to learn new skills when anxious or afraid. So the elderly who are not connected into social media already may need help to do so.
If we do not develop herd immunity to this virus because the isolation policy suppresses rather than controls the spread, then the outbreak will re-emerge as restrictions are lifted and we will see more peaks in the infection. That is why the government did not close schools straight away. Controlled exposure is a good public health policy. If we add to this as many activities which boost immunity as possible we will increase the number of people who develop immunity without illness or only a mild infection. There will then be a substantial number of people who can keep services running and look after those who are getting ill as the outbreak comes to a close and we all get back to normal.
Top Tips for boosting natural resistance to viral infections
- Take notice of how you feel
- Be kind to yourself and others have patience
- Stay in touch with people who calm you down. Use the telephone or social media. Avoid those who make you anxious
- Regulate your nervous system for a period of time each day with things that work for you. People are different and not everything works for everyone.
- Meditating or doing mindfulness practice
- Mindful movement like Yoga or Tai Chi something that gets you out of your mind into your body
- Getting enough sleep - ideally 8 or more hours
- Get effective sleep - good sleep hygiene practices include: no screens before bed or in the bedroom, no caffeine, alcohol or heavy meals in the evenings. Keep your bedroom dark and cool
- Self-hypnosis and guided imagery visualising your immune system functioning effectively
- Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping
- Listening to or making music especially singing
- Walking in green spaces or near water
If these arent possible other things that are known to reduce stress are:
- Noticing the unusual and positive things that have happened in the day and recalling them before sleep.
Written by Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health and expert in mental wellbeing from Warwick Medical School.
Read the original post:
- Half of Ontario's medical schools are now named after wealthy donors - The Conversation CA - December 17th, 2020
- Yes, It's Possible To Have a Baby In Medical School Here's How - Pager Publications, Inc. - December 17th, 2020
- California's medical school diversity "nowhere near where it needs to be" - State of Reform - State of Reform - December 17th, 2020
- Medical School Keeps Students on Track By Switching to Virtual and Back - The Roanoke Star - December 17th, 2020
- UT Health Austin and Dell Medical School among first facilities in Texas to receive COVID-19 vaccine - Community Impact Newspaper - December 17th, 2020
- Medical schools see spike in students inspired to apply by the pandemic - KBJR 6 - December 17th, 2020
- How to make the most of holiday time off as a medical student - American Medical Association - December 17th, 2020
- UT Austin's Dell Medical School Is The First Institution In Central Texas Receiving Shipment Of COVID-19 Vaccine - KUT - December 17th, 2020
- Degrees of Protection | Harvard Medical School - Harvard Medical School - December 17th, 2020
- The Pandemic Thrusts Telepsychiatry to the Fore | NYU Langone News - NYU Langone Health - December 17th, 2020
- Two-phase Infection | Harvard Medical School - Harvard Medical School - December 17th, 2020
- Texas A&M To Grow Medical Education In Round Rock, Surrounding Area - Texas A&M University Today - December 17th, 2020
- Pitt cardiologist sues school after backlash to his article on affirmative action - TribLIVE - December 17th, 2020
- At a Crossroads: Medicine and the Movement - Columbia University Irving Medical Center - December 17th, 2020
- Jameson's term extended as head of Penn Health System and Perelman School of Medicine - Penn Today - December 17th, 2020
- Touro University Nevada's College of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2021 Achieves the Highest COMLEX Exam Pass Rate in the Country - PRNewswire - December 17th, 2020
- Hear what the experts from Houston Fights COVID have to say about a new vaccine - KTRK-TV - November 30th, 2020
- Medical Education Research and Innovation Conference set for Dec. 8 - The South End - November 30th, 2020
- 2 Corning-area natives experience COVID-19 pandemic battle on the frontlines - Star-Gazette - November 30th, 2020
- Three Yalies honored for their impact on and beyond Yale with 2020 Yale-Jefferson Awards | Yale Alumni - Yale News - November 30th, 2020
- Medical Education Market Will Hit Big Revenues In Future | Zimmer Biomet Institute, Medical Training College, Harvard Medical School - Murphy's Hockey... - November 30th, 2020
- Immelman, Griebie have mutual admiration for each other - CSB/SJU - November 30th, 2020
- Lobe Sciences Announces Launch of Preclinical Study in Collaboration with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine - Investing News Network - November 30th, 2020
- Physicians' Role in Addressing Racism in-Training, the online peer-reviewed publication for medical students - Pager Publications, Inc. - November 30th, 2020
- So You Traveled Over Thanksgiving. Now What? : Coronavirus Updates - NPR - November 30th, 2020
- Safely celebrating the holidays during a pandemic - KHOU.com - November 30th, 2020
- 2020 AAAS Fellows approved by the AAAS Council - Science Magazine - November 30th, 2020
- 5 ways the pandemic may transform medical education - American Medical Association - October 8th, 2020
- Trump doctor Conley degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine: What it means - On top of Philly news - Billy Penn - October 8th, 2020
- Students Share Medical School Details You Won't Find Anywhere Else | University of Michigan - Michigan Medicine - October 8th, 2020
- In a First, New England Journal of Medicine Joins Never-Trumpers - The New York Times - October 8th, 2020
- Brown University Medical School Dean to Lead Second Session of Five-Part Virtual Future of Medicine Summit : SF STAT! - South Florida Hospital News - October 8th, 2020
- Human brain dissected live in front of medical school students - The Argus - October 8th, 2020
- After 40 years in medicine, here's what a Maine addiction expert has learned about alcohol, opioids and public health - Bangor Daily News - October 8th, 2020
- Trumps Lying Personal Physician And Dr. Umar Johnson Went To The Same Med School - News One - October 8th, 2020
- Study Finds Older Adults Using Cannabis to Treat Common Health Conditions - UC San Diego Health - October 8th, 2020
- U of M Medical School Researchers Found Traces Of COVID-19 On Beaches - FOX 21 Online - October 8th, 2020
- My Body, Whose Choice? - The Regulatory Review - October 8th, 2020
- American Sign Language and the Power of Communication - Pager Publications, Inc. - October 8th, 2020
- Experimental COVID-19 Treatment Given To President Trump Part of Study At U of M Medical School - FOX 21 Online - October 8th, 2020
- Trump Returns Home After Downplaying Disease, but Doctor Says He Isnt Out of the Woods - The New York Times - October 8th, 2020
- Texas doctor, 28, dies of Covid: 'She wore the same mask for weeks, if not months' - The Guardian - October 8th, 2020
- Nobel awarded to Charles Rice for hepatitis C discoveries at Washington University School of Medicine Washington University School of Medicine -... - October 8th, 2020
- Warrior M.D. Chat: What to Expect - School of Medicine - Wayne State University - The South End - October 8th, 2020
- Hershey Medical Center: Celebrating 50 years of people helping people - Penn State News - October 8th, 2020
- UMass Medical School-affiliated study finds federal rule will negatively impact immigrant health care - Worcester Business Journal - October 1st, 2020
- Medical school class writes own Hippocratic Oath acknowledging racism, Covid-19 deaths and the killing of Breonna Taylor - CNN - October 1st, 2020
- Just what the doctor ordered - Isaac accepted to med school - Jamaica Gleaner - October 1st, 2020
- These medical students just wrote their own Hippocratic oath. Here's what it says. - The Daily Briefing - October 1st, 2020
- Maryland researchers identify what works to help children avoid obesity - WTOP - October 1st, 2020
- Call It What It Is in-Training, the online peer-reviewed publication for medical students - Pager Publications, Inc. - October 1st, 2020
- Medical Education market seeking excellent growth | Stanford University School of Medicine, GE Healthcare Institute, Zimmer Biomet Institute, Olympus... - October 1st, 2020
- Political newcomer Cameron Webb looks beyond party in 5th District bid - Fauquier Times - October 1st, 2020
- Irregular periods linked to a greater risk of an early death, study suggests - CNN - October 1st, 2020
- This biologist helped trace SARS to bats. Now, he's working to uncover the origins of COVID-19 - Science Magazine - October 1st, 2020
- How This NYC Bill Would Address Harassment And Discrimination In Healthcare - Forbes - October 1st, 2020
- To deal with the A levels fiasco fallout, medical schools need a cash injection - Times Higher Education (THE) - September 8th, 2020
- Mercer University Breaks Ground on New Medical School Campus in Columbus - Mercer News - September 8th, 2020
- COVID-19-induced 'sophomore medical student syndrome' | TheHill - The Hill - September 8th, 2020
- New crop of medical students are headed to the lab - Stanford Medical Center Report - September 8th, 2020
- U of M Medical School researchers look to beach water for COVID community infection - KARE11.com - September 8th, 2020
- When's the right time to choose a medical specialty? - American Medical Association - September 8th, 2020
- Gujarat medical school to carry out autopsies of COVID-19 victims to study effects on body - Republic World - Republic World - September 8th, 2020
- Durham student with dreams of med school wins $100,000 in lottery game - WRAL.com - September 8th, 2020
- How to help medical students keep tabs on their mental health - American Medical Association - September 8th, 2020
- Industry VoicesCould less emphasis on the MCAT bring more diversity to medicine? - FierceHealthcare - September 8th, 2020
- Medical exams postponed amid strike and resurgent virus - University World News - September 8th, 2020
- TCOM creates office of student success - fortworthbusiness.com - September 8th, 2020
- COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacting Those With Developmental Disabilities - Disability Scoop - September 8th, 2020
- Med Students 'Feel Very Behind' Because of COVID-Induced Disruptions in Training - The Southern Maryland Chronicle - September 8th, 2020
- A bill would spend $1 billion on diversifying medical schools to close the racial health gap - NBC News - August 10th, 2020
- Pandemic acts as dress rehearsal for new medical school curriculum - Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis - August 10th, 2020
- The Unnamed Hero - Pager Publications, Inc. - August 10th, 2020
- Testing is the key to a successful fall reopening on campuses (opinion) - Inside Higher Ed - August 10th, 2020
- TUNE IN: Alexandria Addressing Back-to-School Worries in Virtual Town Hall - The Zebra - August 10th, 2020
- Community Healthcare honored during National Health Center Week - Times Record News - August 10th, 2020
- When Things Arent OK With a Childs Mental Health - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- Making sure patients, physicians know about the advances in treating female cancers - Norton Healthcare - August 10th, 2020
- 'We Are Here to Help Them' | Harvard Medical School - Harvard Medical School - August 10th, 2020
- In the face of challenges posed by a pandemic and racism, the White Coat Ceremony underscores the importance of our shared humanity - AAMC - August 10th, 2020