I’ll just say it straight: we are living in a crazy time right now. There is an unbelievable amount of information (and misinformation) floating around about the 2019 novel coronavirus (covid-19) and I’ve hesitated to add to the noise. But there’s something we’re not talking about that I think is important – for our health, and our sanity.
Now, before I dive in I want to make it perfectly clear that despite what some are sharing online, nothing has been proven to cure or make you immune to covid-19 as of today. However, there are definitely things you can and should be doing to boost your immune system – covid-19 or not.
I’m not going to give you recommendations for supplements and herbs and immune boosting tonics, because that’s not my specialty. For that kind of information, I recommend following this page put together by Dr. Aviva Romm. She’s an MD, herbalist, and midwife and focuses on practical, clinically relevant recommendations.
I’m going to stay in my lane here, and share tips that you can act on right now – whether you’re social distancing or in quarantine – to make your home less friendly to viruses like covid-19.
In this article, I share:
- The proper way to wash your hands, and what kind of soap to use.
- The step you need to take before disinfecting, and what products actually work.
- How fresh air plays a role in virus prevention.
- The optimal humidity level in your home to make it less friendly to viruses.
- The source I trust for advice on boosting your body’s immune response.
These things are not going to guarantee you don’t get sick. But they can go a long way to reducing your risk and supporting your body in the event you do.
Wash Your Hands (For Longer than You Think You Should)
The number one way to prevent germs from coming into your home, is to wash your hands before you touch anything. The good news is, viruses like covid-19 are easily combated with regular old soap and water (this article explains why).
Yes, even the natural stuff – you don’t need special antibacterial soap. Just make sure you’re spending at least 20 seconds, using warm water, and rubbing your hands. There are a million videos out there on this now, but here’s the official guidance from the CDC.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the second best option when you don’t have access to soap. Be careful using homemade versions, as the concentration needs to be at least 60% to be effective.
Clean then Disinfect
If you are appropriately distancing yourself – you are avoiding contact with other people by now, right? – and washing your hands as soon as you come home, you’re doing the most important steps to reducing your risk of exposure and the spread of the virus.
As far as the research shows, transmission is mainly through inhaling droplets from coughs and sneezing. That being said, the virus has been shown to live on surfaces for hours to days. BEcause of this, Health Canada and the CDC recommend cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces daily, especially if a member of your household is at risk or showing symptoms.
Short-term use of disinfectants like Lysol and bleach isn’t going to hurt. However, long-term use could be impacting especially our children’s immune systems for the long-term (stay tuned, more on this to come).
If you are sanitizing your home, be aware that disinfectants only work on clean surfaces. So before you sanitize, be sure to clean with a soap first.
My go-to all-purpose cleaner is liquid castile soap in water – this hasn’t changed with covid-19.
I use Benefect for our normal disinfecting needs (which I really only use when we’ve got a serious illness or vomit going on). It’s Health Canada approved as a hospital-grade disinfectant and has been demonstrated effective on viruses similar to covid-19 (though hasn’t yet been tested on it specifically).
Oh, and a lot of people are worried about bringing in contaminated groceries. So far, the risk is incredibly low of contracting covid-19 from food and packaging. This article provides the best summary I’ve seen on the subject. The take-away? Worry about washing your hands, not so much about getting the virus from eating contaminated food.
Please for the love of all things, do not share false information about colloidal silver, essential oils, and other strategies being spread around the interwebs that have not been proven to be effective against covid-19.
Increase Fresh Air
Indoor air quality can impact your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. When our homes are all closed up, the chemicals that offgas from the building materials, furniture, cleaners and personal care products accumulate.
The impact of poor indoor air quality is two-fold. First, it increases our exposure to toxins and therefore our overall toxic load. This is a form of stress on the body, which contributes to reduced immune system performance.
Second, there is emerging research linking hormone disrupting chemicals with immune system dysfunction. It’s impossible to avoid hormone disruptors entirely, but improving ventilation can help flush them out of your home to lower your exposure.
Also, increasing fresh air inside has been studied with respect to the SARS outbreak in 2003, and the study authors found that “increasing building ventilation rates using methods such as natural ventilation in classrooms, offices, and homes is a relatively effective strategy for airborne diseases in a large city.”
You can increase fresh air by opening windows or running your furnace fan more often – ideally with an air exchanger (if you’re in a new home, you should have one of these and make sure you know how to use it!).
Check Your Humidity
The ability of viruses to survive is linked by many different studies with both temperature and humidity. However, there are inconsistencies in the findings to confirm the impact on a specific virus. Not all viruses are impacted the same. And they aren’t always linear – meaning some will survive longer in low and high humidities, but not in the middle.
For influenza, research suggests higher humidity is more effective at reducing virus transmission than low. Because covid-19 is still relatively new, there isn’t much data on it. As a result, it’s been suggested to use other known viruses to predict the impact of covid-19.
My recommendation to help reduce the spread of cold and flu, while balancing mold growth, is to maintain 40 – 50% relative humidity in your home. Based on the literature around similar viruses, covid-19 appears to have lower survivability at higher humidities.
Given the lack of research around covid-19 specifically, maintaining an RH of 40 – 50% will at least help prevent other illness, without contributing to harmful mold growth in your home (though always watch out for condensation if you are actively increasing humidity).
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. All the time.
- Clean surfaces before disinfecting them.
- Increase fresh air throughout your home.
- Maintain a relative humidity of 40 – 50% inside.
I hope this helps you take a step back and focus on what you can do to help prevent your family from getting sick during this pandemic. Stressing about the situation is inevitable, but that also puts your body at increased risk of infection. So let’s acknowledge those feelings (I cry them out, personally), but not dwell on them. We’re all in this together.
Let me know if you’ve got any other questions related to covid-19 or otherwise. I’m planning out my next series of blog posts and would love to help answer your burning questions! Comment below or contact me with your ideas.
And for ongoing training and information about creating a healthier home – during and after this pandemic – join the over 3000 members in my free Facebook Group the Green Product Forum.