Prepare a Personal Family Plan for the Possibility of Contracting COVID-19
Updated: May 11, 2020
I have seen a lot of reference in the news and online about how to avoid contracting COVID-19, but very little guidance on what to do if you do get sick with it. Since the COVID-19 virus has never been seen or experienced prior to it showing up late in 2019 (how it got it's "nickname") it is a new pathogen to all of us, which is why it is called "novel". We are each at the mercy of the strength of our own personal, unique immune system to combat it when we contract it. As a highly contagious virus, we should assume that there is risk of contracting it at some point and having a plan in place to address how we manage if and when that happens will not only give us peace of mind before we get sick, but may potentially ward off unanticipated emergency situations.
I'd like to start by explaining rudimentarily how the immune system works, and why it is important to provide support for it before and during an illness. I will bring up questions that should be answered in a plan to address getting sick with COVID-19, and finally will share my COVID-19 plan with you in the hopes that it can guide you to create your own plan.
Immune System Basics
Physical and physiological barriers such as our skin and mucous membranes, pH and temperature are the initial defense for our bodies to prevent a pathogen from entering and taking hold. If not thus caught and avoided, a new pathogen enters the body and our innate immune system will immediately kick in. This part of our immune system is responsible for knowing which cells belong to our bodies, which cells belong to friendly compounds and which cells are antagonistic to our health and must be eliminated. It responds non-specifically to any pathogen as a first-line attack that invokes inflammation and fever, and calls to action macrophages and natural killer cells which include neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, and mast cells. These cells will attack and kill bacteria by rupturing their cell membranes, and/or coat intruders with antibodies for elimination by other immune cells.
Viruses require an additional level of immune system response, so enter the adaptive immune system. The most impressive part of our adaptive immune system is that it retains information for each pathogen that it encounters so that it can then attack it much more quickly if it is contracted again. That said, since it must learn about each new pathogen that it encounters, each new encounter can take up to several days to mount an initial attack. This explains why the COVID-19 response can take 2 - 11 days to show symptoms. Quick aside - Did you know that symptoms such as fever, coughing, sneezing, aches and the like are actually the response of your immune system at work fighting a pathogen? This is why OTC and prescription medications which are meant to hide the symptoms can actually impede the process of your body fighting off an illness. A very deleterious behavior of this virus is that while we are infected, but not yet showing symptoms, we can be spreading it to others without even knowing that we have it.
In America, our immune systems are taxed and over-stimulated due to the use of and exposure to toxins throughout our ordinary activities such as air and water pollution, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, cleaning chemicals, artificial ingredients in food, medications, and many other man-made and chemical compounds. Toxins must be addressed and eliminated by our immune systems using our natural pathways for detoxification including our liver, kidneys, lungs, and lymph system. So it is important to provide our bodies with as much support as we possibly can always, but especially when incurring an unknown virus. Once we have eliminated processed and man-made foods, first or second-hand smoke, toxic chemicals, high stress, and enabled better sleep and higher nutrition consumption, we are setting ourselves up for a better immune response to any pathogen we may encounter.
What about vaccines?
In normal circumstances, the importance of a vaccine for a novel virus is to allow people's adaptive immune systems to learn about a new pathogen without the contagion, risk, and the high mortality rate that can occur with the virus itself. At the time of this writing, there is still some question as to the effectiveness of the adaptive immune system remembering this virus and actually having immunity once it is passed the way most viruses work. The assumption is still that a vaccine will enable immunity.
Why a plan, and how to proceed?
Since we may be as much as a year or more away from a vaccine, it makes sense to prepare a plan for the high potential of actually contracting COVID-19. Plans enable us to consider and prepare for something before it occurs so we are not caught without knowing how to proceed in a challenging situation. When we are sick we don't think as clearly and it's more difficult to make sure that we have essential items on hand. This virus has shown itself to have a high mortality rate, which means it is a very good idea to include your last wishes and will in your plan. These are difficult considerations and I believe that having the time to sit and really think about some of these decisions is very important. Some questions that should be asked while creating a plan include:
- Who can help me in my time of need if and when I need help?
- Where will the sick person sleep, hang out; how will they spend their time recovering?
- Who will be responsible for cleaning, disinfecting, preparing food, and serving the person who is sick?
- Do I have cleaning and disinfecting items and how will they be used?
- Do I have the necessary food, pantry items, supplements, and drinks to last through a lengthy illness?
- Do I have enough of my medications to last through an illness and do I understand how supplements meant to support the immune system may interact with them? Is there someone who can pick up my prescription(s) for me if needed?
- If I have pets do I have two weeks of food and other essentials on hand for them? Who will feed and exercise them for me if I'm unable?
- Is there somewhere that I can sit outside in the sunshine without risking others?
- Who should be on my emergency contact list? (Always include doctors and preferred hospital)
- If I end up in the hospital, what are my wishes?
- Is my will up-to-date?
Here I am going to share my own personal plan, which is based on the knowledge that I have gathered for decades considering my Holistic Nutrition certification, on-going nutrition education, and personal experience. I am not a doctor, I live a clean lifestyle, eat and supplement for health, exercise regularly, do not take any medications, sleep well, and keep stress to a minimum. Since everyone is unique, I do not suggest that my plan should be your plan.
As a Holistic Nutrition Consultant, I am focused on maintaining health by natural means and avoiding western medicine and a visit to the hospital. As such, my plan is heavy on Functional Therapeutics in order to provide my immune system with everything it may need to work optimally when faced with an adversary such as the COVID virus.
I live with my husband and two cats. Any additional responsibility for kids or dogs would require additional planning. If you are on any medications, your plan should be passed by your medical doctor because some of the supplements and herbs that I use and recommend may have adverse effects on medications you may be taking. If you live alone, your plan should include a person or persons whom you can call to help you in times of need, and how they can help such as shopping for essentials and contacting your family or doctor if necessary.
Having a plan should ensure that you have food, beverage, supplements, and support crew in place so that you don't have to try to go out or put processes in place when you are sick.
In order to come up with my family plan, we considered logistics of our home, so there are some comments about how to prepare a spare room, cleaning supplies, and how to behave throughout the illness. I hope that these give you good ideas about how to prepare for if/when someone in your household falls ill with this virus.
COVID-19 Plan in case of illness
Call doctor and describe symptoms. Get tested if possible. (There is now an approved FDA home test that we should all try to have on hand so that we don't have to leave the house if we think we are sick with COVID-19.)
Move to guest room. Remove area rug. Only touch bed if possible (not desk, closet, window, etc.).
Provide a closable disposable or washable bag for laundry.
Provide a trash bag for garbage, used gloves, tissues, etc. Keep tightly closed.
Cough or sneeze into tissue and immediately discard and sanitize hands.
Disinfect guest bathroom after each use.
Change and launder pillowcases daily, sheets when possible.
Wear face mask when outside guest room (not necessary outside), only touch essential items. If possible, have another family member open doors for you, or use handkerchief or gloves to open doors. Disinfect door handles as needed.
Do not engage with the cats.
Non-disposable food items (trays, dishes, glasses, flatware) used by patient should be washed with soapy hot water, preferably in dishwasher immediately after use. Use gloves if needed, or wash hands well after contact.
Make alcohol disinfectant spray bottle, available with several rags, or bag with rag.
Mop bedroom and bathroom floors with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide daily. (Vinegar cleans but does not disinfect, so it should be used with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs.)
Disinfect computer and phone (anything being touched) multiple times per day.
Simple Healthy Foods to have on hand:
Chicken soup, broth-based soups
Rice or quinoa and veggies (celery, carrots, peas, summer squash, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, beets and beet greens...)
Apples (applesauce), pears, and bananas
Avocado (great on toast)
Sauerkraut and other fermented foods (see Probiotics under Therapeutics below)
Clean protein: free-range chicken, turkey, and eggs, organic tofu, pasture-raised beef or pork
protein shakes or protein added to green smoothies (protein powder, flax, chia, or hemp seeds)
Drink lots of fluids throughout the day -
WATER (fresh, and filtered), coconut water, mineral water
Fresh, organic juice (low/no sugar), I blend with coconut water
IV, Zip Fizz, Gatorade, Power Ade for electrolytes (I'm not a huge fan of these because of their sugar content, but if it gets someone to drink and stay hydrated I'm more supportive.)
Ginger beer is strong flavor with anti-inflammatory properties
In the therapeutics section below, the supplement descriptions are for their specific support of the immune system for COVID-19 and its symptoms, and do not fully describe all of the potential benefits of each. I am not suggesting that you try to accommodate all of these, but my desire is to provide an opportunity to see what you may be missing or what may resonate as especially useful for you. This is also not a complete list!
Always check with your doctor first before adding supplements to your regimen.
* Vitamin-C, our most effective antioxidant and immune booster. 1 - 2 grams
* MSM sulfur source for immune system and detoxification (2g/day divided) with vitamin C.
* L-Glutamine brain food, RNA/DNA building blocks, prevent muscle wasting if laid up for long periods of time especially in times of stress.
*I prefer powder form and take these 3 together mixed in juice or water. In normal times 2 - 3 times per week, but would ramp that up to 2 - 3 times per day if infected with COVID-19.
L-Lysine essential amino acid and cofactor with vitamin C. 1g 3x/day. (L-Lysine has been shown to attack the herpes virus, and can decrease herpes outbreaks substantially.)
Echinacea anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, immune and lymphatic boosting - take 3x/day with Lysine & vitamin C.
Multivitamin with B-family vitamins for protein assimilation and conversion of food into glucose for energy, and which are depleted by stress. Other micronutrients included in a good multivitamin include selenium, boron, inositol, choline, copper and manganese. All important support when the immune system is being taxed.
Vitamin E d-alpha-tocopherols or mixed tocopherols (avoid DL- form) important antioxidant common low intake in most people, will inhibit blood platelet aggregation (clotting). Take with vitamin C to work together to identify and attack free radicals. 400IU 1x/day. May be included in multivitamin, and if so no need to add as separate supplement.
Zinc for immune support, protects liver. Shown to decrease length of time for colds and flus. Lozenges most effective, 25 - 35 mg/day first 3 days, then every 2 or 3 days after breakfast (must take with food as can cause gastric distress) Deficiencies of zinc cause loss of smell and taste which may be a coincidence, but is a symptom of COVID-19. May also be included in multivitamin, check amounts before supplementing.
Garlic anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, blood tonic (thins the blood, dilates blood vessels) I recommend garlic daily with or without COVID-19. 1000 - 1200mg
Vitamin D deficiencies have been identified in some COVID patients, and supplementation shown to have benefit. If you can’t get out in the sun for 15 min/day several times per week, take 1000 - 2000 IU per day D3 form. Sit outside in sunshine whenever possible! (70 - 80% African Americans and Hispanics have a deficiency of vitamin D in their blood. Very difficult to get enough Oct - March in North America, and everyone should be taking at least 400IU/day through winter in continental US & Alaska.)
Essential Fatty Acids reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clot formation, essential for rebuilding and producing new cells, important for brain function and the central nervous system by acting as chemical messengers and regulators of various body processes. 1200mg/day I prefer from fish oil, but can also be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds and their oils.
Probiotics support the healthy microbiota in our gut that make up about 80% of our immune system. A combination of acidophilus and bifidus strains are recommended. Can be supplemented for best immediate support, or consumed in fermented foods in your diet (should be daily) - sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir.
CoQ10/Ubiquinol antioxidant essential for ATP (cellular energy), aids circulation, increases tissue oxygenation. (Essential for people on statins as statins block the body’s ability to create this important antioxidant.)
Gingko Biloba antioxidant, increase blood flow, enhance circulation. (Do not take with anti-coagulants.)
Herbal Support for specific symptoms:
Ginger or turmeric for anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea. Ginger tincture has an immediate effect on nausea, it is always in my pantry.
Butterbur for headache
Elderberry syrup for cough
Peppermint or ginger tea for digestive distress
Eucalyptus roll-on to open up sinus cavities
If taking any pharmaceutical, be sure to take milk thistle to support your liver at bedtime
Adaptogens are herbs that help to relieve stress and "adapt" to work where they are most needed. It's good to have one or two on hand. They do have some strengths of their own. Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Rhodiola, Eluethero, Schisandra, Tulsi, and Licorice Root are all types of adaptogens.
CBD oil tincture 2 or 3 times under the tongue per day.
Meditation cannot be overemphasized for when anxiety occurs.
Used particularly when your body has been sick for some time, and your constitution is becoming weaker. Specifically for cough, choose one of Bryonia (dry and painful, worse for movement), Pulsatilla (feeling of weight in the chest, choking or gagging), Silica (weeks at a time, chills, night sweats) or Kali Bic (metallic, brassy, hacking, worse in the morning, after eating/drinking or outdoor exposure). Engage a healthcare worker/homeopath to determine best course of action.
Create emergency contact list including doctor and preferred hospital and make available to emergency personnel and specified friends/relatives
Create list of supplements being used to give to any healthcare personnel, and specific instructions for each member of the family if they end up in the hospital or ICU
Ellen's personal preferences if admitted to hospital:
Use of high dose vitamin C immediately upon arrival.
Blood thinner acceptable only if deemed necessary.
NO ventilator. Oxygen is fine, but no intubation. DNR
Amenable to Remdesivir for drastic measures if necessary - no hydroxychloroquine and Z-pak as family history includes Cardiovascular Disease.
I hope that this enables you to put together your own plan for how to manage this virus. You may want to revisit your emergency escape plan while you are at it!
Best of luck to you and yours throughout this challenging time. It can be scary, but always remember your source. We are mortal beings, and the best we can do is to be grateful for every day while we are here.
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2015) Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook Part 2, Berkeley, CA; Bauman College
Phyllis A. Balch, CNC (2010) Prescription for Nutritional Healing fifth edition, Penguin Group New York, N.Y.
Consumer Lab: https://www.consumerlab.com
World's Healthiest Foods: http://www.whfoods.com
Kaiser Permanente: https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2202000
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
A Coronavirus Checklist: Prepare for the Possibility You May Get Very Sick: https://www.everydayhealth.com/coronavirus/a-coronavirus-checklist-prepare-for-the-possibility-you-could-get-very-sick/
The No BS Guide to Adaptogens for Hormonal Balance and Stress https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/smart-girls-guide-to-adaptogens#how-to-use-adaptogens