Tips to Keep Your Immune System Healthy During COVID-19

**Medically Reviewed by Amy Portacci, DO**

Keeping your immune system healthy is important anytime, but even more so during the current COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because our bodies have never met this year’s coronavirus, which means we have no idea how to fight it off. Some of us are being hit harder than others with the infection, undermining our sense of control.

While we can’t simply eat “this food” or take “that vitamin” to ensure a healthy immune system, we can take simple steps to optimize its functionality and give our body its best fighting chance at a healthy defense.

Practice good hygieneWashing hands helps prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19.

In general, washing your hands helps reduce viruses and bacteria transferring to surfaces, yourself and others. Thoroughly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water breaks up the fatty, outside layer of viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19, which effectively kills all or most of the contagion.

During this pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that we should be extra careful about handwashing after being in a public place.

By upholding good hygiene, we significantly reduce our chances of coming in contact with germs, keeping our immune systems healthy.

Get sleep

We need good sleep to keep our immune systems at peak performance. Studies show that chronic sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system and reduces the release of infection-fighting antibodies into the body.

If you’re finding yourself out of your normal routine due to changes in work or school schedules, kids or other responsibilities, do your best to still prioritize your nighttime routine. Keeping this regular helps keep your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, on track, resulting in balanced sleep and energy levels throughout the day.

Quit smoking

The World Health Organization advises that smokers could be more vulnerable to COVID-19 because the actual act of smoking increases the possibility of transmission from hand to mouth.

Research also shows that the risk of flu, another respiratory virus, among smokers is several times higher, and is much more severe than in nonsmokers. Although the exact mechanism of how smoking affects the risk of infection isn’t fully understood, there is a clear connection between inhaling smoke into the lungs and a lowered immune response.

Find ways to de-stress

Stress is known to lower the immune system’s response, making us more prone to infection. While stress might feel inevitable right now, proactively exercise ways to Pets can help people de-stress, which may beneift the immune system. reduce it through new habits like meditation, mindfulness, journaling, exercising or even getting a pet. Find connection with others, even virtually, through video calls and chat.

If you are immunocompromised, the same advice applies – however, it is even more important to take precautions including practicing physical distance and limiting visits to public places. Always seek the guidance of your physician to ensure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and optimize your health.

Amy Z. Portacci, DO, is a Family Medicine doctor who practices at Virginia Mason Edmonds Family Medicine. She specializes in women’s health, pediatrics, osteopathic manipulation and sports medicine. She is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the American Board of Osteopathic Family Physicians.

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