Relatively soon after the COVID-19 pandemic, we went back to the old ways when we came across people with colds without protective equipment in public transport, at workplaces, in schools, and at doctors’ offices. It is not unusual to hear coughs and snorts even in fitness centres or when visiting other cultures.
This year’s winter season was marked by a triple pandemic, when a huge number of cases of not only COVID-19 but also classic flu and RS virus infection (which causes respiratory disease) were recorded worldwide.
The reason was often attributed to the isolation of the past years, which led to a weakening of the collective immunity. However, this explanation is not correct from an immunological point of view: immunity does not last long after respiratory infections, and moreover, the causative agents of the infection change and mutate over time.
That is why annual revaccination against the flu is appropriate, and unfortunately the same is true in the case of the coronavirus. Vaccination is a suitable tool for strengthening immunity, especially in at-risk groups, but it does not guarantee absolute or long-term protection. In addition to vaccination, it is, of course, also necessary to wear protective equipment to prevent the spread of infection.
these are some tips on how we can protect ourselves and those around us.
Hand washing protects not only from the causative agents of respiratory infections but also from other infections, e.g., jaundice type A, infections of the digestive tract, etc.
Hand washing is appropriate when arriving at the workplace, at home, before and after preparing food, after contact with animals or the sick, but also ideally after every blow or cough.
If I can’t sneeze or cough into a tissue, it’s good to cough “into your elbow”. If we sneeze or cough into our hands, there is a much higher risk of spreading the infection due to the spread of droplets (produced during sneezing, coughing, and during ordinary speech, when the speaker sprays saliva into the surroundings).
Some viruses can survive in droplets on surfaces for up to 72 hours.
How do I use the correct washing technique? Washing should take place with warm water, using soap for at least 20 seconds (removing jewellery is also suitable).
Liquid soap is preferred, but if it is not available, it is better to use solid soap than to wash your hands with water alone. Antibacterial soaps are not necessary with proper technique. Disinfection does not replace hand washing; it is only suitable in situations where washing is not possible.
It is also important to avoid touching your face. The average person touches their face four times per minute, which facilitates the transfer of microbes to the vicinity of the nose, mouth, and eyes, making it easier for infection to enter. Washing your hands and using protective equipment can help at this point, but it is good to consciously touch your face less often. This will benefit not only our skin.
Use of protective equipment
Since the end of regulations related to the use of respirators, we see them being worn only sporadically. However, people with colds did not disappear from public transportation, shops, or offices. It is absolutely appropriate to use a protective device during a cold if we have to be around other people. In addition, in periods with a higher incidence of respiratory infections, it is good to use them as a preventive measure in places with a higher concentration of people. It still applies: I protect myself, and I protect others.
Of course, if I am sick, I should isolate myself from others and not go to work, thereby preventing the spread of the disease and at the same time giving my body time and space to heal and regenerate. Insufficient regeneration leads to a weakening of the organism and a greater susceptibility to further infection.
Vaccination works as a training tool for our immune system: the body encounters an infection in a form that does not threaten it, but this encounter leads to familiarity with the infection and the formation of antibodies.
And therefore, when we then encounter an infection, our immune system can react more quickly and efficiently. It does not mean that we will not get the disease 100% of the time, but the risk of severe courses is many times lower.
Available vaccinations such as flu vaccination, revaccination against coronavirus, and others are therefore a key component of prevention for people who are at risk of a severe course that could have fatal consequences. This includes the elderly, the chronically ill (people with diabetes, COPD, heart disease, reduced immune system function from various causes, and so on);
We know that regular exercise is important for the prevention of metabolic diseases and cancer. But can it also protect us from the flu?
Yes, exercise and movement increase blood and lymph flow, which leads to higher circulation of immune cells in the body. A 2019 study showed that after 45 minutes of brisk walking, the amount of T lymphocytes (part of the immune system) and NK cells (specialists for fighting viral infections) increased in the participant’s blood.
This was also confirmed by a review published in 2022 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which analysed the results of 16 studies on the effect of physical activity during the COVID pandemic and found that active people who regularly played sports had a 36% lower risk of hospitalisation and a 43% lower risk of dying from COVID-19.
No, every sport has a positive effect on the immune system. Research has shown that regular training of low and medium intensity is most suitable. At least 30 minutes a day, ideally more, with movement spread out throughout the day.
On the other hand, very intense training can suppress our immune system. It affects our organism as an intense stress.
What movement is best? Walking at a faster pace (at least 5 km/h for those under 60), jogging, cycling, or swimming is ideal.
Vitamin D has received unprecedented attention in recent decades. It turns out that its function in bone metabolism is just one of many. Vitamin D is also an important player in the prevention of cardiovascular, metabolic, and cancer diseases, thanks to its effect on the immune system.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. In humans, vitamin D is formed in the deeper layers of the skin as a result of UVB radiation, but there are generally few sufficient sources in food (these include, for example, fatty fish). This leads to a situation where, in our latitudes, the majority of the population suffers from a serious lack of vitamin D in winter and spring. This deficiency can also manifest itself in higher morbidity.
It is therefore advisable to actively supplement this vitamin during the winter months: spend time outdoors even in winter, include fattier fish in your diet 1-2 times a week, and, last but not least, supplement vitamin D with supplements. Preparations with sufficient vitamin D content are available over the counter in pharmacies, and their use is widely recommended in the winter months.
However, be careful to observe the appropriate dosage. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Its excess accumulates and damages the body. The recommended daily dose is 5 micrograms.
What about other vitamins? For example, do large doses of vitamin C or infusion therapy make sense?
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant. A balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit is usually a sufficient source of it, and therefore it is generally not necessary to supplement it, with the exception of more vulnerable groups like the elderly, people with insufficient dietary intake, and the like.
Infusion therapy (treatment with intravenously administered infusion solutions) has no justification for prevention, although some studies show its possible benefit in people in critical condition with a confirmed vitamin deficiency.
It is important to monitor the intake of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) also in cases of different dietary guidelines or restrictions, e.g., the necessary use of vitamin B12 in vegans or the relatively frequent iron deficiency in women of working age who eat a vegetarian diet (loss of iron through menstrual blood, while iron is more easily absorbed from animal sources).
So the basis is a healthy, varied diet; it is advisable to supplement micronutrients as a preventive measure for risk groups.
So we can easily strengthen our immunity every day in different ways. If you feel sick despite following all precautions, consult our doctors. They will be happy to help you strengthen your immunity.