How to take care of your Lungs during a Pandemic.

Its important to note that most of the pandemics that we had for the past century involved the respiratory tract and majority of these actually started in Asia.

The Spanish Flu in 1899, Asian Flu in 1957, Hong Kong Flu in 1968, Swine Flu in 2009 and now COVID19, a respiratory disease so infectious that has created a global health crisis and made a deep impact in our daily lives. What makes us worry is that these infectious diseases spare nobody and can devastatingly affect anyone, rich or poor, old or young. While every country is doing everything to act immediately to prepare, respond, and recover, it is also imperative that we as individuals do our share and learn how to react to strengthen our immune system and our lungs to prevent these respiratory illnesses. Having in mind that an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure, here are some practical ways to take care of our lungs during pandemics.

Eat well.

A well balanced diet gives us the energy to keep us active throughout the day and provides the nutrients we need for growth and repair. Vegetables and fruits should be mainstays in our daily food intake as part of an overall healthy diet. They are specific sources of vitamins A and C and the mineral Zinc which are vital to strengthen our immune system and keep our lungs healthy.

Our lungs are exposed to both environmental and cellular toxins that are damaging the cellular linings along the respiratory tract. Both vitamins C and A are vital in cellular repair.

Vitamin C has an anti-oxidant property and helps to eliminate cellular free radicals and toxins that destroy our cells. It allows opportunity for lung tissue repair lowering tissue damage rates. Vitamin A in turn, plays a vital role in maintaining our immune system and a key player in the growth and differentiation of specific cells. It helps our bodies initiate the natural repair process in the lungs and the respiratory tract.

Zinc is an important trace element believed to play important roles in our body that include strengthening of our immune system function by developing immune cells. The World Health Organization (WHO) showed the beneficial effects of Zinc supplementation. This mineral regulates various immune functions including protecting the health and integrity of the respiratory cells during lung inflammation or injury and is known to regulate antiviral and antibacterial immunity including inflammatory response. The International Journal of Molecular Journal last April 2020 revealed that Zinc may possess protective effect as preventive and adjuvant therapy of COVID‑19 through reducing inflammation, improvement of muco-ciliary clearance, prevention of ventilator‑induced lung injury, modulation of antiviral and antibacterial immunity but this requires further clinical and experimental studies.

Supplements in syrup or tablet forms containing significant amount of Vitamins C and A and the mineral Zinc can be an alternative if dietary source is not adequate. This would be sufficient to make our lungs healthy and can be an arsenal to combat COVID19 and other viruses that can potentially start a pandemic.

Zinc is an important trace element believed to play important roles in our body that include strengthening of our immune system function by developing immune cells.

Exercise regularly, get fit and be active.

Just like our muscles, the lungs need to be stimulated to keep them healthy and strong too. Exercises and physical activities that increase heart activity and makes us breathe deeper should be done regularly. Getting fit and being active will keep us in good shape. Exercise improves blood circulation. As you exercise, blood will circulate in all our organ systems and supply oxygen and distribute the nutrients needed by our lung cells and other tissues. Exercises increase lung capacity and will strengthen our lungs as well. The more you exercise the more efficient your lungs will become.

Drink lots of Water and keep Hydrated.

The WHO recommends adults and children to drink at least 2 liters of water in a day to remain hydrated. Hydration helps our organ system to function properly including the lungs. Water helps to keep the mucosal lining in the lungs thin resulting to better breathing and improve lung function. This will also lower the risk of being susceptible to respiratory infections and other respiratory problems.

Don't Smoke.

With the detrimental effects of smoking to our lungs and to our health in general, it is strongly suggested not to smoke cigarettes and to cease immediately to those who are already smoking. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. Although more studies are needed to prove the relation of smoking to contracting COVID19, according to the WHO, smoke damages the lining epithelium of the respiratory tract and the alveoli of the lungs causing inflammation. Inflammation causes mucus build-up affecting the ability of the lungs to move oxygen into our bloodstream, hence, making it more difficult to fight respiratory viral infections like COVID19, and bacterial infections like Tuberculosis. WHO added that smokers are at risk of developing more severe COVID19 infection and are more vulnerable in contracting the virus.

Avoid Exposure to Pollutants.

WHO suggests that air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. Data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants. Gases like hydrogen chloride, benzene or toluene, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide can mix with the air we breathe. These air pollutants pose a great risk of development of respiratory illnesses. Every time we breathe in dirty air, we bring air pollutants deep into our lungs. This causes serious damage to the respiratory tract. It irritates our lungs and the more inflamed they get. We need to avoid and reduce our exposure to these toxic gases and air pollutants from the environment to prevent serious health hazards.

Wash your hands frequently.

Most of the respiratory infections that we have can be transmitted through contaminated objects. The best ways to protect our lungs and prevent infection is to not contaminate our eyes, nose, or mouth with pathogens that stay and live on surfaces. An important infection prevention and control measure that is frequently neglected is hand hygiene. Washing of hands with soap and running water is the most effective way of doing this. This can also prevent further transmission of harmful organisms. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares hand hygiene as one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Remember that if ever soap and running water are not available, we can use hand sanitizers and 70% isopropyl alcohol and rub it vigorously into all areas of your hands and fingers.

Get Regular Check-up.

Health is commonly neglected and the least to prioritize. However, in times of pandemics, it is important to have regular and timely consultations and check-up. This can help find potential health issues before they become a problem. Health conditions and diseases can be detected early on when we see our doctors regularly. Early detection gives you the best chance for getting the right treatment quickly to avoid any complications.

Although our bodies have a natural way of protecting our body systems particularly our lungs and the respiratory tract, it is also vital to observe these important health tips to reduce respiratory infections and maintain healthy lungs even during pandemics

References:

WHO: Zinc Supplementation to Improve Treatment Outcomes among Children diagnosed with Respiratory Infections.

American Lung Association: Protecting Your Lungs; Exercise and Lung Health

US Department of Agriculture Official Webpage: Nutrients Health Benefits

Lung Health Institute: What Vitamins May Help Repair the Lungs, March 4, 2020

International Journal of Molecular Medicine: Zinc and Respiratory Tract Infections: Perspectives for COVID19.

WHO: Smoking and COVID19; June 30, 2020

WHO: “Air Pollution”.

CDC: Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “When and How to Wash Your Hands”.

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