Easy ways to boost your immune system and fight off coronavirus

You may be regularly washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and stocking up on hand sanitiser because of coronavirus, but what else can you do to protect yourself from germs and bugs?

While there is currently no cure for the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus, there are some sensible steps everyone can take to help support their natural defences against viruses, colds and flu.

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The body’s immune system is what helps to fight off the pathogens which cause illness. There are a number of ways in which you can support your immune system to make it as strong and effective as possible.

Reduce stress

Stress can suppress the immune system and make you more vulnerable to infection, according to experts. Research has found that stress causes a release of the hormone cortisol, which can boost inflammation, a precursor to many diseases, in your body.

Chronic stress may also interfere with the infection-fighting ability of your white blood cells, making you more susceptible to contracting illnesses.

The NHS advises everyone to:

- Get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible- Get a good night's sleep - go to bed and wake up at the same time every day- De-stress with exercise or meditation - stress has been shown to make you feel tired

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Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables

Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables every day can work wonders for your immune system.

Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and beetroot are rich in beta-carotene which our bodies convert to vitamin A. We need vitamin A to keep the mucosal linings in our nose and lungs robust enough to defend against infection.

Other foods to include in your diet are orange and red fruits, such as oranges, mango, apricots and melon.

Keep exercising

According to the NHS, regular exercise helps control your weight and boosts your immune system.

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Frankie Brogan, Senior Nutritionist at Pharma Nord UK, said, "Regular exercise is a great way to support the immune system, and this may be due to various different mechanisms.

"As exercise can help support good circulation, this allows our immune cells to travel through the body more effectively. Furthermore, these immune cells seem to be stimulated by even mild exercise."

Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for a healthy functioning immune system.

It's believed that vitamin D helps stimulate the production of peptide - substances in the body that are able to fight off bacteria, fungi and viruses.

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Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods including oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods.

Wash your hands with plenty of water

Reiterating government advice, make sure you keep washing your hands with plenty of warm water and soap for 20 seconds at a time.

Coronavirus is understood to be spreading via droplets from coughs and sneezes, so touching surfaces where these droplets may have landed means you could easily pick it up. You should also cough or sneeze into tissues before disposing of them.

Drink two litres of water per day

Dr Ross Walton, a viral immunologist currently developing vaccines for flu says, “Hydration is critically important but vastly overlooked, as so many metabolic functions rely on it.”

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Keep drinking plenty of water throughout the day to help prevent dehydration.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

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The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

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NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS