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Worried About COVID-19? Boost Your Body's Defenses

Build Your Virus Defense System

Worried about COVID-19? Here’s what you can do.

Every so often, a virus comes along that has epidemic — or even pandemic — potential. Whether it’s a severe flu or the current COVID-19 virus, following this basic advice can lower your risk of getting infected (or infecting others, if you do get sick):

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (Take special care to wash your hands before eating, after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, as well as when your hands are visibly dirty.)
  • When you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes/mouth/nose.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Disinfect high-contact surfaces daily (doorknobs, light switches, keyboards).
  • Avoid sharing personal items like drinking glasses, eating utensils, and towels.

Wondering what else you can do to protect yourself? First, check in with the CDC about the current risk assessment, which you can do by clicking here, and follow guidelines coming from your state health authority. Knowing the latest information will help you make informed decisions.

Depending on the level of risk in your area, you may want to plan for a worst-case scenario with your family and community. 

If you develop symptoms and have come in contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have been in an area with ongoing spread, call a health professional (for example, your primary care provider or an urgent care center). They’ll check with your local health authority and let you know what to do next.

Reinforce Your Defenses

Beyond avoiding exposure, your next best defense against getting sick is your own immune system. Healthy habits — eating nutritious foods, staying active, getting enough rest, and reducing stress — are all strongly linked to increased immunity.  

As you stay updated on COVID-19, double down on these defense-building behaviors:

Get to bed earlier
Studies have found that individuals who average 7-8 hours of sleep at night are less likely to get an infection and, when they do, recover faster. Even one or two nights of quality sleep can boost your immune system. Not sure what’s keeping you awake? This resource can help. 

Address ongoing stress
Chronic stress impairs your immune system by promoting inflammation and disrupting immunoprotective cells. So, what might make your days less frustrating? Whether it’s crossing on-essential items off of your to-do list, pausing often to breathe deeply, or defusing tense conversations before they escalate into fights, the more you can do to reduce stress, the stronger your immunity will be. 

Eat more immunity-boosting foods
Fill your plate with foods that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E, three nutrients that are most essential to immune function. 

  • Get vitamin C from bell peppers, broccoli, grapefruits, kale, oranges, spinach, strawberries, and tangerines.
  • Get vitamin B6 from chicken, chickpeas, green vegetables, salmon, and tuna.
  • Get vitamin E from nuts, seeds, and spinach. 

Take brisk walks or do other light-to-moderate activities
Movement can help flush germs out of your lungs and airways, increase circulation of disease-fighting white blood cells, and raise your body temperature — which, like a fever, may make your system less hospitable to harmful bacteria or viruses. Need motivation to get walking? Check out these tips.