How worrying about the coronavirus actually increases chances of getting it
Welcome to Linda’s Corner. My name is Linda Bjork. Currently there is a widespread fear about the recent outbreak of coronavirus. Last week I went to Walmart and you can’t buy toilet paper because there isn’t any available for purchase. People bought it all up in a panic. I went to Costco where they usually have an entire wall of bottled water and there isn’t any. People bought it all up in a panic.
I’d like to explain why fear over getting the coronavirus actually increases your likelihood of contracting the disease and some things we can do to protect ourselves from fear and from sickness.
You are already protected from Coronavirus
Our bodies are designed with a natural immune system to protect ourselves from illness, but sometimes disease gets past that system of protection and we get sick. But our bodies also have a natural system designed to fight those infections and to heal.
First let’s talk about the body’s natural system of protection. In general, your body fights disease by keeping things out of your body that are foreign. Your primary defense against pathogenic germs are physical barriers like your skin. Since most of our body is covered with skin, we are mostly protected. The parts that are not covered with skin, like our eyes can be more vulnerable. We also have openings that allow things inside our bodies like our mouth and our nose. We need those to be open pathways into our bodies so we can eat and breathe.
Prevent the spread of Coronavirus
The coronavirus, like many other germs, can be spread if someone infected coughs or sneezes. An excellent way to prevent the spread of disease is to cover your mouth or nose with a tissue any time you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue away. That way the germs won’t land on any surface that someone else might touch or come in contact with anyone else’s eyes, nose, or mouth. If you don’t have a tissue ready, then raise your arm and sneeze or cough into your elbow. These are common courtesies that apply when anyone coughs or sneezes, it is no different for the coronavirus than any other time you cough or sneeze.
In order to protect ourselves from the coronavirus or any other disease, we pay particular attention to those areas of the body which are more vulnerable like our eyes, nose, and mouth. Those areas do have protection through tears and mucus which contain pathogen-destroying chemicals, like lysozyme.
How we can become infected with Coronavirus
It is unlikely that someone coughs or sneezes directly into your eyes, nose and mouth, but it is possible to touch a surface that may have germs on it. If you touch something with germs on it, you are still safe, because your hands are covered with skin, and your skin protects you. However, if you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you transfer those germs to an area that is not as well protected which increases the likelihood of getting sick.
If we wash our hands frequently, that naturally protects us. Another thing that might help is to become aware of reaching up to rub out eyes, nose or mouth, and not doing those things. Also washing surfaces with ethanol, hydrogen-peroxide or bleach-based cleaners is an excellent way to protect yourself. All of those types of cleaners have been shown to be effective at killing those coronaviruses that do survive on surfaces.
So our bodies have natural systems to protect ourselves, and there are some easy common sense ways to reduce the likelihood of becoming infected.
Even if you get Coronavirus you’re going to be okay
But what if you do get sick? Then what? Well first of all according to the World Health Organization the global death rate for the coronavirus is 3.4% which is very low. What that means is that even if you do get it you have a 96.6% chance of making a full recovery and everything is going to be fine. Those are really good odds.
Let’s talk about the body’s natural system to fight and overcome any germs that enter your body. Your body has a brilliant immune system. The first layer of defense, which we already talked about is a protective layer of skin, and those areas that are not covered by skin have tears and mucus which contain pathogen-destroying chemicals. If germs get past that defense system, then the body has an internal system of defense to protect us.
Our immune system has innate and adaptive cells to protect us from nearly anything that tries to invade our bodies.
Our wonderful immune system
The innate immune system cells are always on alert for germs. They patrol our bodies like soldiers looking for invaders. They are always there to capture and destroy any invading germs. If they find something then they warn the rest of the body about the problem by activating the inflammatory response.
The innate immune system cells also notify special cells called adaptive immune system cells. Every invading germ has a unique pattern, and the innate immune system cells break down the germ to identify that germ’s unique pattern. Then it uses cytokines and antigens to train individual adaptive immune cells to recognize and destroy the specific patterns of each foreign invader.
These adaptive immune system cells will remember this germ, and if it ever shows up again, your body will be better trained and ready to stop the threat before it makes you sick. This is the reasoning behind vaccines. If your body has seen a particular germ before, it knows how to deal with it if it ever sees it again.
How worring hurts us
However if we worry and panic about getting sick, it actually shuts down this beautiful, amazing immune system that is designed to keep us safe and healthy.
Let me explain why that would happen.
Our bodies are designed to naturally take care of things like our digestion and immune system to keep us nourished and healthy, but during times of an emergency, the body puts those things on hold in order to direct energy into more important things like the ability to run away from danger right now.
Our autonomic nervous system has separate branches to be able to take care of those different needs. The parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the “rest and digest” system takes care of things like the immune system and digestion, but if we’re in danger, then another system called the sympathetic nervous system, takes over. Sometimes this system is called the “fight or flight” system. When our fight or flight system is engaged, it inhibits the immune system, the digestive system, and other important systems temporarily.
If we’re in danger, like we need to run away from a tiger, we need all our energy for that action right now, we’ll put everything else on hold, and when we’re safe from the tiger, then we’ll take care of basic things like the immune system, digestion, and so on.
But the body system cannot differentiate between a real tiger and the threat of a tiger, to the nervous system it is the same. When we’re worried and when we panic, the body turns on the fight or flight system, and turns off the rest and digest system that runs our immune system.
That means that even though we have this amazing system in place to patrol for germs and look for invaders to destroy them, that system will be shut off if we’re worrying and panicking because our body can’t bother with the immune system when it’s trying to run away from a tiger.
Stay calm, it’s going to be okay
Now I don’t want anyone to start worrying about worrying, because that will defeat the purpose of this podcast. Worrying will not in any way increase your likelihood of coming in contact with the disease, but it will decrease your body’s ability to fight it if you do come in contact with the disease because it shuts down your body’s natural immune system.
The coronavirus is not a reason to fear or panic. Your body is already equipped with a system to protect you and to heal you. You are unlikely to get the disease, and if even if you do, you have a 96.6% chance that you’re going to make a full recovery and be fine.
The best thing to do is to calm down and allow our bodies to turn on the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” system so our bodies naturally have a chance to protect themselves and to heal. And to follow common sense practices like washing your hands frequently and covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. These basic precautions are enough to keep most people safe.
If you’re interested in additional resources for protecting yourself against, I made a youtube video a few years ago that shows how to make a simple homemade antibiotic that has been proven effective against many pathogenic microorganisms such as mold, fungi, bacteria, and virus. In our family we’ve used it to treat a severe case of impetigo and it was more effective than the prescription medication we tried. This same antibiotic was used to decontaminate buildings after the 2001 anthrax attacks. It was used to kill dangerous mold after Hurricane Katrina and it’s been used to help tens of thousands of people to heal from malaria. It’s simple to make and effective to use. I’ll include a link in the description. I’ll also include a written transcript of this podcast on my blog, two good things. Just do a google search for two good things bjork family blog. It will be under the Linda’s Corner tab.
Keep calm and don’t panic, remember that your body is designed to protect and heal itself, but if it needs a little help, there are wonderful, easily accessible resources available.
In closing, I’d like to share a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”