As the pandemic spreads cases of COVID-19 around the globe, it’s more important than ever that our immune system remains at peak performance.
Whether folks are in a state of self-quarantine or not, the abilities of this virus to persevere and survive extended periods without a human host are still largely unknown… though the length of time does appear substantial.
So it’s impossible to know whether the virus is lurking on the outside of an unopened piece of mail or that can of soup you just bought.
That’s why our immune system needs to remain on call and prepared to fight at the drop of a hat.
For some, that’s easier said than done…
When the going gets tough, many of the tough reach for a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
I’ve written before about how long-term NSAID regimens (like ibuprofen) can wreak havoc on the body.
But I’ve never quite touched on the troubles they can pose when trying to fend off a dangerous virus.
No to NSAIDs
When it comes to the common cold, NSAIDs are the treatment du jour for a lot of folks out there. They take them for the analgesic effects that reduce pain and for the antipyretic effects that reduce fever.
But right now, people should be extremely cautious about using them primarily for fever reduction.
Because these anti-inflammatories are well-known to inhibit the production of antibodies and in turn lower the body’s defense mechanisms. And this is especially true for the elderly and those in chronic pain who rely heavily on NSAIDs.
Conventional medicine is quick to prescribe these for things like the common cold. And even though I’m not a fan of that approach, a weakened immune system can still usually fight off a cold before it turns into something more serious.
But I shouldn’t have to tell you that there’s a big difference between the common cold and COVID-19…
When this virus enters the body, it often starts by inducing a high fever. That’s why people might be inclined to take an NSAID.
But it is also known to induce severe respiratory problems that can potentially result in multi-organ dysfunction (which is the deadly aspect of the virus).
The Way Our Bodies Do Battle
Now, one of the first responses our bodies have to a viral infection like the coronavirus is to put “mast cells” on guard.
These are let loose by our respiratory tract – namely from the nasal passages and lining of the lungs.
And when they spot a virus from their watchtowers, they sound the alarm to unleash a much larger immune response… and inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) are released.
While most inflammation is bad, these inflammatory agents are needed to help defeat any virus long term.
It’s essentially the effectiveness of these chemicals that determines whether a person can fight off an infection or face dealing with further complications from it down the road.
The problem with NSAIDs is they are unbiased destroyers of inflammation. They take a napalm approach to inflammation no matter what side it’s fighting for. They just torch it all.
That might be fine when dealing with the symptoms of back pain or arthritis…
But when the immune system needs certain levels of inflammation in order to fight off an invading virus, taking NSAIDs is like feeding ammo to the opposition.
So instead of reaching for an ibuprofen for pain, acetaminophen (you know it as Tylenol) is a much better choice right now. This can also effectively treat fever.
And because it’s not an anti-inflammatory, it’s a much safer choice to treat fever and pain-related issues from this viral infection.
We have no idea how long this is going to last. But until we’re out of the woods, it’s important that we keep our immune system on active duty… ready to go into battle as soon as necessary.
Stay safe, and stay prepared.