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As we begin to emerge from lockdown over the coming weeks and months, it’s important that we know the steps we need to take to help protect ourselves and loved ones.

As COVID-19 surges on, research is helping shed more light on how we can minimize our risk.

I highly recommend this guide written by Dr. Erin Bromage, an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Dr. Bromage explains how we get sick from any viral illness using a simple formula:

Successful infection = Exposure to virus x Time

In other words, the greater your exposure to a virus and the longer you are exposed to it, the more likely you are to become infected.

Let’s look at how each variable can change and what that means for your risk:

Exposure to virus: this variable changes based on whether an infected person is just breathing (which releases 50-5000 droplets per breath), coughing (about 3,000 droplets) or sneezing (about 30,000 droplets per sneeze!). Depending on the face mask, a large percentage of these droplets can be successfully contained (up to 95%).

These infected droplets can hang in the air for a few minutes, or longer in small, poorly ventilated spaces. Which is why this next variable is just as important…

Time of exposure: the longer you are in a room with an infected person, the more droplets are produced, and the higher your risk. This is particularly troublesome if in a small room with poor ventilation. If you are outside or in a space with good ventilation, the droplets have more area to dissipate and your exposure will be far less.

What this means for you:
  • Continue social distancing and using masks. Both of these rules really do protect you by keeping your creation of droplets and exposure to viruses much lower. There is not enough time to achieve the necessary infectious load when following social distancing.
  • The risk of infection is very low in outdoor environments. Sunlight, heat, humidity (thanks Austin!) and wind all serve to greatly minimize your risk even when you are around people who may be infected.
  • The risk may be low indoors… or it may be high. Evaluate the places you are considering going based on the “infection formula”:
    • If you have to go somewhere for a longer period of time (e.g. your office), your risk will be much lower if everyone wears masks, occupancy is low and the space is well-ventilated.
    • If you have to go somewhere with more people (e.g. the grocery store), keep your time there as short as possible, opt for a larger store if possible (better ventilation) and maintain social distancing.
Here is what we are doing at the clinic to minimize risk:
  • The waiting room is closed to minimize exchange of infectious material in that room.
  • 24/7 run-time of HEPA air purifier in treatment rooms graded to remove particulate smaller than a virus (I use and love this air purifier at home and in the clinic).
  • Disinfection of every surface touched after each client.
  • Requiring every client and employee to wear a face mask to minimize droplets.
  • Maintaining social distancing wherever possible.
  • No sick visits at this time (we are offering telemedicine for Chinese medical diagnosis and herbal prescriptions based on symptoms!).
  • Still washing hands before and after entering the room and following Clean Needle Technique guidelines (no change).

And all patients are being reminded to continue to bolster their immune system function. A healthy immune system can greatly affect the length and severity of your illness.

– Supplements: Research supports taking Vitamin CVitamin D, and Vitamin A to help improve immune system function for viruses specifically.

– Chinese herbs:  Chinese medicine has a long history in being a useful adjunct treatment for prevention and of viral illnesses. Several studies have shown Chinese medicine to be very effective at preventing SARS and H1N1 influenza in the past.

– Reduce stress: The stress response directly inhibits immune system function, leaving your system less prepared to fight an illness. Mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, spending time outside, and receiving acupuncture are all great stress relievers.

– Get enough sleep: Essential activities occur in the body to support immune system function while you sleep, and only while you sleep. If you are not sleeping well, reach out to me so we can determine the most appropriate steps to get you sleeping better ASAP.

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