Are you tired of drinking copious amounts of DIY potions that are touted to keep the Coronavirus at bay? Or are you carrying around a stack of camphor balls in your coat to ward off the virus?
Well, here is some food for thought.
"While the pandemic brought much-needed focus on health and hygiene, it also created a lot of confusion among people about what is good for health and what is not. A steep rise in demand for immunity-boosting supplements and alternate medicines, which apparently strengthened the immune system, was seen. WhatsApp group chats, social media platforms and family table discussions were flooded with home remedies, recipes and Kadhas to boost immunity! The most googled health topic in 2020 was "how to increase immunity", a clear indication of people wanting to adopt any and everything that would give them protection from COVID19," says Dr Kirti Sabnis, infectious disease specialist, Fortis Hospital Mulund.
However, these so-called remedies can actually backfire.
With the growing number of cases, the number of variants, and double mutations being found, it is certain that no supplements and kadhas can protect us from the virus. Dr Sabnis adds, "We have to understand that our immune system is very finely tuned. There is a balance between an immune system that is effective at limiting the ability of bacteria, viruses, and parasites to cause infection and a hyperactive immune system that can cause such problems as allergies, diabetes, and other types of auto-inflammatory and auto-immune disorders."
Can home remedies really harm us?
The answers lie in the fact that there is no proper evidence that says a particular remedy can be adopted in one way or the other. While there will be some science attached to it, the scientific value is never measured. Also, nobody knows which remedy may suit one person or the other. Therefore, the most dangerous aspect of home remedy intake is that it is undertaken without expert monitoring, and without knowing the right dosage/ frequency, as it is never prescribed by a doctor.
Dr Sabnis shares some remedies that were adopted fervently but did more harm than good:
- Drinking kadhas: Common ingredients used to make kadha include black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, giloy, ashwagandha, cardamom, and ginger. While these are good stimulants during winters, these items create immense heat in the body. Excessive consumption of these can be harmful and cause problems like nose bleed, persistent acidity, lead to mouth ulcers and black stools. While making kadhas, one has to be extremely careful about the number of herbs and spices that are being used to make it, these can long-term effects too.
- Excessive intake of vitamin supplements: Zinc was commonly consumed in the past year. There is some evidence that Zinc can help curb the virus, but again, we do not have enough evidence to verify the quantity of supplement consumption. High levels of Zinc, can lead to a depressed, rather than a strengthened immune system. FDA has also warned consumers that Zinc nasal sprays can lead to loss of smell. Vitamin-D toxicity is developed when there is excess intake and a high amount of Calcium in your blood (Hypercalcemia) can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination
- Overconsumption of Ayurvedic health supplements: While these are powerful herbal remedies used to bolster immunity and enhance the longevity of a person; these cannot be the only shield against COVID19. Also, they cannot be consumed disproportionately. These time-tested supplements should be taken as prescribed; overuse may cause persistent digestive issues and erratic bowel movement
- Camphor use: Camphor when used the right way and in the right quantity, that is small quantities during steam inhalation or as an ointment, it is helpful. But we witnessed misuse of camphor in the past year; here are its hazards – oral consumption of camphor can cause breathing issues, seizures, and even death. Children, pregnant women and breastfeeding moms should not use camphor at all!
- Blind consumption of Arsenicum Album: WhatsApp university pushed the consumption of Arsenicum Album to prevent COVID19, and people blindly began self-dosaging. However, no studies were found that researched the effect of Arsenicum Album for Coronavirus in humans or animals. Importantly, no studies were found that linked the efficacy of any homoeopathy drug in Coronavirus infections!
- Untested immunity-boosting powders: Most immunity-boosting powders available in the market may have Steroids. Excessive Steroids intake can weaken your immune system, leading to more sickness and an increased risk of serious health problems!
- Steam inhalation: While steam inhalation is said to be an age-old home remedy for the common cold, it can’t help in fighting a virus-like COVID 19. Moreover, steam can cause swelling of the eyes, redness of the eye, dry eye, continuous watering of the eye, etc. It can also affect the skin, and may even burn it when overexposed to steam. It also causes skin on the face and neck to become dry, leading to fungal or bacterial skin infections
- Saltwater gargling: Most experts recommend saltwater gargles twice a day for people having sore throat but too much salt water can also have health risks, such as calcium deficiency and high blood pressure. Also, over-gargling with hot water can cause mouth ulcers, and repeated drinking of hot water can cause stomach ulcers
- Bathing with disinfectants: As soon as the pandemic hit us, people began to wash food with bleach, applied household cleaning or disinfectant products to bare skin, and intentionally inhaled or ingested the cleaners. Some even started bathing with disinfectants. There is enough evidence that states that inappropriate use of disinfectants can cause poisoning!
Here is what you can *actually* do:
Social distance and wear a mask
Eat a healthy diet with fruits, nuts, and vegetables
Avoid processed foods
Drink eight glasses of water a day
Include physical activities to your regular regime
Get 8-10 hours of good sleep
Have a stress-free home environment
Try to have a good amount of exposure to sunlight every day
Stay hygienic and wash your hands
Dr Sabnis adds, "The bottom line is that besides vaccines, social distancing, masking, and the adoption of hygienic habits, there is really nothing you can take to improve your immune system. Therefore, it is best to avoid pills and potions that make those types of claims; instead adopt the SMS model (Social distancing, Masking, Sanitizing) & only set out when absolutely necessary."