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  • Writer's pictureAnthony DiSalvo, LAc

How to protect yourself from the Coronavirus - A TCM Method.

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

One of the wonderful medical advantages provided by traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are in the methods of prevention. Here at Yu Dayi Chinese Medicine, it is very important to us to share helpful information for public health and safety. The methods discussed in this post are to help assist in preventing further progression of coronavirus symptoms primarily involving the upper respiratory system. Keep in mind, this also applies to any other colds, flus, or viruses affecting the upper respiratory system.

Currently there is no known cure in Western medicine for Covid-19. There is only supportive treatment. Eventually, a vaccine will be created but that will take at least a year's time or more before it is made public. In the meantime...

How can you take care of yourself or loved ones?

TCM has understood for several millennia that there are different stages in the progression of a disease or illness. One of the strengths in Chinese medicine is to help the body overcome the initial symptoms of an illness in an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, flu or other similar virus. The method of Treatment is to induce diaphoresis in the body, also known as sweating. This is understood to help purge the external pathogen from the body which assists the immune system in overcoming the illness.

Physiologically, the process of sweating in the body is a result of an increase in the body’s temperature, a change in its thermal regulation. In the presence of a virus the body creates a fever as its own defense mechanism. Thermal regulation assists the immune system in overcoming the onslaught of the viral load. This is relevant as it is now known that the Covid-19 virus can not survive the temperature range of 78.8-80.6 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

In TCM, there are acupuncture points and specific herbs in formulas that help cause diaphoresis in the body. However, if individuals are in self quarantine then it becomes difficult to receive this kind of care. And for the most part in America, TCM doctors are not integrated into the hospital systems where infected patients are being cared for. This doesn't mean you are helpless. We are sharing an additional preventative method that one can do at home, at the hospital or in a nursing home to induce sweating.

Drink hot water.

The simple method of drinking hot water and wrapping up in a warm blanket helps to raise the body’s internal temperature to induce a sweat. It is an important preventative method for people living in colder environments, any time of the year even. This can be done even without any signs or symptoms. Or, let's say you have a recent history of travel or exposure to a person who has tested positive for Covid-19, drinking hot water while you are traveling is also helpful in protecting your body if you are able to break a mild sweat. This method can be repeated throughout your length of your trip.

Maintaining a warm internal temperature is especially important in the immune compromised and elder person. This applies to anyone being cared for in a hospital or nursing home. These environments are constantly circulating cold air in their ventilation and air purification systems (for important reasons), but it is nevertheless cold air. When a person is sick and weak the body tends to become cold. The body's energy is depleted and cannot protect itself against external pathogens. Please be sure to dress patients warmly all around, protect their heads from cold air and help them to drink hot water throughout the day. Keep in mind, sweating profusely is not the goal here and is a sign of other issues. Take caution for those who suffer from night sweats.

Drinking hot water should be done at initial signs and symptoms, such as a runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, cough, chills, shortness of breath, fever (low or high grade), itchy eyes, fatigue and/or body aches.

Here is a helpful list of practical ways to perform this preventative method. Each method's end goal is to break a sweat, even a mild sweat is sufficient enough. If there is a fever it will break after diaphoresis. Some people sweat easier than others, some may require drinking several cups of hot water and further heating techniques to induce a sweat. It is safe to induce a mild sweat 1-3 times in a day as a preventative measure. You may perform this method once per day at night after interactions in public places. (No profuse sweating).

*Safe for pregnant women*

  • Drink Hot Water. Not burning hot, nor warm. It is important to boil (purify) your water first. No microwaving water. No lemons. No honey. No tea. Plain hot water only.

  • Dress warm, covering all limbs, feet and the head with a winter hat (beanie), and wrap yourself in a warm blanket. Utilizing an electric blanket is even more helpful, 15-20 min on high temp setting until sweating occurs (be careful to not overheat).

  • Take a hot shower, drink hot water before and/or after your shower.

  • Take a hot bath, drink hot water before, during and/or after your bath.

  • Stay warm all night long while you sleep. Maintaining an electric blanket is helpful.

  • If you feel faint-ish or dizzy due to the sweating methods, it may be due to electrolyte loss or low blood sugar. You may consume a glass of room temperature juice, maybe a spoonful of honey, a cup of gatorade or coconut water to help balance out electrolytes.

(Updated) This is not the same mechanism of action as a steam room, hot sauna or hot yoga. In those methods if you sweat you are depleting your body fluids and that can be dangerous. Furthermore, breathing in hot steam doesn't not raise your internal temperature, since the air cools once it enters your body. It is also recommended by the CDC to stay hydrated.

(Updated) The purpose of hot water versus spicy food or hot tea and whatnot is the neutral property (energy, flavor and movement) of water. Water does not add any additional properties to the body. Once the increased thermal effect occurs inducing diaphoresis, the body is unaffected by remaining food properties. In contrary, with a spicy food, hot coffee and tea, or perhaps anything else ingested to increase your core temperature those additional properties of that element remain in your body and can have other side effects. We don't want that.

It is already understood that the coronavirus (Covid-19) quickly progresses from an upper respiratory infection to a lower respiratory infection and ultimately leads to a fatal onset of bilateral interstitial pneumonia. This is why it is important to have viable preventative options, like drinking hot water to induce a sweat, to help prevent further progression of this virus.

What Else Can You Do?

There are some TCM dietary suggestions to include in your meals to help increase the body’s internal heat energy.

  • Fresh ginger (not dried ginger)

  • Garlic

  • It is important to eat less sweat, sour, greasy and salty foods.

  • Drink hot water during meals to assist with digestion troubles such as bloating, indigestion and constipation.

Further preventative measures include keeping yourself warm at all times. Covid-19 is classified as a cold-damp type virus in TCM. Stay away from air blowing indoors and don’t go out in cold weather areas unless properly bundled up. Of course, wash your hands regularly throughout the day, clean surfaces and door handles with disinfectants, etc.. I am confident we are all becoming better educated by employers and government health officials about proper protocols to stay clean.

We trust this helpful TCM method will serve you well and provide you with a little more confidence in dealing with this pandemic. What are you waiting for go turn on the kettle.

Please share this helpful information with your community. Let's all stay safe.

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