If you haven’t had Covid yet, doctors say these 6 reasons are why

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  • Backed by science.

    If you haven’t had Covid yet, in news this week, a top doctor has a theory as to why that may be.

    Posting on Facebook, the medical professional, who is also vice president of the Korean Vaccine Society, claimed that if you’ve so far managed to avoid the infectious virus, it’s likely because you have no friends.

    In his post, he said: “The adults who have not yet been infected with COVID-19 are those who have interpersonal problems.”

    Ma Sang-hyuk has since deleted the post and retracted his somewhat controversial comments, sharing that they were meant “metaphorically”, claims news site Daily. Naturally, his comments quickly went viral and divided opinion.

    This comes as new strains Deltacron and Stealth Omicron cause a rise in cases globally. (Read up on the Omicron symptoms, here).

    Expanding on his initial comments after the post went viral, he said: “[My post] emphasised how difficult it is for anyone to avoid the virus in a situation where there is a high rate of confirmed cases in the area.”

    However, many have pointed out that they caught Covid despite not seeing friends, with others quick to share that the reason they’d avoided the virus was not that they hadn’t seen friends, but been generally careful to wear a mask, wash their hands regularly, social distance when seeing others, and so on.

    One nurse – doctor Rosie Baruah – pointed out that, following Sang-hyuk’s reasoning, not having caught Covid-19 yet must mean she’s not pulling her weight on the busy ICU ward that she works on.

    On the other hand, some Twitter users shared that they agreed with the doctor’s sentiment – that they believe they haven’t caught the virus so far because they’ve limited their social interaction over the past few years.

    However, the majority of responses marked the doctor’s comments as insensitive.

    If you haven’t had Covid yet, doctors share 6 reasons why

    As the Twitter responses have highlighted, it seems a bit silly to say that not having friends is the reason you haven’t had Covid yet – which is why we asked two medical professionals for their take, instead.

    If you haven’t had Covid yet, below is what science indicates may have helped you avoid it so far. Do note: these are the opinions of the doctors we asked, and while backed with medical research, don’t conclusively confirm why you may not have had it yet.

    1. Air pollution in your area

    According to doctor Sam Watts (MCMA, Dip.Ayu, MSc, BSc Hons, and PhD), an evidenced-based Ayurvedic consultant and founder of Mind Body Medical & Ayurvedic Mentor Membership, published evidence has observed a clinically significant relationship between Covid infectivity and air pollution. “For example, evidence shows that Italian cities that exceed accepted air particle pollution rates for more than 80 days per year experienced a significantly greater rate of positive Covid infections than coastal cities with 60 or less days of high air pollution,” he shares.

    One research team from Yale Medical School and the National Research Council of Italy concluded in a 2020 study that Covid transmits largely via human to human infection, but also because of the amount of air pollution in your area. “This would suggest that avoiding Covid infection is potentially less to do with social contact and more to do with geographical and atmospheric variables,” Watts continues. Interesting.

    2. Your vitamin D levels

    You read our explainer on the link between Vitamin D and Coronavirus, and our guides to Vitamin D, Vitamin D foods, and Vitamin D recipes, too. So, question – can your vitamin levels really have an impact on whether or not you contract Covid-19?

    Short answer: potentially. Vitamin D is an essential compound within the body that plays a key synthesizing role in immune responses to infections, including Covid-19, explains the expert. “Early on in the pandemic, it was hypothesized that higher vitamin D levels could reduce your chances of getting Covid-19,” shares Watts.

    So what does the science say? Several clinical studies, including this 2020 JAMA Netw Open paper, have observed the hypothesis to be true, interestingly. “Research shows that if you are deficient in vitamin D, you are significantly more likely to become infected than people with sufficient vitamin D levels. This evidence provides a compelling argument that blood vitamin D level prior to and during the Covid-19 pandemic was protective against positive infections, highlighting the importance of sufficient vitamin D daily supplementation.”

    Pete Williams, medical scientist, functional medicine practitioner, and founder of Functional Medicine Associates agrees, that adding studies show higher vitamin D levels not only provide better protection but also significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisation and serious negative outcomes. “A recent meta-analysis showed that a min level of 125 nmol/l should be aimed for,” he shares.

    If I haven't had Covid 19 yet - socially distanced people

    3. Tree density near your home

    We touched on the environment being important in the air pollution point above – but is it important in other ways, too? It could be. As Watts explained, a 2021 study published in Environmental Chemistry observed a clinically significant reduction in Covid-19 infection rates in communities with higher areas of forest and green spaces.

    In short, anyone who lived with over 0.3 hectares of forest per capita had less chance of catching Covid-19, the study concluded. Why? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you’re further away from people, you’re less likely to catch the virus.

    That being said, Watts reckons there’s another side to it, too. “Trees, particularly those found in southern and western Europe, emit high levels of airborne chemicals called volatile organic compounds (structurally similar to aromatherapy essential oils),” he shares. “These compounds have clinically proven immune-modulating and anti-viral activity, and it was hypothesized that those breathing in air containing higher levels of them could have a higher level of protection against airborne viral infections such as Covid-19.

    4. Maintaining a healthy weight 

    You’ve likely seen the reports on the link between Covid-19 and a higher BMI – but did you know that studies have shown that obesity puts you at approximately three times more risk of catching the virus?

    “There is also evidence to suggest that diabetes or other comorbidities – eg having more than one chronic inflammatory disease or condition such as COPD, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease – present a higher risk of having Covid,” adds Williams.

    If I haven't had Covid 19 yet: a woman in a mask

    5. Working out regularly 

    Similarly, consistent moderate exercise – that’s three or more workouts of 30 minutes or more every week – primes your immune system to be better at protecting you, shares the expert.

    “The term “immunosurveillance” explains it, and means that the increased blood flow being pumped around your body from exercise can more easily transport immune soldiers to places of trouble to fight,” explains Williams.

    “Exercise also directly primes the immune system to make more effective immune fighting cells than normal,” he shares.

    6. Herbal medicine

    Bear with us on this one. While no, herbal medicine can’t out and out prevent you from getting Covid-19, studies have shown that they can be a powerful tool for boosting your immune system.

    A bit of background from Watts, first: herbal medicines have been used by humans for at least 50,000 years in both the prevention and treatment of illness and disease, he shares. “This is particularly true in the management of both bacterial and viral respiratory infections.”

    He shares that there is now compelling evidence to highlight the immune-modulating and anti-viral activity of several key herbal medicines, such as andrographis, skullcap, and elderberry against the Covid-19 virus.

    “Loads of research has been conducted into the use of herbal medicines as a prophylaxis against Covid-19, which suggests a clear protective benefit from some herbs which are able to suppress Covid-19’s ability to dock onto human cells,” he continues. “This is further supported by public health data which has observed lower infection rates in communities using herbal prophylaxis in both China and India – meaning evidence-based herbal medicines may have the capacity to reduce your risk of infection.”

    While none of the above are conclusive, and there will likely never be one conclusive reason why you didn’t catch Covid-19, they help to paint a picture of just how complex the virus is and how many factors are at play here. What do you reckon?

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