The nation’s vaccination numbers are rising daily (62.8% of adults have received an immunization), and the warm weather is finally here. In our second summer facing this pandemic, it’s natural to want to get outside and among friends. However, as a laboratory partner, Ovation knows firsthand that the risk of covid exposure is still prevalent. During the summer months, we still need to minimize our COVID risk. Here’s how the experts say we can accomplish this.
Prioritize immune system health this Summer
Improving your immune system health is a key factor for all variants of infection risk. Ensuring you are healthy from the inside out can help aid in the prevention of those infections. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that improving your immune system starts with the food you ingest and making important lifestyle changes. Preventive medicine Physician and wellness expert, Sandra Darling, DO, recommends these four immunity boosters for better immune system health: Garlic, Prebiotics, Vitamin C-rich foods, and Antioxidants.
Garlic: Allicin, a compound in garlic, is well-known for its ability to boost the immune system.
Prebiotics: Robust gut bacteria protect us against infection. Keep those bacteria healthy with prebiotics that contains fiber, specifically inulin fiber. Excellent sources of prebiotics are green bananas, or plantains, and asparagus.
Vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C is known to boost immunity. One study found that older adults who ate kiwi every day for a month had a significant decrease in the severity and duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms. Dr. Darling recommends getting your dose of Vitamin C from “oranges, broccoli, kiwi or cantaloupe.”
Antioxidants: Stress can lead to lowered immunity and make you more prone to illness. Colorful fruits and vegetables have antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress, translating to a stronger immune system. Try foods like berries, carrots, spinach, broccoli, almonds, and kiwi to boost immune health this summer.
Minimize COVID risk by maximizing rest
Making adjustments in your lifestyle is another helpful action The Cleveland Clinic suggests for protecting your immune health. “Living in a state of constant stress will cause the body to produce too much cortisol, elevated cortisol lowers your resistance to fighting off infection and contributes to poor sleep and higher blood pressure”, Dr. Darling recommends these three changes to counter that.
Sleep: You need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to fight off infection. “Prioritize sleep. IF you need help choose a tried-and-true technique known as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or CBT-I,” says Dr. Darling.
Meditation: Meditation lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and reduces anxiety. Plus, it’s calming, so it is no surprise that it also helps you sleep.
Exercise: “Exercise increases your resilience so you can fight off infection,” says Dr. Darling, “our bodies function better when we’re physically active every day.” Dr. Darling recommends carving out at least 10 -30 minutes a day and doing a mixture of cardio and strength training.
Be mindful during Summer activities
The standard guidelines that we all have become accustomed to still apply. Such as, socially distancing when needed, wearing a mask when mandated or necessary, washing our hands often, and utilizing hand sanitizer. It is a priority that we take care of ourselves physically, but we also need to take care of ourselves mentally. For our own personal well-being, this may mean meeting up with friends and family, going to a concert, or just spending time outside. The Mayo Clinic has provided us a list of safe activities (low risk to high risk) that offer solutions to get you out of the house.
They also stress the importance of risk assessment to mitigate exposure, while recognizing personal well-being. “At the same time, well-being also includes doing things that make life worth living. With the right information, you can make thoughtful choices that bring a sense of normalcy and joy to your life during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Keep these options in mind as you navigate the best route to take towards your summer plans.
CDC recommendations and guidance for COVID
The CDC has recommendations on how to protect yourself throughout many different activities or settings this summer. The CDC Recommends, “choosing safer activities, consider how COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the number of people participating in the activity, and the location of the activity. Outdoor visits and activities are safer than indoor activities, and fully vaccinated people can participate in some indoor events safely without much risk.” Be sure to follow your local/state’s COVID-19 numbers to monitor the higher COVID risk areas. That way when you search for summer activities for you or your family, you will be aware of what areas have a greater risk of exposure.
Understand the risks of outdoor events
If you are someone who is looking forward to large events such as concerts, sporting events, or festivals opening back up then here are the risk factors to consider provided for us by the CDC. “The setting of the event – Indoor events, especially in places with poor ventilation, pose more risk than outdoor events. Length of the event—Events that last longer pose more risk than shorter events. Being within 6 feet of a COVID-infected person for 15 minutes + (over a 24-hour period) greatly increases the risks of infection. Number and crowding of people at the event – Events with more people increase the likelihood of being exposed. The size of the event depends on whether attendees from different households can stay at least 6 feet. Physical distancing at events can reduce transmission risk—for example, blocking off seats or modifying room layouts.”
If you have been fully vaccinated, then the CDC has different guidelines for you. As a vaccinated individual, you can resume activities as you did prior to the pandemic. The CDC states, “you do not need to wear a mask or stay 6 feet apart unless required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations.” Additionally, those traveling in the U.S. no longer need to be tested beforehand.
Whether you want to enjoy your summer inside or outside, the CDC has provided us some key points to consider when making decisions to best ensure your safety. Vaccinations, smaller group activities, and continuing to socially distance when possible are all helpful actions. As the CDC learns more, they will continue to update their recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Your diligence can minimize COVID risk for everyone
We are not strangers to these safety measures, as this is our second summer living amid this pandemic. However, it is important to recognize that the precautions we have taken for over a year now have pushed us closer to our pre-pandemic lives. Although we still have a long road ahead of us, we have made significant strides in reducing risk. Everything we do has an impact, and that has gotten us to where we are now. The best way to minimize COVID risk this summer is to plan accordingly to minimize situational risk levels whenever possible. Enjoy your summer, but keep these tips in mind as you do.