Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic of 2019/2020

A new variant of coronavirus infection arose in China in 2019 and has since spread throughout the world. There have been a variety of public health interventions in an attempt to reduce social contacts so that the virus is not transmitted so easily. This can be viewed for the UK and for the Republic of Ireland.

Coronaviruses, in general, are a common cause of upper respiratory tract infections. The upper part of the respiratory tract consists of the nose, sinuses, throat and larynx. These viruses are common in the winter, in weather which is cold and damp. Covid-19 is a new variant which developed late in 2019.

Respiratory disease is spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs and we breathe in the droplets. This is more likely if we are in close proximity for more than 15 minutes or in an enclosed space. Droplets containing the virus can survive in the air for up to 3 hours. Hand hygiene is important only because we may come into contact with droplets and then we touch our nose or eyes.

With Covid-19, the incubation period (the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms) is between 2 and 14 days (typically 5-6 days).


The key symptoms are fever and chills, aches and pains typical of a flu-like illness, dry cough and tiredness.

Other symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of sense of taste and/or smell, dizziness, headaches.

The majority of people affected, around 80% – have mild or no symptoms, yet are still infectious. Complications occur in up to 20% of those affected when the symptoms descend into the lung itself – breathlessness is the main one to look for. The lung complications, such as pneumonia, are more common in those of us who have a pre-existing disease or are receiving medication which suppresses the immune system.

These medications include:

  • corticosteroids e.g. prednisolone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone
  • immune suppressants used in autoimmune disease e.g. methotrexate, azathioprine
  • drugs used after organ transplantation e.g. cyclosporine, tacrolimus
  • biologics or monoclonal antibodies e.g. etanercept or a group of relatively new drugs – all end in ‘umab’

Dehydration increases our risk of contracting an upper respiratory tract infection such as Covid-19. Likewise smoking increases our susceptibility and any subsequent infection is more problematic.

Red flags

These are symptoms which indicate that the illness is becoming more severe and should always be reported to your medical practitioner.

  • Breathlessness
  • Pulse rate more than 120 per minute
  • Cyanosis – blueness of lips and tongue
  • Confusion or increased confusion
  • Any symptom which is severe – this means a symptom which significantly limits your activiy and normal functioning
  • Any symptom which is worsening

Holistic perspective

Infections, usually bacterial or viral, are considered by conventional medicine to be of great importance in causing disease. There is an emphasis on the nature of infection, whether viral or bacterial, where it comes from and how it develops.

In holistic medicine, generally, and Chinese medicine, specifically, there is a vital component which is seen as paramount, that is, the person themselves – their health, the strength of their immune system.

Why is it that in any epidemic, there are some people who are exposed but who do not contract the disease? Why is it that if people do contract the disease, it takes different forms with each of them?

Each person’s condition is different and it is this which is of overriding importance. It was this very thought that led Pasteur to say later in life, ‘The condition is everything, the germ is nothing.’

In traditional Chinese medicine, we talk about external factors which lead to illness such as Wind, Cold, Dampness or Heat. It is the relative balance of the strengths of these factors and the Qi or vital energy of the body that is the important question.

How to be healthy

So, what can we do to help ourselves? What can we do to reduce our risk of developing illness?

As mentioned previously, it is the energy of the person which is the key. When our energy is strong and vital, we are less likely to fall ill and tend to develop relatively minor symptoms should we fall ill. The weaker our energy, the more likely that an illness will lead to more severe illness. In the context of Covid-19, these are the lung complications such as pneumonia.


The most efficient method of breathing is into our abdomen rather into the chest alone, particularly the upper chest. Use the nose rather than mouth breathe. The most exterior parts of the respiratory system – nose, sinuses and throat have important functions in warming and filtering air as well as helping to protect the lungs against infections and allergens.
Stopping smoking will help us resist upper respiratory tract infections.


We all know how important it is to eat a well balanced diet with fresh food. From the perspective of Chinese medicine, an emphasis on eating warm food using fresh root ginger is the key. Be careful to avoid or limit sugar and alcohol.


It is helpful to take a multivitamin supplement. Make sure that it contains zinc as well as vitamins A, B, C and D.

Echinacea is the go-to herb for helping our immune system fight off colds and flu. Take it as a tincture – 25 drops once daily for prevention and 25 drops three times daily at the first sign of any symptom.

Relaxation and meditation

The mind is directly and closely connected to our immune system. The function of our white blood cells diminishes if we are unduly stressed. Exercises to calm the mind are very beneficial for our mental and emotional health as well as helping to support our immune system.

Useful apps to use on your phone include Insight Timer, and Headspace. I usually suggest that you find a relaxation session which appeals to you, is of a reasonable length to suit your life and then practise daily.

Energy exercises

As mentioned above, the strength and vitality of our energy (Qi in Chinese medicine, prana in ayurvedic medicine) is key to resisting disease and reducing the severity of any symptoms should we fall ill.

There are some excellent exercises from both the Chinese and Indian traditions which no only give us physical activity but also strengthen our internal energies. This improves the strength of our immune system as the internal organs function more efficiently.

Qi Gong, tai chi and yoga are all excellent methods to start if you do not already practise them. There are some great resources online. Here are a few suggestions.

Stand Still Be Fit with Master Lam Kam Chuen

20 minute routine

Michael Tse Qi Gong teacher

Regular exercise such as walking, particularly in the fresh air is excellent. If it is sunny then we are also gaining vitamin D and the uv light will tend to neutralise the virus.

Chinese herbal formulae

In early February, 2020, when the situation in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the initial epidemic was very serious, the government there announced a major change in strategy. All patients were to be treated with traditional Chinese medicine methods as well as Western treatments. Both Chinese herbal formulae and acupuncture have been used with good results as patients responded well to the addition of this approach.

As with all flu-like illnesses, there are generally considered to be three levels to be addressed requiring different treatments at each level.

1 Prevention

2 Treatment of any initial flu like symptoms – fever and chills, aches and pains, tiredness

3 Treatment of any lung complications (including pneumonia) where you usually see a severe cough with phlegm, breathlessness, loose bowels and severe fatigue


Follow health authorities guidance about minimising risk of contacting Covid-19 virus

Consider a daily routine paying attention to diet, exercises and relaxation

Looking after our health is not complicated – keep it simple and give your body and mind the optimum opportunity to be strong and healthy

If you wish to discuss this further or talk to me about herbal formulae, please contact me here. I am available for video/phone consultations during this pandemic.

This article is for your general information only.

Nothing in this article contradicts the current advice of government health care agencies. It is important to follow such advice as a means of minimising exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

Please discuss any concerns you have about your health and how to support it with your health care practitioner.

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