covid-19: frequently asked questions

Dr. Joon Lee, medical director of an integrative medicine practice based in Scarsdale, NY, responded to a collection of questions concerning the novel coronovirus, from testing clarification to nutritional advice, among other important points:

Q: If I have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive but I’m asymptomatic, how long will I be able to spread the virus to others?

A: Fourteen days. You should self-quarantine for those 14 days to keep those around you safe.

Q: Is there a test to see if I’ve had the virus and am now immune to it?

A: Yes, you’re referring to the IgM/IgG rapid test. The test uses one drop of blood and takes 15 minutes to get the result. Past infection can be detected by measuring Immunoglobulin M and Immunoglobulin G in your blood. This test has a low false negative rate of 2%. So the test is accurate 98% of the time. If the test comes back positive, it’s a presumptive positive and a nasal swab needs to be done to confirm the positive. There are four other strains of non COVID-19 corona virus that can trigger a false positive.

Q: Can a person test negative with a nasal swab and later test positive for COVID-19?

A: Yes. The nasal swab COVID-19 test has a high false negative rate. The rate depends on how well the test was conducted. You need another test 13 days after you first had the initial symptoms to confirm the negative result.

Q: Do I have immunity if my test comes back positive? 

A: Yes, theoretically you have obtained immunity. You may get it again from a different variant of corona virus (like the flu).

Q: What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?

A: Keep your kids home! Most children will only have a mild case (similar to a common cold or flu), and teenagers are likely to be asymptomatic. They can still, however, spread the disease to you or other members of your family.

Children with asthma, type 1 Diabetes and other chronic illnesses have a higher risk of getting sick. Babies from 6  to 12 months are vulnerable to infection. Their immune protection given by their mother at birth and during breastfeeding has faded, and their own immune system isn’t fully developed. According to a Chinese study of 2,000 children, 60% of the 125 children who got severely ill from the virus were younger than 5 years old.

Q: This situation has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for me and my family. What can I do?

A: Take breaks from watching the news and make sure to go outside and enjoy the sun and take some deep breaths. Create a new routine to keep your focus on something else throughout the day: cooking, art and crafts, taking warm baths, going for walks, reading, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, playing board games, walking your dog more frequently, taking a hot, Epsom salt bath at night, etc. Create house chores and routines with your kids. Wake up in the morning and go to sleep at a reasonable time. Don’t let yourself or your kids become Netflix zombies.
Stay connected to friends and family. Use Zoom, Facetime, or Hangouts to see them face to face. We might not be going anywhere, but we are not alone. Reach out to the people you love. And exercise!

Q: What about exercise, what should I be doing? 
A: Walking. Try 8,000 steps a day or whatever you can tolerate. Per your question above, exercise is one of the best ways to relieve anxiety. Yoga can be great for anxiety. Go for a walk or a run in your backyard, do 100 jumping jacks, do a minute plank challenge with your family, sit ups and push ups, and stretch everyday. There are many online exercises you can follow these days for free.

Q: I’m having trouble sleeping, what can I do?

A: Again, exercise every day and take some time to meditate and practice deep breathing. If you need some additional assistance to sleep, try melatonin, GABA, L-theanine or CBD oil.

Q: Is it unsafe for me to take Ibuprofen?

A: Yes. It has been shown to increase the severity of the corona virus. If needed, take Tylenol to reduce fever and pain.

Q:  Is it safe for me to move in with my elderly mother? Or is it better to stay separated?

A: If possible, it is best to isolate yourself from your elderly family members. Social distancing will keep them safer from the virus.

Q: Since masks are hard to come by, what suggestions do you have for reusing disposable masks and at what point do they become totally useless?

A: Disposable masks are meant to be disposed of after every interaction but none of us has that luxury at this time. Surgical masks are fluid resistant and provide protection against large droplets, but they are loose fitting. N95s are fitted tightly to your face and provide better protection against small particle aerosols and large droplets. Both are generally okay to reuse until the form of the mask is ruined or the outer surface of the mask is compromised. Hospitals are setting up hydrogen peroxide vapor decontamination for reuse of N95 masks, but this is not something you can do at home to reuse your masks. Don’t try to steam them or boil them. Instead, air them out and use them until the integrity of the mask is compromised.

Q: How reliable are masks other than N95 models?

A: N95 masks provide 95% protection. Other masks do not provide as reliable protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and are not considered airborne protection. However, it is better to wear any kind of mask than no mask.

Q: Does my recent bout of pneumonia in November put me in an additional at risk category other than age?

A: Yes. Your immune system is still recovering.

Q: What general nutritional advice would you give for someone who may have contracted COVID-19 or is trying to avoid getting sick?

A: Whole foods are always better than anything processed. Avoid all processed food. Using more superfoods, such as turmeric, garlic, ginger and mushrooms in your cooking can support your immune system. Brightly colored vegetables and fruits (red, green, blue, purple) have more vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Flavonoids, easily found in berries and onions are known to reduce the incidence of colds and flus. Vitamin C has anti-viral effects as well as immune modulating effects. Use more lemon in your cooking. Eat more oranges, red bell peppers, kiwi, and broccoli. Fermented foods (like kimchi) and yogurt/kefir, which increases probiotics, have been found to reduce incidence of influenza and common cold in children and the elderly. Limit your alcohol and sugary drinks. Drink plenty of water. Have hot teas and warm fluids.

Q: Since we understand you have a holistic or integrative medicine practice, what can I do more naturally to protect myself, particularly since I’ve already been taking Elderberry tea, Black seed oil and D3. Are these protocols ineffective or harmful against Covid-19?

A: If you have already been taking these supplements, you can continue. Do not start taking them now without knowing your Vitamin D levels or how you react to Elderberry.

Q:. I have a protein powder and each serving contains 200 IU of Vitamin D and 2500 IU of Vitamin A. Should I stop drinking the powder?

A: If you have been taking it already, then it should be fine to continue. Don’t start taking it now.

Q: What is cat’s claw and NAC?

Cat’s claw is a plant with antiviral properties and is an immune booster. NAC, or n acetyl cysteine, is an amino acid that helps with liver detox and clearing congestion. NAC is used in emergency rooms for Tylenol overdose and in end stage lung disease as mucomyst to loosen up the mucus.

Q: Will an IV vitamin infusion prevent me from contracting the corona virus?

A: No, but it will help keep your immune system strong to fight it!

Q: What is Gamastan and how can it help me during this pandemic?

Gamastan can help you if you have a weak immune system and have a known immune deficiency. Gamastan is immunoglobin G which establishes stronger immune regulatory pathways, providing passive immunity post exposure. We have seen great results using it for our patients post exposure or as an immune boosting treatment. There is no clinical research being done on Gamastan against COVID. Gamastan is generally used to provide protection against certain viral infections (hepatitis A, measles, chickenpox, rubella) for people who have not been vaccinated or have not had the infection before. It is also used to strengthen the body’s natural immune system to lower the risk of infection for those with immunoglobulin deficiencies.


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