As students prepare for a return to in-person learning this school year, many students and families are taking additional steps for a safe and healthy learning environment. On this year’s back-to-school list, face masks and hand sanitizer accompany fresh notebooks and sharpened pencils. And with COVID-19 prevention at the forefront for both school districts and students, there are several steps that families can take to help prevent the spread of disease while also promoting overall health.
According to Ryan Martin, the director of pharmacy operations for NW Remedies, students can combine traditional masking and social distancing guidelines with additional strategies for a healthy return to school. “We can extrapolate from adult data that’s been collected and make some assumptions about what somebody can do to protect themselves from the Delta variant and getting severe COVID-19 infection,” explains Martin. “Because there are a few things that you can do and it’s not just simply avoidance strategies.”
As the school year begins, many school-age children remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. And until the vaccine becomes available to younger children, there are steps that can be taken to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases like influenza, the common cold and stomach flu in a school setting. In addition to any social distancing guidelines set forth by schools, Martin says wearing a mask can help offer protection to students and staff throughout the school day. Following a regular hand washing schedule can also help mitigate the spread of disease.
“First and foremost, the Centers for Disease Control will tell you to wear a mask and wash your hands repeatedly throughout the day,” says Martin. “That’s one of the biggest things you can do, good hand washing technique. They’ll say about every two hours or so you should wash your hands. Hand sanitizer doesn’t work as well as washing your hands in a sink, but it’s better than doing nothing in that regard.”
In addition to avoidance techniques, Martin says that supporting the immune system and living a healthy lifestyle may also reduce the risk of severe disease. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Vitamin D has been a popular point of research, both in preventing infection and reducing the severity of the disease. And although research is ongoing, getting the proper nutrients like Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc can all help to support the immune system.
“We don’t hear a lot about what you can do as far as supplementation or boosting your own immune system to help protect against COVID-19,” says Martin. “But there is actually some pretty good data that a few things can really help. First and foremost, the vitamin that has the most evidence to protect you from a severe COVID-19 infection is Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D levels in your blood are highly correlated with severe COVID-19 infections if you become exposed. And the opposite seems to be true as well. Having a high Vitamin D level in your blood, underwent fewer severe infections. So, getting Vitamin D in your system is important. And that’s not necessarily for just COVID-19. That seems to be across most respiratory viruses, like the flu, there is the same kind of pattern.”
When searching store shelves for immune system support, Martin recommends specific supplements like Vitamin D, Vitamin C or Zinc, rather than a multivitamin, to ensure proper dosing. And as common immune system supports, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc supplements are available at NW Remedies or any pharmacy that carries dietary supplements.
“The problem with a multivitamin, is they don’t give you a large enough dose,” explains Martin. “Even for kids, I recommend a dose of 1000 IUs for Vitamin D a day. And in a multivitamin, especially a kid’s multivitamin, you might get 200 to 400 IUs at max. So, you’re just not getting as much as you probably should, especially in an area like Washington that can get very dark, rainy seasons where you’re not getting as much sunlight. It’s very important to supplement, especially during the colder winter months.”
In addition to dietary supplements, a healthy diet can also support the immune system while also promoting the health of the body’s respiratory system. Eating fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables and avoiding foods with added sugars can all support overall health.
“Eating a good diet is really important too,” says Martin. “People overlook that all the time. If you can, stay away from added sugar. If you can, stay away from processed meat. Those all cause inflammation in your body and impair your immune response, as well. So just eating a well-balanced diet of whole foods, and staying away from excessive sugar and processed meat, sometimes with a lot of preservatives in that, that’ll really help, as well.”
To learn more about supplements that support the immune system, visit the NW Remedies website.