These are scary times. No one wants to get sick during a pandemic. There are lots of recommendations out there on how to avoid COVID. Most are wrong.
Alas, this is an old, old story. During the recurring bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages, people rubbed onions, cut up snakes, placed dead pigeons on the skin lesions caused by that disease. The desperate drank vinegar and urine; the wealthy crushed up gemstones and ate them. During the Spanish flu pandemic of one hundred years ago, onions and vinegar remained in vogue as did recommendations for enemas and inhaling factory fumes.
It’s normal for people to want miracle cures when faced with a fearful new disease, but honestly, the best preventatives are the ones you already know: Wear a mask when out in public. Whenever possible, keep other people at a distance of six feet. When you return home from being in public, wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds.
There are many folks out there—even a few MDs—advising that you can avoid getting COVID-19 by taking supplements. But can you?
Here’s my take:
- Vitamin D3 – Yes, this is a needed vitamin. All people over 65 should be tested to see if they are getting enough of this. This vitamin’s major benefit is that it decreases osteoporosis. Colds can be decreased modestly with adequate Vitamin D. NOTE: More Vitamin D is not better. Increased levels are associated with an advanced plaque in blood vessels, potentially leading to strokes and heart attacks. COVID – No evidence shows that Vitamin D3 prevents or treats COVID.
- Zinc – This mineral modestly decreases the duration of colds. NOTE: While you may see claims that zinc hastens wound healing; this has not been scientifically proven. COVID – No evidence that zinc prevents or treats COVID.
- Vitamin C – Of course, we’ve all heard that Vitamin C prevents colds and flu. However, there’s little evidence that this is true. If you take Vitamin C, your cold or flu will last about the same number of days. NOTE: Some claim that Vitamin C at high doses can cure cancer. It does not. COVID – There is no evidence that Vitamin C prevents or treats COVID.
- Echinacea – There is no evidence that Echinacea prevents or treats COVID.
- Curcumin – There is no evidence that Curcumin prevents or treats COVID.
- Medical Mushrooms – There is no evidence that Medical Mushrooms prevent or treat COVID.
- Elderberry – There is no evidence that Elderberry prevents or treats COVID.
- Garlic, Licorice – There is no evidence that Garlic or Licorice prevents or treats COVID. But they’re delicious, and they can’t do any harm at healthy doses.
Elizabeth (Dr Liz) has over twenty years of experience in providing medical care to the elders. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care Medicine. Dr Landsverk founded ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, a house calls practice, to address the challenging medical and behavioral issues often facing older patients and their families.