Huddersfield pharmacists offer advice on keeping your immune system strong and staying safe

PHARMACISTS at the University of Huddersfield have offered advice on how people can ensure that their immune systems stay in good shape, so they can fight off the effects of Covid-19 if necessary.  This follows the Government’s instruction to remain at home.

It is important to have a healthy diet and to remain active, says Dr Muhammad Usman Ghori, who is a Senior Research Fellow in Pharmacy.  People who still smoke should definitely try and stop or cut back to lower their risk.  Reducing alcohol consumption can also help.

Keeping your immune system functioning optimally can help to keep you healthy.  Advice includes proper handwashing, maintaining good nutrition, being physically active, managing our mental health and getting enough sleep.  Plenty of fruit and veg is important, and dairy products can help.

“Any kind of milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed – is fine because it contains vitamin A, vitamin B12 and calcium, which can be very helpful in strengthening the immune system,” said Dr Ghori.

He also emphasises the importance of the physical activity.  This can be in the home, for example yoga, and people should take daily outdoor exercise – permitted under the regulations, provided social distancing is observed.

The Pharmacy team also attached great importance to the avoidance of stress – “one of the major factors in undermining the immune system,” says Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice Dr Hayley Gorton, who recently developed the first-ever community pharmacy mental health scheme, which was piloted by LloydsPharmacy.

“Coronavirus is creating stress, obviously, but it is important to remember that more than 80 per cent of those infected experience mild symptoms and recover.  So, we must try to reduce stress as much possible,” she said.  “It is essential that we all manage our mental health and well-being, especially at this challenging time when there is much worry and loss of routine.”

The NHS Every Mind Matters website offers suggestions to keep healthy while staying at home.  Some of the specifics include limiting access to news rather than a continual news stream, which can provoke anxiety.  Also, making time to exercise and keeping in touch with family and friends remotely.  If you usually have support for your mental health, find out how you can contact the people that usually help you, for example the GP, community mental health teams, community pharmacist.  They may be working in a different set-up at the moment, but they will still be able to offer support. 

One of the most factors is to follow government and health service advice by isolating and staying at home whenever possible.  “We must remember that Coronavirus will only spread if we spread it,” says the University’s Head of Pharmacy, Professor Barbara Conway.  “We bring it into our homes when we go out or ignore social distancing advice and good hygiene.  This is why staying at home is the best policy… stay home, stay safe, save lives.”