PMQs: May says 'omicron is less serious than previous variants'
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The Omicron variant, which arrived in the UK in early December, has seen Covid cases rocket across the world. This is largely to do with the fact it is thought to be far more transmissible than previous strains, with viral loads far higher in people with Omicron.
Recently, the US Chief Medical Advisor Dr Anthony Fauci recently told the Centre for Strategic and International Studies: “Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody.”
Though warding off this transmissible variant may seem like a daunting challenge, health experts from across the industry spoke with Express.co.uk to share their insight into some of the best ways to maintain good health while Omicron is rife.
Tropical disease and travel health doctor Dr Richard Dawood from The Fleet Street Clinic in London told Express.co.uk: “Omicron has proved to be only a weak match with the viral strains that our vaccines are based on, and it has become painfully clear that two vaccine doses don’t give enough protection.
“By far the most effective measure anyone can follow to avoid omicron is, therefore, to take up the option of a third dose at the earliest opportunity.”
Yet, even if you are fully vaccinated, there are some additional measures that can improve your health and overall immunity.
Following guidance on social distancing and hand washing
Though, two years into the pandemic it may seem obvious now to wash one’s hands and practise social distancing where possible, these remain some of the best ways to avoid catching coronavirus.
Dr Dawood said: “The usual measures we all know about are likely to be much more protective and relevant than previously especially hand washing.”
And it isn’t just Covid that handwashing can prevent. The NHS states: “Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as food poisoning and flu.”
Wearing a face mask
Face masks have become mandatory in certain settings around the world.
Dr Dawood told Express.co.uk wearing a face mask is one of the most important things in the fight against Covid.
He said: “Instead of simply wearing a cloth face covering, or even a surgical mask, I would definitely consider wearing a high filtration (FFP3) mask in higher-risk situations – particularly, for example, during air travel, now that the requirement for pre-travel testing is being removed.”
Indeed, according to Dr Alan Green, a scientist and environmentalist: “Fabric face coverings and ‘fashion masks’ offer some minimal protection.”
However, while standard issue disposable face PPE masks “offer better protection” he points out that they are causing a “huge environmental crisis”.
Instead, he recommends using something like The Silver Life Face Covering which is a mask developed by scientists made from silver-based 3D knitting technology and “meets the World Health Organization’s recommendations for use against the current microbial pandemic”.
The mask is reusable up to 100 washes and made from 36 percent recycled material.
Dr Green continued: “Though the rules often change, as of early January, face coverings are now required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, including taxis. Face coverings are not required in hospitality venues where food and drink are consumed (such as pubs, cafés and restaurants), or during exercise (such as gyms), including dancing (such as nightclubs).”
However, even if masks are not legally required, he advises wearing them in certain environments.
Dr Green said: “You should still continue to wear a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.”
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Pack more immune-boosting foods into your diet
Having a strong and healthy immune system is vital for fighting all manner of germs and bacteria, not limited to just coronavirus.
However, your immune system plays a huge role in fighting off the virus should you contact it.
This is why nutritionist Naomi Newman-Beinar says it is important to pack in plenty of fruit and vegetables due to the vast number of vitamins and minerals.
Dr Naomi said: “Research has found that people who eat more fruit and vegetables seem to have a better immune function.
“One study in Germany found that healthcare workers who consumed more fruit and vegetables had 20 percent fewer colds throughout the time of the study.
“An added bonus is that fruit and vegetables are also great for your skin and overall health.”
Herbs and spices can also play a key role in improving health.
Sebastian Pole, herbalist and founder Herbalreality.com told Express.co.uk: “Herbs and spices have been used medicinally since ancient times and warming spices, such as ginger, clove and cinnamon, are brilliant to keep you healthy over winter.”
Move your body more
Another way to keep your immune system firing on all cylinders is to incorporate exercise into your daily or weekly routine.
Whether it is going for a run or simply enjoying a brisk walk, the NHS advises adults between 19 and 64 should “do some type of physical activity every day”.
Rebecca Convey, pilates expert and owner of Kinetic Pilates told Express.co.uk: “Lifestyle choices, diet, sleep, mental health and exercise are all aspects of creating and maintaining health.
“There is a strong correlation between a healthy lifestyle and a strong immune system and to maintain a strong immune system, you need to focus on overall health.”
Though there are countless ways to keep fit, Ms Convey points out that pilates is a great option for “everyone”, with workouts able to be tailored to individual fitness levels, injury or physical issues.
She added: “It is an exercise method that is effective at building strength, flexibility and stamina.”
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Try to reduce stress
Mental health is just as important as physical health, which is why nutritionist and yoga teacher Libby Limon advises people to spend some time focussing on reducing stress.
She said: “It’s been a stressful year so far and everyone’s feeling a little anxious from recent events. Our ability to cope leaves many of us in a chronically stressed state with a tendency for anxiety, poor sleep and feeling overwhelmed.
“Therefore when pushed, this can then tip over to physical symptoms or getting sick.
“Taking some time to incorporate some stress relief methods into your everyday routine such as mindful breathing, walking or yoga can help you switch off more effectively rather than pushing yourself to the edge of burnout.”
According to Ms Limon, there are also some supplements, such as ashwagandha, which can help to calm the mind by “helping our bodies to restore balance by providing adrenal support and balancing the stress hormone cortisol.”
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