Here we go again: The latest coronavirus variant causing COVID-19, Omicron, is spreading at alarming rates across the country — and the world. And it might be the most stealth strain yet; mounting evidence points to the very real possibility that Omicron may be able to evade immunity acquired from both vaccines and previous COVID-19 infections.
This is concerning because the more people who become infected, the more likely new variants could occur. That’s why it’s more important than ever to be vigilant when it comes to safeguarding your health, along with the well-being of others.
Below, 13 tips for how to cope with the rising threat of Omicron. To read all of our previous coverage on COVID-19, go here.
Do Your Part to Stop the Spread
1. Understand exactly how COVID-19 is transmitted indoors by reading this
Hint: Ventilation is key.
2. If you aren’t vaccinated, get vaccinated
According to this study out of South Africa, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provide “70 percent [protection] against severe complications of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and 33 percent protection against COVID-19 infection, during the current Omicron wave.”
Two doses of the Moderna vaccine are “50 times less effective against Omicron than they are against the original form of the virus," David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke University, told NPR based on a recent study.
As Frank Lipman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of THE WELL, says: “I’m not one for the flu vaccine. But when you have the flu, you feel terrible and have to stay home; with COVID-19, you can be asymptomatic and spread the virus.”
RELATED: Why There Should be Vaccine Mandates
3. If you haven’t already, get your booster shot
As a general guideline, here’s how to know you need a COVID-19 booster shot. However, Omicron is raising the stakes and has prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to The White House, to implore people not to wait to get their booster, even if it hasn’t been 6 months since your last vaccine dose.
Thankfully, experts say there doesn’t seem to be a need to develop an Omicron-specific booster shot… yet. Based on preliminary research, it appears that the third vaccine shot (booster) will improve the effectiveness of the vaccines, at least for the time being.
4. Continue following CDC guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control recommends these safety measures:
- Wear a mask (see specifics below)
- Stay six feet away from others
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
- Test to prevent spreading to others
- Wash/sanitize your hands often
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect
- Monitor your health daily
5. If you must travel, use these tips
6. Mask more effectively
Infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong, MD, told the University of California San Francisco that the best mask is one you can wear comfortably and consistently. When a mask is uncomfortable, you are more inclined to adjust it or touch it while out in public, which impedes (or even negates) its efficacy.
Since it’s no longer a matter of if you should wear one — mandates are back in many places — focus on how to make your mask comfortable and effective.
RELATED: Maskne is Back: Now What?
Support Your Immune System
1. Get More Sleep
“Your immune system works optimally when you are in a state of rest. So, give it the rest it needs!” says Dr. Elena Klimenko, a functional medicine physician.
Medical herbalist Daniela Turley suggests taking 3-10mg of “melatonin before bed as a good night’s sleep helps the immune system and there have been studies showing that melatonin may actually help COVID outcomes” due to its known anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and protective antioxidant mechanisms.
Find more tips on improving the quality of your sleep here.
2. Take Your Supplements
Lipman says that “there is promising research on a number of botanical and nutraceutical agents that can potentially improve the body’s ability to fight off and recover from the illness. They deliver anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits — curcumin, quercetin, zinc, N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC), vitamins A, C and D, elderberry and more.”
In addition, Turley suggests using silver gel inside your nose when traveling on public transportation and in crowded places. Studies show that silver nanoparticles can effectively inhibit infection in the early phase.
Shop THE WELL immune-supporting products here.
RELATED: 30 Ways to Strengthen Your Immunity
3. Feed Your Gut
“Seventy percent of your immune system’s functionality is regulated in your gut. This means your gut is one of your first defenses against getting sick,” says Lipman. Support your immune system by giving it foods that are going to help strengthen it — not hinder it. “Add garlic, onions, spices, greens and plant fiber to your plate, and ditch sugar and processed foods starve your beneficial gut bacteria and over-feed the bad bacteria,” Lipman recommends.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
1. Identify Anxiety Triggers
“Consider what sends you into an anxious state or into shutdown mode — what leads up to it, and what you are feeling before it happens. Then, consider what gets you out of it — an activity, a sound, a connection, a particular image, meditation, movement,” says Lia Avellino, LCSW, advisor to THE WELL.
2. Be Gentle with Yourself
"Give yourself the time and space to figure out the pace, people and locations that feel nourishing and supportive," says Avellino. And if you are noticing that being in public spaces is bringing up anxiety, reconsider the pace at which you’re reintegrating, she suggests.
3. Practice Acceptance
“Trying to avoid, ignore or deny anxiety actually makes it worse. What’s effective is acceptance,” says Nina Vasan, MD, MBA, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. Acknowledge that you are anxious and remind yourself that anxiety over coronavirus and the resulting life changes is totally normal and expected, she suggests.
4. Talk it Out
“Verbalizing our fears aloud helps to ensure they don’t stay in our bodies and impact our health. Recognizing the monster under the bed is what quiets it, not ignoring it,” says Avellino.