by DR FARAH VAHED
THERE is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of our lives, from home schooling to moving businesses online and juggling family time in-between.
Globally, we are fast approaching four million infections. In South Africa, the number of positive cases are rising daily and, sadly, so is the death toll. On June 15, 2020, the current total of positive infections was 70 038, of which 208 were critical, with 1 480 deaths and 38 531 recoveries.
If a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19), they will start actively spreading the virus by day three and, on average, show mild signs of infection after five or six days. The estimated average time from onset to clinical recovery for a mild case is two weeks, and three to six weeks for a patient with severe or critical disease.
So, stay at home, and strictly isolate. Numbers will rise, which does not mean that the lockdown is not working. Remember, the numbers we are seeing now are active infections from previous weeks, from people who were already infected. Also, keep in mind that we have only recently rolled out the increased government testing in the various provinces.
This is the aim and the principle behind the ‘flatten-the-curve’ message that is being repeated. By slowing the rate of infection, we can control, contain and treat it within the capabilities of our health system. Alhamdulillah, the teachings of our beloved prophet, Muhammad (SAW), have guided us and outlined basic tenets by which we can improve our health and immune system, and these are at the core of the Unani Tibb Philosophy of Medicine and healing.
One of the main components of Unani-Tibb is the recognition of each person’s uniqueness. This uniqueness is known as ‘temperament’.
Temperament describes a person’s physical characteristics, their constitution and their psychological and emotional attributes. It assesses personality strengths and weaknesses, and includes the predisposition or risk factors for particular disorders or diseases.
These temperaments are defined under the following categories; Melancholic (cold and dry), Bilious (hot and dry) Sanguineous (hot and moist) and Phlegmatic (cold and moist).
From the stats we are seeing, those who are older are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, which makes sense from an Unani Tibb point of view as the coronavirus tends to favour a host that is dominant in dry and cold qualities.
This does not mean others won’t get infected, merely that those who possess excess dryness and coldness are at a predisposition. One of the common symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2 is a dry cough, which indicates its affinity for cold and dry qualities, and not surprisingly, these qualities correlate with that of old age.
Children, on the other hand, seem to exhibit milder symptoms, which could be attributed to their dominance in moistness. Hence, one can deduce that those with dominant temperaments of dryness and coldness will have a predisposition.
Then there is the aspect of co-morbidities or underlying diseases, which would make one more vulnerable towards the disease. Since the immune system would be compromised, the effects of the virus become deadly.
Our immune systems are amazing, and, currently, it is the only thing fighting the virus, and treatment is aimed at treating the associated symptoms. We can help prepare our bodies and immune systems and give them the support they need with a few simple changes to our lifestyles:
Environmental air and breathing
Limit the use of air conditioners as this will increase cold and dry elements. A humidifier would be a great advantage to increase moisture.
Meditation together with deep breathing exercises will not only strengthen the lungs (which is the main organ that gets affected when one is infected) but also helps keep you calm and combat stress.
Sleep and wakefulness
Sleep is important for health in general and, as a bonus, it also benefits our immune function. Try to rest and maintain a regular sleep routine.
Introduce an exercise routine into your day – start with a yoga exercise and progress to a combination of movements and exercises that suit you.
It should be noted that both fear and stress weaken the immune system, thus the lockdown is the ideal time to switch off and take a moment to breathe and do some introspection.
Many of us have this newly found ‘time’ on our hands, which makes for a perfect opportunity to start an emotional, spiritual and physical detox, and welcome nourishment of these aspects in our lives.
Elimination of toxins
Try to stop smoking. Smokers have an increased risk of catching infections and suffering severe complications from those infections.
Food and drink
From a Tibb perspective, we need to have foods that will increase heat and moisture so as to combat the coldness and dryness. Staying hydrated is a very important aspect when it comes to strengthening the immune system.
Some beneficial Sunnah foods
- Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, builds immunity, soothes throat;
- Dates – hot and moist in nature;
- Olive oil – anti-inflammatory;
- Kalunji/ Nigella Sativa – anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antihistamine, immuno-modulatory, antimicrobial and an analgesic.
- If we try and follow these simple changes, we can make a big difference in our health.
This article was first published in the May 2020 print edition of Muslim Views. The figures have been updated from the print edition.