‘Vegan’ self-care for colds, flus and mild Covid-19

So we’re firmly in the middle of cold and flu season. But this year, just to make things even more interesting, we also have the Coronavirus pandemic to deal with. As I write this, we’re in the 2nd wave, here in the UK, and have just entered our 3rd national lockdown. I have plenty of thoughts on the way this is all being handled, but I’m not writing about the politics of the pandemic today, just the ways in which us vegans can care for ourselves and our families.

Much like colds and mild Flu, milder cases of Covid can be managed at home, without medical input or any prescriptions. However, we are at risk of coming up against the same old pitfalls of hidden animal-derived ingredients. I’ve stated this many times before, but no medication in the UK is truly suitable for vegans, as they will have all been tested on animals before being allowed on the market. So when I use the word vegan in the article, I’m just referring to medication being free from animal products.

There are simple things that everyone can do when dealing with an infection like the common cold, flu or covid, and the most important of these is keeping well hydrated. Rest can also help with your recovery.

While fevers and pain can be managed with both paracetamol and ibuprofen, tablets usually contain lactose, a sugar derived from milk, and capsules contain gelatine, made from collagen. One way to get around this is to use liquid formulations of these medications. They are often marketed for children, but an adult dose can be calculated. I’ve written about this before in another of my blogs, so I won’t repeat the dose calculations here. But if you are having any trouble working out how much you need to take, your friendly local pharmacist can help you.

Symptoms of nasal congestion can be also be managed with a spray, and there are many widely available from pharmacies and supermarkets. I’ve trawled through the ingredients of most of these, and couldn’t find any evidence of animal ingredients in any of them. I’m not keen to endorse any particular pharmaceutical company, but Smithkline Beecham did reply to an email to confirm that their cold and flu remedies were free from animal products.

There is little evidence for vitamins and minerals being particularly useful in treating and preventing common colds and flu, but there has been a lot of discussion around the role of vitamin D in the prevention of Covid. So far, the studies have not shown enough evidence to convince scientists that low vitamin D levels are linked with a higher risk of Covid. However the NHS is offering supplements to high risk individuals, so I think the jury is still out on that point. But as vitamin D is created in the skin when exposed to sunshine, we should all be taking a supplement over the winter months, especially if you’ve been indoors more over the last few months, due to pandemic restrictions. Vitamin D is also found in some foods, like eggs, oily fish and liver, so I always advise vegans to take a vitamin D supplement all year round. These are usually made from sheeps’ wool, but vegan vitamin D is readily available in stores and online.

This Coronavirus pandemic may be with us for some time yet, and although in the first wave, people with obesity and cardiovascular disease were at greater risk for becoming more unwell with the infection, this new varient doesn’t seem to be quite as discerning, with many hospital admissions being for the young and previously well. But keeping as fit and well as possible can’t do any harm. And what better way to look after yourself than with a healthy, vegan diet? Just be careful to plan it well, and take supplements for anything you might be missing.

Please remember that these suggestions are for people with mild respiratory infections that can be safely managed at home. If you are in any doubt, or feeling very unwell, please contact your doctor, and please see this NHS advice if you think you might have Covid. It’s so important to follow the guidance on testing and self isolation so we can all try to get back to some sort of normality as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading,

The Vegan Doctor

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