COVID-19: Flattening the curve—the best offense is a good defense

March 25, 2020
If you happen to contract COVID-19, your outcome will be better the healthier you are. Scott Froum, DDS, explains how to keep your body and mind healthy, fortify your immune system, and decrease your chances of having to be hospitalized.
Scott Froum, DDS, Editorial Director

As this pandemic and viral outbreak of COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country, many of us have become paralyzed with fear, filled with negativity, anxious and uncertain about the future, and hostile about who is to blame. Turn the TV off, stop reading every negative social media post, and remember that everyone is not a viral epidemiologist.

If you would like a movie spoiler, here it is: More people every day are going to get infected, the spread is exponential at this point, and some people are going to get seriously sick. If you need to concentrate on the news and latest statistics, focus on those who are recovering and the low mortality rate of this disease.1

For every person who tests positive for COVID-19, there may be 20–50 people who have the virus and either are unaware or have extremely mild symptoms. It is believed that COVID-19 is most contagious in the early phase of infection (days 1–5) when the virus is in the upper respiratory system and the infected patient may not even know it.2 Much of the news consists of how to distance yourself from others, wash your hands and increase hygiene, and do your best not to contract this virus as a means of “flattening the curve.” While all of these measures are good and accurate, not enough is mentioned about how to increase your own health and flatten your own curve.

Chances are good that you may get this virus, and that’s OK. The 80%–85% of people who contract COVID-19 exhibit extremely mild symptoms that do not require hospitalization.3 You cannot control most things that are happening with the spread of this disease, but what you can control is how healthy you are if you do encounter the virus. The healthier you are, the more likely the virus will stay in your upper respiratory system and not travel to the lungs, and this will buy your body enough time to fight it.

Here are five tips on how to stay healthy in body and mind, fortify your defense system, and decrease the chances of COVID-19 progressing to the point where hospitalization is needed:

1. Lower your anxiety. Anxiety leads to inflammation and cortisol production. This virus has an increased virulence in people predisposed to inflammation. There are reports that people with inflammation and chronic inflammation are more susceptible to the “cytokine bomb” that overrides your organs and immune system.4 Meditate, practice yoga, create, find a healthy physical and emotional outlet that serves you.

2. Supplement. Vitamin C, vitamin D3, magnesium, zinc, selenium, elderberry, shiitake/Cordyceps/reishi mushrooms, milk thistle, turmeric, sage, cayenne, and ginger all help fight inflammation and boost the immune system.5

3. Quit smoking. If you smoke, please cut down significantly or quit smoking altogether—especially if you are male. COVID-19 has an increased chance of becoming severe in smokers.6

4. Control your health. Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cardiovascular health if possible. If you are a diabetic, control your sugar. COVID-19 affects uncontrolled diabetes more severely.7

5. Exercise. Try exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. Exercise releases a whole host of endorphins that lower anxiety, stress, and boost immunity.8

While there may be many negative external forces out of your control, you can take steps to fortify your mind and body that will keep you battle ready should you encounter COVID-19. Lower your own curve and give your body the best chance of staying out of the hospital.


1. Severe outcomes among patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020 [published online March 18, 2020]. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e2 

2. Wöelfel R, Corman VM, Guggemos W, et al. Clinical presentation and virological assessment of hospitalized cases of coronavirus disease 2019 in a travel-associated transmission cluster. medRxiv. doi:10.1101/2020.03.05.20030502 

3. Wu C, Chen X, Cai Y, Cai Y, et al. Risk factors associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 pneumonia in Wuhan, China [published online March 13, 2020]. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.0994

4. Mehta P, McAuley DF, Brown M, Sanchez E, Tattersall RS, Manson JJ. COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression [published online March 16, 2020]. The Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30628-0.

5. Kubala J. The 15 best supplements to boost your immune system right now. Healthline. March 24, 2020.

6. Weintraub K. Coronavirus’ top targets: men, seniors, smokers. WebMD. February 26, 2020.

7. Wu Z, McGoogan JM. Characteristics of and important lessons from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in China: summary of a report of 72 314 cases from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention [published online February 24, 2020]. JAMA. doi::10.1001/jama.2020.2648

8. Rettner R. How exercise fights inflammation. Live Science. July 31, 2017.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Perio-Implant Advisory, a newsletter for dentists and hygienists that focuses on periodontal- and implant-related issues. Perio-Implant Advisory is part of the Dental Economics and DentistryIQ network. To read more articles, visit, or to subscribe, visit


Scott Froum, DDS, a graduate of the State University of New York, Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, is a periodontist in private practice at 1110 2nd Avenue, Suite 305, New York City, New York. He is the editorial director of Perio-Implant Advisory and serves on the editorial advisory board of Dental Economics. Dr. Froum, a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology, is a clinical associate professor at SUNY Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine in the Department of Periodontology. He serves on the board of editorial consultants for the Academy of Osseointegration's Academy News. Contact him through his website at drscottfroum.comor (212) 751-8530.