High Heat May Kill the Coronavirus
There is still much we do not know about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, but researchers are starting to piece the puzzle together as we go along. For example, a recent Chinese investigation suggests COVID-19 is “highly sensitive” to high temperatures and spreads faster in colder climates; its most rapid spread is occurring at a temperature of 8.72 degrees Celsius.1
The researchers recommend countries with colder climates “adopt the strictest control measures” to limit the spread of the disease. Hassan Zaraket, assistant director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research at the American University of Beirut, commented on the preliminary findings to South China Morning Post:2
“As temperatures are warming up, the stability of the virus could decrease … if the weather helps us reduce transmissibility and environmental stability of the virus, then maybe we can break the chain of transmission.”
You don’t have to wait for the arrival of summer, however, to take advantage of the potential benefits of heat. James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., a cardiovascular research scientist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, recently highlighted a core mechanism by which your body fights viral infections, namely fever.3
A fever is your body’s way of raising your core body temperature, and most pathogens don’t fare well in high heat. DiNicolantonio argues high heat exposure activates heat shock proteins which may prevent viral nucleoproteins from being exported suppressing viral replication. Thus, sauna therapy may have potential against RNA viruses particularly prior or early on in infection.
Sauna Bathing Lowers Risk of Viral Illness
Ways in which you can acutely and temporarily raise your core body temperature include sauna bathing, taking a steam bath, physical movement to induce sweating, or simply bundling up with warm clothes.4 In a March 16, 2020, Instagram post, DiNicolantonio explainsed:5
“I have been getting a lot of questions about the [Joe Rogan] podcast on coronavirus. A lot of people were disappointed to hear that Michael Osterholm suggested saunas would not work against coronavirus. Michael argued that the lungs wouldn’t get hot enough in a sauna to kill coronavirus.
The problem is that he is looking at this from the WRONG mechanism. Saunas increases CORE BODY TEMPERATURE. Remind me again how our body fights off viruses? That’s right! By raising core body temp-DEVELOPING A FEVER! Why does our own body do this? Because a FEVER HELPS COMBAT VIRUSES.
Saunas, especially infrared saunas, create a ‘pseudo fever’ by raising core body temp. So how do fevers (or saunas) potentially work against viruses? By increasing HEAT SHOCK PROTEINS. So, saunas’ inability to increase the lungs to 180 F is NOT a reason to argue that it won’t help against viral infections.”
I would add that DiNicolantonio’s advice on saunas is spot on, but electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are not his specialty. While infrared (IR) saunas are helpful, one needs to be diligent about the electric and magnetic fields.
While many newer IR saunas have low magnetic fields of about 1 milligauss, many have electric fields far higher than the recommended 30 volts/meter. One that advertises themselves as low EMF I measured at 700 volts/meter. So, do your homework before you use them.
Antiviral Effects of Sauna Bathing
Lipoic acid — Helps boost type 1 interferon response. As explained in a 2014 paper:30
“Type I interferons (IFNs) activate intracellular antimicrobial programs and influence the development of innate and adaptive immune responses … (IFNs) are polypeptides that are secreted by infected cells and have three major functions.
First, they induce cell-intrinsic antimicrobial states in infected and neighboring cells that limit the spread of infectious agents, particularly viral pathogens. Second, they modulate innate immune responses in a balanced manner that promotes antigen presentation and natural killer cell functions while restraining pro-inflammatory pathways and cytokine production.
Third, they activate the adaptive immune system, thus promoting the development of high-affinity antigen-specific T and B cell responses and immunological memory. Type I IFNs are protective in acute viral infections but can have either protective or deleterious roles in bacterial infections and autoimmune diseases.”
Sulforaphane — Helps boost type 1 interferon response.
The provisional daily dosage suggestions listed to help control RNA viruses, including influenza and coronavirus infection, are as follows:31
Focus on Your Health During This Challenging Time
While the immediate health risk associated with COVID-19 is considered low,32 the media frenzy and global shutdowns of schools, places of work and social venues are feeding and exaggerating people’s fears — in most cases unnecessarily.
If you’re feeling worried or anxious at this time, remember that your immune system is your first line of defense, and there are plenty of ways to bolster your immunity. Panic shopping is not going to eradicate your fears, but taking common-sense precautions might. To learn more follow Dr. DiNicolantonio on Twitter and Instagram @drjamesdinic
You can learn more in my previous articles on this topic, including “Essential Nutrition to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus,” “Will Wearing a Mask Protect You Against Coronavirus?” “Which Soap Is Best for Preventing Outbreaks?” and “The Best Disinfectants for Surfaces.” For guidance on how to minimize fear, stress and anxiety, check out “Coping With Coronavirus Anxiety, Isolation and Loneliness.”
Sources and References
- 1, 2 South China Morning Post March 8, 2020
- 3, 5, 7 Instagram, James DiNicolantonio March 16, 2020
- 4 Instagram, James DiNicolantonio
- 6 Ann Med. 1990;22(4):225-7
- 8 Eur J Epidemiol. 2017 Dec;32(12):1107-1111
- 9 Forsch Komplementmed 2015;22:320-325
- 10 Medical Microbiology 4th Edition, Chapter 60, Coronaviruses, Clinical Manifestations
- 11 WHO.int First Data on Stability and Resistance of SARS Coronavirus
- 12 Journal of Virology 2004 Feb;78(3):1263-70
- 13 Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1989 Dec;70(13):911-3.
- 14 Alternative Medicine Review September 2011; 16(3): 215-225
- 15 Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2014;136(18):6608
- 16 Scientific American July 2008
- 17 Maclean’s February 24, 2020
- 18 Bioorg Med Chem. 2006 Dec 15;14(24):8295-306
- 19 Journal of Virology Sep 2004, 78 (20) 11334-11339, Antiviral activity of an analog of luteolin
- 20, 22 Nutrients 2016 Mar; 8(3): 167, 5.1.2 Mechanism of Action
- 21 Nutrients 2016 Mar; 8(3): 167, Table 1: Mast cell
- 23, 26, 27, 28 Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2020 Feb 12. pii: S0033-0620(20)30037-2
- 24 Eurekalert January 24, 2020
- 25 Elsevier.com January 24, 2020
- 29 PLOS Pathogens November 4, 2010 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001176
- 30 Nat Rev Immunol. 2014 Jan; 14(1): 36–49
- 31 Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2020 Feb 12. pii: S0033-0620(20)30037-2, Table 1
- 32 FDA.gov N95 Respirators and Surgical Masks
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