You have been hearing that many of the people who don’t survive COVID-19 are people who have an immune system that overreacts to the infection, causing even more damage to their lungs.
So why does this happen to some people but not others?
New research might hold the answer, and there is something you can easily do to help lower your risk.
A research team at Northwestern University in Illinois has uncovered what might be the reason some people are getting severe and deadly immune system overreactions to COVID-19. It may be low levels of vitamin D in your body.
"That is what the study suggests, that having a higher vitamin D level may be protective," said Tulane Professor of Medicine Dr. Jay Kolls, an adult and pediatric pulmonologist who specializes in lung immunology research.
Dr. Kolls says vitamin D3 is essential to good health.
"Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be a risk factor for allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. The microbes that normally live in our intestine are controlled by vitamin D."
Doctors also say Low vitamin D plays a role in poor bone health, diabetes, blood sugar levels, weight gain, depression and mood, even thinning hair. But what’s important for this pandemic, is vitamin D is protective against respiratory tract infections.
"Whenever you have something as serious as COVID-19, one of the first things you can do until you have a vaccine or antibody, is to look at these risk factors," he explained.
And we are just learning how genetics may put some people at risk for low vitamin D levels.
"There’s high vitamin D deficiency in Hispanic populations, African- American populations," Dr. Kolls noted.
So here’s what’s important. Don’t take too much vitamin D, that can cause kidney stones. If you get sick, taking Vitamin D won’t help. Doctors say get regular daily doses of vitamin D from your diet, 10 minutes of sun exposure, and supplements.
"A multivitamin’s fine for most people, but some people that want to take extra vitamin D, can safely take 2,000 to 4,000 international units a day."
And while the study suggests that having good levels of vitamin D may cut the death rate from COVID-19 complications in half, it will not prevent you from catching the infection.