PHARMACEUTICAL Society of Zambia (PSZ) president Kennedy Saini says poor diet and lack of adequate rest can cause severe COVID-19.

Asked in an interview if not having enough rest could cause severe COVID-19, Saini responded in the affirmative.

“Yes, it can affect your immune system. If you are not giving your body enough rest, you are stressed, that can affect your immune system. If your immune system goes down, of course, many things can come in, including flu. Apart from that, we talked about eating a healthy balanced diet, enough fiber, enough vitamins. So you need fruits and so on, whole grains. So if it is [not] balanced, that again has an impact on the immune system. Even if you just have a bit of sickness, for you to recover and so on. But also from time to time, you might want to replenish the vitamins in the body not every time but you might want to, why? Because what we eat usually might not be balanced. So you might be lacking in one or two important vitamins and minerals that are key for the immune system,” Saini said.

“Again from time to time you [need to] keep fit with your exercise, you relax your mind, all those are key in helping boost the immune system. Of course, there are many other things you can do but these are the most important ones. And also reduce on these same medicines, you know some of the medications can affect the immune system. Also if you don’t correct certain diseases that also can have an impact on the immune system.”

Saini urged people to have good health-seeking behaviours and not to self-medicate.

“Covid-19, there are many things that are involved because you need hydration, you need a good diet, you also need, in case there are other infections that come in, you need medication. So, what is important again is really seeking help because most Covid infection is not severe. It is usually mild, it just requires you to take care of the body, to take care of yourself, it clears on its own. [When] it becomes severe, that’s when the issues come in and it’s person to person and how you react because some people might need oxygen, some people might need antibiotics because of the infection, others may not,” he said.

“Our comment has always been that people should have good health-seeking behaviours. Self medication has its own implications, antimicrobial resistance where these bugs can then begin to be resistant or medicine to stop working. But also the other problem is masking the actual problem. If you have not been checked properly, you will realise that you have a bigger problem than what you think. So even though you may think it’s not only Covid, somebody might think that it’s just a normal flu or something, but you see the symptoms are similar to something bigger. Somebody might have TB. Because they are coughing every time, they just buy cough syrup and buy antibiotics which might not clear the problem, but at a time when you are going for medical check up and interventions, you realise that you already have pathology and organs are affected and so on.”

Saini said people should not wait until they fall sick but rather go for regular health check-ups.

“It’s important even when you are not sick just [to go for] check ups from time to time. Very few people do that but you see, even if you have a car you don’t wait for it to break down, right? So, here, this is the problem we have. If you are doing more health screening, you will realise that some of the things are picked at a much earlier stage and then it becomes very easy to correct or prevent certain things and it saves lives. So for me, that’s our message; self-medication is bad, it has so many implications,” said Saini.

“It’s not everything that requires medication. You will realise that just enough rest, enough water sometimes, enough vitamins, not these strong medications. So it’s important to seek professional advice. But again usually, the same client is the one who insists on taking all these medications and they will tell you ‘my uncle, my sister had this same, similar problem and therefore I just need this’. Meanwhile, it will not even help them, it will just harm them and disturb the normal body operations. There are many things that one can prevent from such health problems. Number one, people need to have rest because it has an impact on the immune system, if you are not resting, you are depressed, it will have an impact.”