Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Prevent and treat the novel Coronavirus (probably)

I say "probably" because:
  1. I haven't treated the disease so I don't know for sure,
  2. The treatment I will tell you about works for normal flu, and every other fever I've thrown it against including dengue, malaria, and glandular fevers. I can't see why it shouldn't be effective in treating coronavirus too.
I was inspired by Dr Wes Youngberg's talk to write this post. I think  he is worth listening to, but there are two problems: it is way, way too long and more importantly, the hydrotherapy is not accurate. Dr Youngberg suggests we use the same hydro as was used successfully in the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed somewhere between 50 million and 100 million worldwide (15,000 in Australia).

The section of the talk on hydrotherapy was good because it reinforced what I already knew about treatment of the 1918 Spanish flu and it gave me another case study (no deaths for 90 patients when the usual mortality ran at 10-20%)

But coronavirus isn't any Spanish flu.

Spanish flu induced a "cytokine storm" with more than half the deaths being in healthy people aged 20-40 years. The coronavirus seems more like a regular flu in that most of the deaths are in older people with diseases like diabetes.  

When you do hear about the next epidemic that kills the healthy young then certainly try the treatment for the Spanish flu, as Dr Youngberg recommends, but it won't be the best for coronavirus.

The hydrotherapy treatment for Coronavirus

  1. Assume that any time you get a fever or chest symptoms that you are getting coronavirus and begin treatment immediately. If you get onto it early you will probably abort the disease, what ever it is.
  2. First treatment: heat the body until you can see sweating on the top lip. Depending on the method it should take 15 to 20 minutes (no longer). Keep the head cool during this process. My favourite way is steam bath but sauna, hot foot bath (with or without fomentations) or hot tub bath will work. Here in our Aussie summer I know people who use the colourbond garden shed, or wrap themselves in black polythene sheeting and lie in the sun. But remember to keep your head cool! And don't use exercise. You can damage your heart doing that.
  3. Follow up with short cold. Here in summer our shower water isn't cold enough, so get someone to throw 2 litres of ice water over your upper back while you stand in the shower. But in winter, just use the cold water from the shower on the nape of your neck until it makes you inhale sharply. 5 seconds of cold water is enough. If you have good friends a cold mitten friction is great.
  4. Then go to bed! After you dry thoroughly of course. Rest is essential for at least 30 minutes. Stay warm too. 
  5. Only do the treatment once a day for a total of 3 days. You should be right by then.

Preventing Coronavirus

The usual natural remedies should strengthen your immune system:

  1. Whole-food plant-based diet - eat the best food you can afford. Lots of greens, and fruits and vegetables with lots of colour, and onions, garlic especially if you're worried.
  2. Exercise outside - even gentle exercise has lots of benefits for your immune system. 
  3. Sunshine
  4. Deep breaths of fresh air in nature.
  5. Drink lots of filtered water, a few extra glasses if you're worried.
  6. Stay away from alcohol and smoke
  7. De-stress. I use Meditating with Jesus
  8. And get plenty of good sleep.
If you do these you will not only prevent most common infections but also prevent most of the lifestyle diseases that are too common today.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


  1. Interesting idea. But, isn't comparison of affected population ages (young vs. old)--your underlying premise--a poor basis for determining whether COVID-19 involves a cytokine storm or not? There was evidence of cytokine storm in SARS, another coronavirus. "After the SARS outbreak, the World Health Organization reported that the disease typically attacked the lungs in three phases: viral replication, immune hyper-reactivity, and pulmonary destruction." Another quote, on COVID-19: "From there, things can take a sharp turn for the worse. In some of the most severe COVID-19 cases, the cytokine response—combined with a diminished capacity to pump oxygen to the rest of the body—can result in multi-organ failure. Scientists don’t know exactly why some patients experience complications outside of the lung, but it might be linked to underlying conditions like heart disease or diabetes." Another study in the Lancet found a correlation between cytokine storm and the severity of COVID-19: "Those that were admitted to the ICU, particularly those with severe disease, exhibited significantly higher levels of inflammatory cytokines compared to those that did not. This “cytokine storm” can trigger a viral sepsis in coronavirus infection, where viral replication and excessive, uncontrolled systemic inflammation can lead to pneumonitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, respiratory failure, shock, organ failure, secondary bacterial pneumonia, and potentially death. This same correlation between cytokine storm and severity of illness was observed previously in both SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) patients." There are more such references. Given these facts, would you reverse your position and agree that the hydrotherapy protocol for the Spanish Flu patients might be the best? Why or why not? Given the lack of effective medications, it would be great to know if hydrotherapy works on COVID-19 and what the best protocol is. Do you know if anyone is studying that, or is the medical community too resistant? Thanks!

    1. Thanks RJ for the thoughtful, and enlightening comment.

      To answer your questions in reverse order.
      I don't know anyone actually studying hydrotherapy for COVID-19 but have now seen Neil Nedley recommending it as well. I don't have much contact with the acute sector and I suspect hydrotherapy would either be dismissed out of hand (unfortunately the usual response) or only tried for those who don't have access to ventilation at the end of the disease.

      Saying that, I would be more than happy to work with anyone who was interested in trying it, because as you say, "it would be great to know if hydrotherapy works."

      You are correct in saying I only considered age at death as signifying a cytokine storm. I appreciate your information on the correlation of between the severity of the illness and the cytokine storms. That does cause a rethink.

      OK, how does this sound as a protocol?

      Follow the protocol I have under the heading "The hydrotherapy treatment for Coronavirus" above, immediately you get any symptoms.

      If you are no better or getting worse within two hours AND you have someone with some experience in giving hot fomentations safely then use the Spanish flu protocol.

      In either case you should go for testing.

      The second indication for the Spanish flu protocol would be ge over 70 years with pre-existing major chronic illness especially lung disease, heart disease or diabetes. In this case it would be even more important to have an experienced hydrotherapist doing the treatments.

      If you are particularly concerned and you have access to fomentations and an experienced therapist, the Spanish flu routine should not cause any problems and will be just as effective against flu as the simpler and able-to-be-performed-solo protocol I outlined above.

      Thanks again for the comments RJ. It certainly is an interesting time watching what is happening.

    2. Thanks for your reply. I don't have the virus myself (yet!), so can't try your experiment, but I want to be prepared with knowledge in case I or a family member does get it. And, to be able to share a protocol with friends and neighbors in the event we end up in an over-run hospital situation with no care available, when people become desperate. I have read much more in detail since my original post and know only a bit more about the protocol used in Minnesota that Youngberg quoted from in that Northern Union Reaper article. Suffice it to say that detail is lacking.

      What bothers me is that I don't have an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of action of hydrotherapy, and therefore no sense of why one therapy should be better than another. Why should one use heat alone, hot/cold alternating, for how long, how many cycles, what temperature, etc. There are so many possible variations! I skimmed an old book by J.H. Kellogg and it was a joke--all kinds of various treatments but no science-backed rationale for why and when one should use a particular one. Practitioners seem to just throw out various ideas, but without a scientific basis. If this is more than voodoo, there ought to be a firm basis of action, and a resultant optimal approach to use for a particular kind of infection. After all, the mechanisms and course of pathology varies for bacterial infections vs viral, and within viral they vary by type, with influenza and coronaviruses having different targets, for example. Why should a single hydrotherapy protocol be best? And if not, how does one determine the best protocol based on science? It is hard for anything to be accepted by modern evidence-based medicine if it has no scientific footing! And patients, too, will be skeptical, when life is at stake.

      For example, on the question "how does it work," all Youngberg talked about was increasing circulation and increasing phagocyte/antibody movement to the area of infection. But how precisely does that work? Is it vasodilation alone? combined dilation/contraction? whole-body or local? After all, if you get the same results (ala Youngberg) with hot tub/pool vs. fomentations, with the latter only needed if patient is too sick to do the former, then that calls into question any localization effect since the hot tub/pool is a whole body treatment. And circulation increase as an explanation? The entire blood supply circulates approximately once per minute. Even if dilation doubled the vascular volume in a region, that is only similar to the effect of another minute of normal circulation! So there must be more going on that just "enhanced circulation"!

      I am wondering, for example, about the effect of enhanced vascular permeability (which occurs with dilation) and what that might do. Or, perhaps the effects of cyclical vasodilation/constriction on the RAS system/ACE2 and perhaps alteration of its response via some mechanism, perhaps depletion of a starting material or other effect, with this in turn affect ability of viral targeting of ACE2 or the RAS controlled inflammation process. Purely speculative, and I don't know enough to flesh it out (at least yet). But I feel like there must be a lot more going on that just "enhanced circulation" and I think we should figure out what that is, because it probably leads to optimization of hydrotherapy techniques and appropriate adjustments for various pathologies, including perhaps COVID-19.

      Detailed response/comments/critique would be welcomed!

    3. Another thing... You have given the Abbott prescription as the procedure followed in Hutchinson, but have you any evidence or documentation for that? The edition of Abbott's book I looked at was published in 1912, so it is certainly reasonable that it could have influenced practice in Hutchinson. But there were also books from J.H. Kellogg and others with different procedures. And the Hutchinson seminary had its own doctor, H.E. Larson, on staff who supervised the treatments, and he may have had his own ideas. So why do you think it was Abbott's? Furthermore, the procedure you listed is Abbott's prescription for influenza. But he has separate procedures for inflammation and also for lobar pneumonia, and both of these are quite different than the influenza one, and involve "derivation" (hot/cold cycles). So, again, how exactly did you come to the conclusion that Abbott's influenza prescription is THE procedure used in Hutchinson? (I'm not trying to prove you wrong or anything here; I'm trying to establish what we KNOW from what we are CONJECTURING, and then see how much we can firmly establish and reasonably believe to have potential for COVID19. I trust you understand! I'm no internet troll...).

      The newspaper article in the Hutchinson Leader (quoted in the NUR), merely reported: "every person showing indication of sickness was at once put to bed with a trained nurse taking temperature and watching for symptoms of the epidemic. If those symptoms developed the patient was required to remain in bed. There were no drugs to be given but, with complete rest and quiet went a carefully regulated diet and fomentations applied to the throat, chest and abdomen. This treatment in almost every case reduced the temperature of patients and in a day or so they were apparently well. But that did not end the matter with them. The next danger was that of relapse. To guard against this every patient was required to remain abed from two to five days after apparent full recovery, according to the "state of their flu affliction.""

      Early detection (by regular temperature checking and symptom monitoring) was critical as was bed rest. This was emphasized in a later account by Miller, who said that if it was allowed to progress to pneumonia, death generally ensued. If any of this applies to the coronavirus, the lesson seems to be that we should take early signs seriously and immediately begin treatment and rest, and not resume activities until at least a couple days after symptoms are gone.

    4. (continued)
      In Dec. 1918, Life & Health featured an article by H.W. Miller entitled "Hydropathic Treatment of Spanish Influenza." The article was expanded upon and updated in the 1919 special edition on epidemics (Nov. 1919). I should hope that what Miller published reflected the successful treatment program at Hutchinson, but it doesn't specifically say that. Miller does say (since you are interested in case histories):

      "In a series of more than four hundred cases of influenza under my observation, which were treated from the beginning, there was only one case of pneumonia, and that case recovered; several cases of influenza that sought no help or treatment during the early stages but kept on their feet, were the means of infecting many other persons, and lost their own lives with pneumonia of a severe type which baffled all methods of treatment.
      The importance of the early care of slight illnesses needs to be impressed upon the people."
      He also wrote:

      "While it is evident that quarantine has thus far sufficed to prevent the dissemination of influenza, yet it is just as true that influenza is a comparatively mild disease, that reacts quickly to early and thorough treatment. It is a disease that can be cut short in its duration, and when properly handled from its very beginning, may show a possibility of one hundred per cent recoveries. Though many men and women have taken cold and, as they sometimes say, "wore it off," it is a very serious thing to attempt to "wear off " this influenza infection. The first requisite in the treatment of the disease is rest."

    5. (continued)
      I won't fill this up with details, but the issue goes on to describe home remedies, and hydrotherapy details, including a frequency of up to 2-3x/day. The prescription doesn't seem to agree very closely with Abbott's.

      Further instructions are provided in: L.A. Hansen, G.H. Heald, M.D., D.H. Kress, M.D., Wells A. Ruble, M.D., M.M. Martinson, M.D., Epidemics: How to Meet Them, Review & Herald Pub. Assn., Wash. D.C., 1919.
      The "simple diet" is interesting, to say the least! "Give frequently weak lemonade containing a very little sugar. A soft nutritive diet of milk, malted milk, milk toast, fruit eggnog (without alcohol), soft eggs, mashed potato with cream, gluten gruel, fruit juices, or stewed apples and pears, well masticated, is the best for this condition. (p. 22)"

      OK...I've gone on long enough. But if you compare all these treatments, there is huge variation, including one or more treatments; hot tub, fomentations, footbath, or full body wrap; different exposure times, different temperature regimes. The common element seems to be bed rest and early intervention. It is the variation in hydrotherapy that raises questions with me about how this can be understood scientifically.

    6. Sorry to be slow in replying RJ, I have been busy and we soon may have some answers on many of your "why" questions. We have a team of doctors and dieticians and hydrotherapists and are planning a couple of trials. One in particular looks at the immune response to treatment. I'll let you know if anything happens.
      Now to answer some questions: Kellogg did have hundreds of short experiment reports at the end of his book "Rational Hydrotherapy" so he did try to work out what was happening. Which brings up one of the reasons I don't worry too much about "why" things work. Kellogg used his own terms (circulation, derivation) from the physiology he knew. Today we have RAAS and ACE2, but in 10 years it will be something far more advanced. Despite all that the body still does the same thing. I remember our physiology lecturer complaining of physiology being a science of mass ignorance. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try to see how things work though.
      The reason I suspect the Hutchison's protocol was the same as Abbott's is because Abbott's book was first published in 1930
      The differences you see are because people react differently to treatments, so the old therapists used whatever people would accept to reach outcomes such "profuse sweating" or "marked erythema". Time to reach that varies within as well as between people.
      I agree with you about early signs and immediate rest and treatment.
      One of the reasons I have been slow is because I hadn't seen the L&H articles. They provided me with enough information to come up with a draft protocol:
      Yes there are variations, but this is not medicine, it's the typical empirical physical therapy, "Intervene, Re-assess, Intervene". Do whatever it takes to have the body in a condition that enhances the immune system (or whatever we are after).

  2. I have been following this discussion with interest.
    RJ, you do have valid questions, the answers of which I do not have, however...
    I remember when I was a young physiotherapist (possibly a student still), I wondered about hot and cold and what it did. As I became more knowledgable and “sophisticated” these questions became unanswerable, and then inevitably the whole idea of hydrotherapy became something of no value, because there were no randomised controlled trials to demonstrate its benefit. Fortunately time has cycled around and I now see the benefit in a bigger picture, even though we may/do not know the details.

    RJ, I think one of your questions is why would you perform one intervention in preference to another. I think part of the answer relates to what one can tolerate. The principle is, you want to passively heat the body, and then do quick cold to cause the body to hold the heat in and stimulate an immune response. The method of applying the heat depends what is available and what the particular individual can tolerate. The over riding principle is heat the body slowly but surely, quick cold on the skin, followed by rest.

    Just like manual therapy (for muscle-skeletal disorders), if we go for a big/fast outcome, we expect a large improvement but there will inevitably be some treatment soreness (downside), whereas if you go for a lesser outcome, there is less/no treatment soreness or downside but a slower improvement in the condition being treated. I think hydro heating is the same. If a person has vascular compromise (heart condition etc), you would run the risk of causing a vascular incident if you did the full hot tub or steam bath. In that case a hot foot bath would be preferable, knowing that the beneficial outcome would be slower to occur.
    I also learned from manual therapy that we often don’t know the exact mechanism of why something might work, but when we apply a model of understanding (e.g. attempt to restore the normal mechanics of joint movement), we gain an outcome even though we know the model has short-comings. When the model is developed/ further refined we will gain improvements in understanding, and hopefully improved outcome.
    I think hydro is the same. We can imagine/assume that heating a certain part is moving blood to or from a area of the body. Even if the movement of blood turns out in actuality not to be what causes the benefit, there may well be something else happening at the same time which is the actual reason for the benefit. Sticking with the original model will allow the actual reason to occur.
    Unfortunately the human body is not as predictable as we would like!

    I have always thought the heating of the body was “cooking” the bug (virus or bacteria) and thereby killing it off. While I have no evidence to support or contradict this, having that understanding will help to identify ways of achieving the heating.

    I trust this provides some help.

  3. One other thought that comes to mind:
    In our modern western science understanding we have become very reductionist. i.e. we look for the ONE thing which is the active variable, however with the human body I have learned (by experience) that often the combination of interventions is greater than the sum of the individual interventions.

  4. I'm an American (former Registered Dietitian) living in India and I contracted Covid a week ago. My medical options here are very limited. I heard about hydrotherapy 1st on and later found practical help on this site. I'm 68 and I know my innate immune response is sluggish, my fevers are very low grade and intermittent. I have mostly severe GI symptoms plus major body/joint pain. I started doing the method you suggested on this site 2 days ago. About an hour after each treatment I get tremendous relief, my symptoms resolve for hours. Ice water is not so fun, but today I will do my 3rd treatment. By the way, we don't have controlled studies on hydrotherapy, but we do have epidemiology. Finnish people have very low Covid death rates compared to neighboring countries and they are uniquiely a "sauna nation." This treatment closely replicates the sauna.