Booze ban not all bad – alcohol does your immune system no favours

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  • Alcohol weakens your immune system and clouds your judgement
  • The consumption of alcohol makes it harder for your body to fight off bacteria and viruses
  • Experts have warned that alcohol consumption increases the risk of infection

In his latest address, President Cyril Ramaphosa had the daunting task of informing fellow South Africans that the second wave of coronavirus infection is upon us, and as a result, we need to return to an "adjusted" Level 3 lockdown

This means that the retail sale of alcohol is strictly prohibited – a hard pill to swallow for many, especially during the festive season. 

Alcohol weakens the immune system

Consuming alcohol may not be the best thing for your immune system.

According to a data sheet released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), heavy use of alcohol can severely impair the immune system, making it harder to fight infectious diseases like Covid-19.

When you are exposed to a disease-causing agent (like a virus), your immune system responds by trying to destroy the invader.

When you are healthy, it is much easier for the immune system to defend your body, whereas consuming alcohol, which could have a damaging effect on several organs in your body, adversely affects the immune response. 

Dr Alex Mroszczyk-Mcdonald, a family physician from California, explains: “If the cells lining a person’s airways are damaged by alcohol, then viral particles, such as Covid-19, more easily gain access, causing immune cells, which fight off infection, to not work as well, leading to increased overall risks of more severe diseases, as well as complications.”

Alcohol clouds judgement

WHO also warns that consuming alcohol “alters thoughts, judgement, decision-making and behaviour”.

Having good judgement and making the right decisions is paramount during this time to ensure that we protect ourselves from contracting the virus. 

Therefore, if one is under the influence and has poorer judgement, important practices such as physical distancing and good hygiene may be neglected, and the risk for infection is higher. 

Some useful tips from WHO

  • Stay sober so that you can remain vigilant, act quickly and make decisions with a clear head, for yourself and others in your family and community.
  • If you drink, keep your drinking to a minimum and avoid becoming intoxicated.
  • Avoid alcohol as a social cue for smoking, and vice versa: people tend to smoke, or smoke more, if they drink alcohol, and smoking is associated with a more complicated and dangerous progression of Covid-19. 
  • Make sure that children and young people do not have access to alcohol, and do not let them see you consume alcohol – be a role model. 
Image credit: Prem Pal Singh, Pexels
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