When nurse practitioner Kimberly Wicks came down with the coronavirus in March, her fever hit 104 degrees.
“I couldn't get it down. I didn't want to eat. I didn’t have an appetite. I lost my sense of taste and smell,” Wicks said.
Diagnosed eight years ago with a vitamin D deficiency, the working mom had fallen behind taking her daily supplement. Now Wicks wonders if taking her vitamins could have eased her coronavirus symptoms.
Led by Vadim Backman, a professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University, a team of researchers found patients with severe vitamin D deficiency were twice as likely to experience major coronavirus complications.
“They looked at different countries in Europe, and in the populations with the lowest vitamin D levels, they had the highest death rate from COVID-19,” said Dr. Robin Snead, an internal medicine physician who has been testing her patients’ vitamin D levels for years.
“The general population in the Midwest does have a lower level, but Blacks particularly and Hispanics have very low levels. Nursing home patients too,” said Dr. Snead, adding that those communities are the ones who have also been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
Snead said we get most of our vitamin D from the sun through our skin, not our diet.
“People of color, because the darker skin doesn't damage as much [by] the sun, but it also doesn't metabolize vitamin D very well,” Snead said.
Researchers say further study is needed and are not suggesting everyone start taking vitamin D supplements.
“It's best that they get their levels checked first, just to make sure,” Wicks said, adding that she is back to taking her supplement daily.
A simple blood test can determine if there is a vitamin D deficiency and a supplement is needed.