There’s a lot of bad information out there right now in general, but especially when it comes to protecting yourself from COVID-19. This is a novel virus, which means that our immune systems have never been exposed to it before and subsequently don’t have a blueprint for how to fight it off. We know that people with suppressed immune systems and certain medical conditions are at greater risk of complications and death, and we also know that keeping ourselves healthy and current on vaccinations gives us a better chance of fighting off the illness than we would have if we skipped a flu shot and had the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Social distancing is the best method we have of preventing the spread of COVID-19, but protecting our immune systems may be crucial as certain states start to reopen for business.
How Does Your Immune System Work?
Your skin is a massive organ that keeps antigens out, and your immune system is backup to kill off any antigens that make it in, from fungi to viruses to bacteria to parasites. Antigens are everywhere, and a healthy immune system is your natural defense. Sometimes antigens do make it through, however, our bodies produce white blood cells to fight off the intruders. White blood cells try to kill off the antigen before it can reproduce, but sometimes they aren’t effective.
What If Your Immune System Doesn’t Work?
For people with suppressed or otherwise compromised immune systems, things may not work as they are supposed to. Having recurring infections, wounds that are slow to heal, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, and more are all signs of decreased immunity. Conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS can cause a decreased immune system, while treatments for other diseases including immunosuppression after organ transplants, cancer treatment, and more can also lead to a decreased ability to fight infections.
All of these conditions put people at higher risk for life threatening complications from COVID-19.
Protecting Your Immune System
Vaccinations are a big part of protecting your immune system from having to work overtime. While there’s no proven vaccine for COVID-19 at this point, staying up to date on your vaccinations can leave your immune system free to deal with anything it comes into contact with.
Exercising is important for immunity as long as you don’t overdo it – over exercising can actually decrease your immune system.
Diet is also important. Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables can help keep your body and your immune system in balance. Avoiding too much sugar and trans fat is also important.
Vitamins and supplements may help boost your immune system, but be wary of misinformation out there. Overdoses of VitaminC are unlikely to help you, but rather a well-balanced regimen of vitamins and minerals can help keep your immune system in balance.
It may be tempting to subsist on pizza and chips for the duration of the pandemic, but it’s never been more important to take good care of your immune system than now. Learn more about myths and facts about your body’s immune system below!