Cold seasons are known for viral infections that most often and easily attack the respiratory system. We can hear coughing, sneezing and sniffling at every turn. But although various viruses knock us off our feet and we might think they have harmed our immune system, this is still not entirely true. Our defense system can not easily be impaired, but it can weaken our resilience. Nonspecific problems such as fatigue, weakness, exhaustion and the like cannot be attributed to a decline in immunity.
Can we strengthen the immune system and how?
When people talk about the immune system, they usually think of protection against various viral infections that are characteristic of transitional periods. In summer, enteroviruses are the most current, while in the autumn and winter we have more respiratory infections and the flu. Strengthening immunity does not really mean the immune system but resistance, and it is important to distinguish between the two. Namely, the immune system from childhood and later during adulthood functions is more or less unchanged, but resistance depends specifically on various factors such as exercise, diet, maintenance of proper body weight, non-smoking and the like.
Resilience can, therefore, be strengthened by appropriate measures that include a healthier lifestyle. It can be assumed that this can reduce the frequency and intensity of respiratory infections during this period, although complete protection cannot be achieved.
By what age does immunity form, or when it reaches maturity?
A newly born baby does not have developed own resistance. Thus, the infant is protected from the disease by maternal antibodies transmitted to the infant from the fourth month of pregnancy onwards, and it is protected by them until about the sixth month when the antibodies decay. The child continues to come into contact with various pathogens, develops its own resistance, which is increasingly strengthened, and the immune system reaches its maturity at puberty and has been maintained ever since. With age, resistance declines, it is not the immune system that weakens. It remains functional but weakens due to fatigue, disease and similar conditions, so the body’s defenses are often overcome.
One can read the claims that excessive purity is one of the main culprits for the abundance of allergies among today’s children. Can we generally influence the development of the immune system?
There are so-called hygiene theories about the development of the immune system, that is, developing a greater propensity for allergies. Thus, it is argued that a sterile, too clean environment also increases the tendency for allergies. An allergy is an overreaction to an otherwise harmless antigen, but the organism is harmed by the reaction.
The immune system comes into contact with a variety of antigens as they mature. In countries with a lower standard of health, there is indeed a lower incidence of allergies among children and adults. Therefore, children don’t need to be overprotected, they just need to work on developing healthy habits to increase their resilience. On the other hand, if they adopt healthy childhood habits, they are more likely to nurture them throughout their lives.
How is a decline in immunity recognized? Is there a way to diagnose it?
If we talk about strictly defined diseases such as immunodeficiency, we can easily diagnose them on the basis of symptoms and cynical picture. However, what people consider to be a decline in immunity are in fact nonspecific problems such as fatigue, weakness, exhaustion, and the like, which cannot be attributed medically to a decline in immunity but to a bad feeling. However, due to long-term exhaustion or, for example, some chronic illness, resistance may weaken, which can be improved by healthy habits.
Can nutritional supplements help us?
If there is a deficiency of vitamins or minerals then they can certainly help. However, it should always be borne in mind that they are by no means sufficient for the recovery of the organism. Physical activity and generally healthy habits cannot be replaced or compensated for by any medicines or preparations.
Recommendation for older people to strengthen resilience
It is worth everything as it is for younger people, too – to ensure a healthy lifestyle, but it is extremely important to keep chronic illnesses under control, such as asthma or lung disease. This reduces the chance of infection and ensures that the immune system runs smoothly. The system weakens somewhat after the age of 70, but the impact of this weakening is usually exaggerated. It is much more important to move as much as possible, to maintain the best possible fitness, and to think about vaccinations, especially when it comes to chronic patients. However, in the case of patients with disorders of the immune system, the advice of an immunologists specialist should be followed and the vaccination should be consulted.