7 Myths About the Immune System, Debunked
Everyone knows that a strong immune system is crucial for protecting you against the host of pathogens your body encounters everyday. However, there are many myths about the immune system that have been accepted as common knowledge. As these could lead you to act in a way that is unnecessary or even harmful, it’s important to know the truth behind the myths.
1. Cold Temperatures Are Responsible for Illness
The viruses many of us face every year cause what is known as the common cold. This name may lead you to believe that you become sick because of falling temperatures, especially since colds and flu are more prevalent in the winter. In fact, cold weather is related to winter illnesses because of how it changes our behavior — it is not actually the cause of sickness. When we’re cold, we spend more time inside around other people. This additional contact allows germs to easily spread from one person to another.
A second reason is that the rhinovirus, which is responsible for many forms of the common cold, lives naturally in people’s nasal passages in a dormant state. It is often activated by cold weather, leading you to become sick.
2. It’s Better to Use Hand Sanitizer Than to Wash Your Hands
Hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol kills bacteria and destroys viruses, but it’s less effective than washing your hands with soap and water. This is mainly due to the oils on your skin that trap pathogens. For this reason, you should only use hand sanitizer when you’re unable to wash your hands, such as when you’re out and about. If you have any visible dirt on your hands, wipe this away first (such as with a napkin) — otherwise, the hand sanitizer will get rid of even fewer germs.
3. Washing Your Hands Kills Viruses
The reason why washing your hands does not kill viruses is that viruses are never alive in the first place. Unlike bacteria, viruses are simply particles containing genetic material. They need to enter a living being (like you) to replicate. Since they’re never alive, you cannot kill them — but cleaning your hands will destroy them, stopping them from being able to infect you or anyone else.
Water alone is useful, as it rinses some of the viral particles off your hands. However, it is important to use soap and proper hand-washing technique: soap breaks the outer protein shell of the virus and the right technique ensures you wash the entire surface of your hands.
4. You’ll Only Suffer from Seasonal Allergies If Your Immune System Is Weak
A common misconception is that seasonal allergies are a sign of a weakened immune system. In fact, all types of allergies are due to your immune system going into overdrive. In the case of winter allergies, your body mistakens particles of dust and other irritants in the air as serious threats, and your immune system overreacts.
A winter allergy can often appear similar to a cold or the flu, since many of the symptoms are the same, including a runny nose, congestion, and watery eyes. However, allergies tend to persist for longer, since your body is unable to destroy the cause like it would with an infection. Allergy medication can provide you with relief, as can wearing a face mask when outside if you find that your allergies are worse when you’re exposed to things like grass, pollen and dust.
5. Exercise Has a Negative Effect on the Immune System
Suddenly adopting an intense workout routine is bad for your body in all sorts of ways, but a reasonable amount of exercise on a daily basis will improve your immune system. For one thing, it will increase circulation of your white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections. Exercise can also remove bacteria from your airways and reduce stress, which can decrease your risk for some types of illnesses.
If you’re just starting a regular exercise program, begin with low-impact activities and build up gradually. This will allow you to benefit from exercise without putting strain on your body that can lead to exhaustion and make you more prone to illness.
6. You Should Starve a Fever But Feed a Cold
If you have a fever, there’s no benefit to forgoing food. The reason you have a fever is that your body is increasing its temperature to make it more difficult for the pathogen to thrive — and your body needs energy to generate this extra heat. Food also provides your immune system with the energy it needs to fight the infection.
Of course, you may not feel like eating as much as normal when you’re sick. The important thing is to listen to your body and let hunger be your guide, rather than believing you need to starve the fever. You should also make healthy choices that will benefit your body, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and high-protein foods.
7. Chicken Soup Will Help You Recover Faster
Although chicken soup may be a pleasant comfort food, it doesn’t contain anything that will reduce the length of your cold or flu. No food is a miracle cure that will mean you suddenly feel better — you need to give your body time to recover.
If you enjoy chicken soup when you have a cold, it will certainly do you no harm. It’s often easier to eat a warm soup than solid foods when you’re sick, particularly when you have a sore throat. Better yet, ask a family member to prepare you a homemade broth with some vegetables to increase your intake of vitamins. Alternatively, other great options for comfort include tea, applesauce, and hot honey and lemon.
The best way to boost your immune system is to lead a healthy life. One thing you can do is use essential oils for immunity on a regular basis. At LaCura, we have a range of single oils and blends to meet your needs. Check out our store to find the right ones for you.