The past couple months we’ve focused a lot on ways to build strong immunity. One thing we haven’t talked about regarding the strength of the immune system is one of the most important ways in which the body builds memory immune cells. To develop lasting immunity to potentially dangerous pathogens, the body needs to be exposed to them on a small scale, multiple times. Those repeated exposures enable the T-lymphocytes to create lasting memory of the invaders, as the body mounts a full inflammatory response.
Keep in mind, a “full inflammatory response” may look like what we think of as sickness, but often doesn’t. In a normally functioning immune system, your body usually manages to do this without you even being aware, let alone sick. We are exposed to and technically infected with a multitude of pathogens all the time. Infection without disease is the rule, not the exception. That is why it was no surprise to learn that many of those infected with Covd-19 are asymptomatic. That is how viruses work, it is normal. One of the reasons it is normal, is that we are protected from illness by our immune system’s non-specific defenses as we encounter germs repeatedly, and develop memory for them.
All this is to say, that if you are generally healthy, strictly sheltering in place on a long term basis is actually detrimental to your immune system. Obviously, if you have a health concern that causes you to be susceptible to infectious diseases, limiting your contact with the outside world is a better way to go. For everyone, social distancing and frequent hand-washing and cleaning of the things you touch are also good ideas. Not leaving the house, however, is not a healthy option. We don’t advocate going clubbing starting next week, but we do strongly suggest that you begin to venture out to stores for things you need if you haven’t been. Certainly, wear your mask when indoors among people with whom you may have to be in close contact. But being out and about a little bit here and there, is not only a good way to help introduce your body to the novel coronavirus, but to remind it of the other pathogens it had already figured out. Those re-exposures to common bugs are helpful in keeping your immune system in its best fighting condition. If you deny yourself access to our world of germs to an extreme, you are also choking off your immune system’s ability to keep you thriving as you move through the world. So, employ reasonable measures, but get out into the world. Here’s to your health!