What are the benefits of exposure to cold and flu viruses? Some people believe that it can help strengthen immunity, but is this really the case? Let's take a look at the science behind it.
As the winter season approaches, so too do the dreaded cold and flu symptoms. Many of us will experience a cough or runny nose at some point during the winter months, but what effect do these viruses have on our immune system? Are we more likely to get sick when exposed to cold or flu, or can it actually help boost our immunity? And whilst we all take protective measures to prevent us from getting ill, what methods are most effective at preventing illness?
You’ve probably heard that if you have a cold or the flu in the past few months, you’re unlikely to get it again in the following months, but is this true? The short answer is no. Unless you are exposed to the exactly the same virus, it is likely that you will experience symptoms of illness if you become infected with a different virus, because your immune system will need to learn how to cope with this new entity.
Zero exposure to pathogens isn’t good either. Since fewer people were exposed to colds and flu during the COVID-19 pandemic because of lockdown, natural immunity levels are at their lowest. As the UK and other countries have now lifted the majority of protective measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing, experts are forecasting that cold and flu infection rates will be much higher. There are reports of a ‘tripledemic’ (RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), flu & COVID-19) this winter due to lower levels of natural immunity within the UK population.
So what can we do to prevent catching a virus this winter?
Any time you are infected, your body will produce specific antibodies in response to the specific germs and viruses, collectively called pathogens. These antibodies help fight off future infections by remembering the virus and how to beat it. However, because cold and flu strains are always changing, you need to build up natural immunity to the new emerging strains, because your immune system will only remember how to beat the old strain.
A robust immune system prevents you from getting sick and there are many ways to keep your immune system strong, to help stay healthy and well this winter season:
- Stay up to date with flu vaccinations – unlike COVID-19 vaccinations which are designed to reduce symptoms, flu vaccines are designed to also help prevent infection. Annual flu immunisation is advised because new flu viruses emerge, so the vaccine changes each year
- Wash your hands regularly – this is the best form of infection control
- Eat nutritious foods and drink lots of water
- Use the BioSURE PRO Protective Nasal Spray daily as it provides a physical barrier in your nasal passages which helps prevent viral infections. Just spray, protect and go.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze - sneezing into your elbow is best – and make sure you safely dispose of any used tissues
- Relax and get plenty of sleep. Stress can also weaken the immune system
- Load up on Vitamin D found in fatty fish, eggs yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods
- Wrap up warm in the cold weather - this helps prevent chills that can make you more susceptible to illness
Exposure to viruses, little and often, may help to ‘refresh the immune system’s memory but it does not mean that you should deliberately try to get infected as every exposure has potential risk. The most effective way to stay healthy and infection-free this winter is to practice good hygiene and have healthy lifestyle habits to protect yourself before you get ill.
Remember, prevention is better than cure.