For all the research scientists and medical research experts have done on the COVID-19 virus and how it affects humans, we are still trying to decode the mystery around its varied effect on people. One person might only experience only mild symptoms, while it may take another person months or even years to recover, having suffered lasting trauma as a side effect of having to battle the virus. While the symptoms of COVID-19 are now well understood and easily identified, what continues to elude us are those cases where people test positive but show absolutely no evidence of illness.
Your immune system: A medical marvel
Thank heaven for the immune system. It is the body’s defense mechanism against foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and disease. The immune system acts much like a security protocol for your body. Once an invader is “identified”, such as a virus or bacteria, your immune system goes to work, surrounding and isolating this foreign object and destroying it using cells called phagocytes.
Another aspect of your marvelous immune system is your acquired immune system. This is the series of antibodies and other cells that develop in response to certain stimuli like vaccinations, illnesses, and other experiences that create a memory for the system. This memory serves to trigger that “attack” response needed when known foreign substances enter the body and need to be dealt with. In essence, your immune system is a “smart” tool that responds to emergencies and helps the body return to a balanced state of homeostasis whenever necessary.
How COVID 19 Affects The Immune System
Recent studies done on the effects of the COVID 19 virus on the human immune system point to three possible outcomes, depending on a person’s own immune system response. Under normal immune/virus interaction conditions, the immune system can keep up with virus replication within the body, and the level of stress exuded to extricate the virus from the body is manageable. Patients have mild to moderate symptoms of discomfort that can be managed at home. Symptoms you might experience in a mild case of COVID 19 include:
- fever or chills
- aches and pains
- loss of appetite
At risk populations
If the COVID 19 virus enters the body and replicates at a rate that the body cannot withstand, the immune system response actually creates great stress on the body, creating a cytokine storm that can increase your risk for secondary disease development. Patients with this response to the virus have greater risk for respiratory infections and failure, developing pneumonia, and other complications. People that are already immunocompromised or those that are over 50 are at greater risk for developing complications associated with COVID 19. Symptoms you may see with more pronounced infections include:
- A persistent fever above 100.4 C
- Persistent or worsening cough
- Temporary shortness of breath when exerting yourself
- Extreme fatigue
- Gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea
Emergency care needed
If the virus continues to grow beyond the immune system’s current capabilities to isolate and eliminate, then a patient enters what is called the hyperinflammatory state response, where the immune system begins to turn on the body’s own systems, mistaking them for viral infections. Once this stage of the disease has progressed, it is difficult to recover from without lasting complications. In severe cases, medical intervention is necessary, yet it may take weeks if not months to recover. Severe symptoms and complications of hyper inflammation include:
- Consistent trouble breathing, gasping
- A feeling of pressure on and in the chest
- Difficulty staying awake
- Blue lips or face
- Loss of consciousness
- Multi-system organ failure
Why the wide variation in symptoms?
Stanford University Studies now give us more insight into why some of us experience runny noses, aches and pains, while others land in the hospital with lasting complications. Researches noted that the severity of a COVID case may be directly related to the strength of a person’s innate immune system response, the immune system we are born with. If immune system cells respond fast enough to an incoming infection, it gives the body a bit more time to adapt to the additional stress, resulting in a slow spread of infection. Those with sluggish innate immune systems were known to have higher levels of infection and more complications than those who were “deemed” healthy at the beginning of the study.
Another factor found upon researching the study that individuals with more severe symptoms and complications had higher levels of bacterial infestation and inflammation in the body to begin with. Higher levels of inflammation tended to predict the outcome of COVID progression, with very few patients moving outside the realm of expected outcomes during the testing period.
Putting the pieces together
It makes sense then, that those with healthy immune system responses would tolerate a COVID 19 infection better than those who are immunocompromised or those considered to have “weakened or sluggish” immune systems. Now that we are putting puzzle pieces in place, what can be done to strengthen immunity and prevent disease?
Boosting immunity, preventing infection
Regardless of your current state of health or stage of life, there are measures you can take to prevent infection and strengthen immunity. Consider these action steps as you move toward health:
- Get regular exercise
- Consume manuka honey for antiviral and antibacterial purposes
- Increase your vitamin D intake
- Take a turmeric supplement to lower inflammation
- Use Tea tree oil to sanitize hands
- Consume garlic
- Stay hydrated
- Get adequate sleep
- Ingest oregano oil
- Drink more tea
- Eat lean and clean
While we don’t know what lies on the horizon as COVID 19 continues to evolve, we do have proactive steps that we can take to lower our risk of infection. Safeguard your health, speak with your allergist in Princeton NJ about ways to strengthen respiratory health and wellness, and look forward to creating better health one day at a time. Good health at this time is possible, and knowing how to create that is the key to vibrant living.
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