The immune system boasts of soldiers who fight germs. If not facilitated to function to the best of their abilities then we get infections. Gardy Chacha looks at the importance of obeying doctors warning and taking caution regarding one’s immunity
When you get pricked, cut or scratched, does it develop into a septic wound? Do you catch cold and flu frequently? Do you fall sick frequently? Are you run down and fatigued most of the time? Do you develop a reaction when you get in contact with some harmless substances? If so, then you may have a weak immune system.
For others, they rarely get sick. They seldom take medication, nor visit health facilities for treatment. These individuals have an amazing defense mechanism called the immune system.
When the parents of eight-year-old Reagan noticed that he was getting frequent bouts of malaria and flu, they did not consider it as something life threatening but acknowledged that their son was weak. Since he didn’t show any symptoms of a disease, but a general weakness and an increased frequency of attacks by infections they considered not strong enough to cause damage, they didn’t give it attention it deserved. It later emerged that it was a case of a poor immune system.
The only thing that helps us notice our poor immune system is whenever it fails. According to Dr Kiboi of University of Nairobi’s School of medicine, each day you inhale thousands of germs (bacteria, viruses and fungi) that float in the air.
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Your immune system fights with all of them but occasionally a germ gets past the immune system and you catch a cold or flu.
Eventually you get over the cold or flu, which is a sign that your immune system was able to eliminate the germs after learning about them.
If your immune system did nothing, you would never get over a cold or anything else.
Dr Kiboi says that whenever a virus or bacteria (germs) invades your body it causes problems. For example, the strep throat bacteria (Streptococcus) releases a toxin that causes inflammation in your throat. The polio virus releases toxins that destroy nerve cells leading to paralysis. “Some bacteria though are beneficial. For example, we all have millions of bacteria in our intestines and they help digest food. If the immune system weakens, then even these harmless microbes become dangerous,” said Dr Kiboi.
He says the primary job of your immune system is to protect your body from foreign particles that cause or disseminate infections. A good example is that your immune system can detect cancer in early stages and eliminate it in many cases.
There are things that lead to a weakened immune system thereby prompting a barrage of diseases and infections. Dr Kiboi mentions that excess sugar in the body erodes Vitamin C and breaks down the immune system cells. He adds that excessive consumption of alcohol deprives the body of valuable nutrients, stopping the white blood cells from multiplying and disabling the cells that ingest foreign particles also known as macrophages from working.
Since the immune system is like machinery, when part of it malfunctions an immune deficiency condition can develop. A good example is when the HIV virus enters the body.
Dr Kiboi says; “the repercussions of having a weak immune system can be compared with a battling army that has been stripped of ammunition and left without capabilities of handling enemy fire. When cornered by the enemy, it is almost certain they will lose the battle. In the case of the immune system, when the battle is lost, it means death has occurred or is about to occur.”
According to him, when the immune system is fully functional, the body’s defense would mount a fight back using cells that would literally consume the foreign material (germs) or through antibodies, which are complementary to specific germs. Antibodies are like soldiers. They are highly specific, so that one species of antibodies only fights malaria pathogens or any other germs. They also have a unique capability of storing memory so that next time the pathogen enters the body, it is cleared since it is already recognised or known.
Prevention is better
The scientific journal of European Food Safety Association says that sometimes the immune system recognises otherwise harmless but foreign materials such as pollen and dust or a certain food types as a threat. It then goes into attack mode, hence a reaction commonly referred to as allergy — a form of immune system reaction. That is why you have to stay away from materials or foods your body does not seem to accept.
In medicine, prevention is better than cure. It is the gist in fighting diseases. The body’s primary defense and the only defense for that matter is the immune system. Expert’s advice that when your body is always weak or you get frequent health problems that are persistent, it is advisable to get your immune system checked.