How the immune system works
I am not a scientist! I’m trying to make this understandable for non-scientists like me. If I can get these basics down, so can anyone!
The first thing to know is that it’s not like other systems in the body in that it doesn’t consist of specific organs, like the digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, etc. It’s bigger than that.
The immune system spreads throughout the body through the blood and bone marrow, and more specifically, it is a key function of the thymus gland, lymph nodes, mucosa (both mucous membranes and that surrounding organs), and the spleen.
The immune system works to prevent pathogens such as viruses from causing harm. There are two branches of the immune system, innate and adaptive.
The innate immune system responds first to invading pathogens. The innate response is rapid but not specialized. The adaptive immune system responds to pathogens that slip past the innate immune system, and it remembers them if exposed again.
The main cell types of the adaptive immune system are T cells and B cells, which are produced in the bone marrow from stem cells. They are also called lymphocytes.
T cells recognize invaders and coordinate immune responses. They are killers, helpers, and messengers. They kill infected damaged cells. They produce cytokines that fight pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They send messages to activate the rest of the immune system.
B cells produce antibodies, called Immunoglobulin (Ig) of various types. These are specific proteins in our blood that respond to and counteract specific antigens (substances in pathogens that provoke an immune response).
Both T cells and B cells can become memory cells, which persist and can recognize when an antigen appears again and create a rapid, pathogen-specific immune response. For instance, having had the measles once confers immunity — If exposed again, you don’t get the measles again because your immune system recognizes and defends against it successfully. This is also how vaccines work.
We don’t have any specific immune cells for coronavirus yet, because it is novel — new.
The role of lifestyle
Your lifestyle is a major factor in supporting your immune system, making it healthier, possibly even conferring that symptomless version of COVID-19 that I’m sure we all wish we had (but knowing we have it and self-quarantining) and complete immunity afterwards.
But since it’s new, we’re still learning. A healthy immune system might also make the difference between a mild case and a serious case.
Hygiene, diet, sleep, fresh air, exercise, the parasympathetic nervous system, and supplements all play roles in keeping your immune system working well. I intend to explore these in the coming days.
Defend yourself with impeccable hygiene
Humans got way healthier when we started washing our hands and utilizing public sewage systems and drinking clean water. Before these practices became common, a lot of people suffered from and died miserably from cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis, typhus, and other diseases spread from poor sanitation.
In the time of the coronavirus, the actions you can take to improve hygiene and reduce transmission of the virus include hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, not touching your face with unwashed hands, wearing a mask, self-quarantining if exposed or ill (whether you test positive or not, given the shortage of tests), social distancing, sheltering in place, lockdowns.
This virus is very contagious! Please take care not to get exposed and not to spread it.
Current coronavirus stats from Austin
This is day 4 of sheltering in place. As of last night, we had 160 cases here and one death, a woman in her 70s with significant underlying health conditions. Blessings to her family. 💚🙏🏽
It’s still affecting more people in the 20-40 age group than older in this city.
One person at a homeless shelter has tested positive. The person is being isolated at a hotel.
I’m hearing reports of customers being abusive to employees at to-go restaurants and grocery store cashiers. I hope management protects their employees and bans these people for a few days so they will be more appreciative.