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Patient health, flu myths, and signs of a strong immune system

Signs of a strong immune system include patients eating right, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting enough sleep to ward off...
Illustration by Dan Page

Signs of a strong immune system include patients eating right, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting enough sleep

Health care experts in the wellness field are scrambling to keep patients well during a hard-hitting flu season and additional worries about a new coronavirus.

Keeping patients’ immune system in top shape with the signs of a strong immune system, experts say, is a way to combat both.

More than 12,000 adults and 78 children have died during this flu season according to the weekly flu report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the coronavirus has dominated the headlines, the flu is much more likely to impact Americans and should be the main concern says Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing in Purdue’s School of Nursing.

“It’s important to keep in mind that while we currently do not have a vaccine for coronavirus, we do have a safe and effective vaccine for the flu, and it’s not too late to get one,” Richards says. “We are still in the peak of flu season, so vaccination is important to protect you and those around you. The flu vaccine helps protect not only you from influenza but can also lessen your chance of flu-related complications.”

According to Purdue University doctors, adults and children need to be fever-free for 24 hours without the assistance of over-the-counter or prescription medications before they can return to work or school. It’s also never too late to get a flu shot.

Signs of a strong immune system and making it stronger

Eating right, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting enough sleep are some of the primary drivers of and signs of a strong immune system.

This season the CDC estimates that 9.7 million cases of the flu have been thus far diagnosed.

Also along the lines of creating or maintaining a healthy immune system for patients includes maintaining a healthy weight, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of fluids, meeting physical activity guidelines, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption and stress.

“Seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended when you are feeling sick, as well as when you are healthy,” Richards said. “In addition to getting adequate sleep when ill, it is also important to rest during the day and try to avoid overexertion.”

“If you have a productive cough, do everyone a favor and avoid the gym. Staying home is a perfect way to not spread germs. If you have mild cold symptoms and you feel you have the energy to exercise, go for it as exercise might help you feel better, but consider reducing the duration or intensity of your exercise. If you are having fatigue, body aches, stomach issues, you should stay home and rest as exercise could increase your chance of an injury.”

When it comes to children, Richards says, keep washing everyone’s hands.

 “Kids touch everything, which is one big way germs are spread,” she says. “Kids also tend not to understand or value what ‘personal space’ is and can be in each other’s faces all the time. Parents, teachers and caregivers can demonstrate proper hand-washing and cough hygiene all year long – not just during flu season…[And] as much as we love to show affection with kisses, it’s possible to spread the flu one to three days prior to the start of symptoms.”

Immunity tips

The human immune system fights off infection, disease, viruses and more. But if the immune system protects you, why do you get sick?

The immune system (tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, thymus gland and bone marrow) consists of the lymphatic system, and your skin and mucus membranes act as the first line of defense, according to Roswell Park, the U.S.’s first cancer center. The skin presents the physical barrier, while the mucus membranes that line your body’s openings make and release substances that repel invaders.

“Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to create immunity to a specific disease,” writes Roswell Park. “Long ago, people realized that survivors of a disease didn’t get that disease again. A British doctor is often credited with the first vaccine (for smallpox) in the 1790s, but a Chinese emperor who was a smallpox survivor himself started an inoculation program against the disease in the mid-1600s.”

How the flu is passed on – or isn’t, and other misconceptions

When someone with the flu coughs or sneezes, flu germs enter the air and are breathed in by other potential carriers. Will they get sick? What are their signs of a strong immune system? It depends on:

  • How strong is the person’s immune system?
  • How strong is the flu virus?
  • Has the individual had a flu shot?
  • Does the individual receive chiropractic care to boost immunity?
  • Are they frequently washing/disinfecting their hands and avoiding rubbing their eyes, nose, etc.?

There still remains a common mis-perception among patients that they can get the flu by getting a flu shot. This myth leads to the spreading of the flu by un-vaccinated individuals.

The flu vaccine contains an inactive virus and gives the body a preview of what to look for and how to fight it off. Sometimes individuals can feel effects after a flu shot due to the body creating an immune response, as it should. Headaches or low-grade fevers are not out of the ordinary and are sometimes mistaken for the flu but are just natural responses from the body.

The flu season can go well into May, and individuals age 6 and up should get the flu shot which traditionally protects against influenza A (H1N1) and (H3N2), and the influenza B virus. For additional flu info from the CDC go to

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