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Your Immune System
Your Immune System Articles
Many people try to manage allergies with over-the-counter or prescription medication; however, allergy shots may better control symptoms as well as reduce dependency on allergy drugs. After a three-to-six month build-up phases, people received monthly shots for about three to five years on average.
Many of the trillions of microbes that inhabit our bodies are essential to our health. A Mediterranean diet, good hygiene, and wise use of antibiotics promote microbial diversity. Probiotics may help restore beneficial bacteria.
Question: My doctor told me I'm overdue for a tetanus booster. I'm 64, and I wonder if it's really necessary at my age. Can't I just get one if I get a deep cut?
Answer: We usually associate tetanus with stepping on a rusty nail or getting a dirty puncture wound.
But it can also result from minor injuries such as a pinprick, an animal scratch or a splinter or thorn from the garden. That's why it's important to keep up with tetanus immunizations at every age.
Probiotics can be helpful in some cases, but it’s unclear whether they are safe for all older adults. Preliminary information shows that some types of probiotics are safe for healthy older people, but it’s not known yet if probiotics prevent infections in the elderly. If someone has a health problem, especially an immune system weakened by illness or medication, that person could get sick from probiotics. People should not begin taking probiotics without talking to a doctor or pharmacist first.
The average body temperature is 98.6° F (37°C). But "normal" body temperature varies from person to person. It also changes during the day, rising a bit after you eat or exercise. Body temperature is often higher in the afternoon than it is when you wake up in the morning. Fever means a body temperature of 100.4° F (38°C) or higher. An infection is the most common cause of fever. Examples include the flu, pneumonia, food poisoning, and bladder infection.
Celiac disease (also known as non-tropical sprue, celiac sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a genetic, autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly recognizes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as "foreign." When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, the immune system attacks the gluten when it gets into the small intestine.
As the immune system wages war against gluten, it damages small, fingerlike projections in the small intestine called villi. Villi that make it easier for the body to absorb nutrients from food. As villi become eroded and flattened, they have trouble absorbing nutrients. The result is diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as a host of health problems related to malnutrition, including weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, and nerve problems.
Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, is an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks connective tissue in the body, injuring and sometimes destroying vital organs such as the joints, kidneys, brain, and heart.
The word "lupus" is Latin for wolf. Many people with this condition developed a rash on the face over the bridge of the nose and on the cheeks below the eyes that looks like the facial markings of a wolf.
Lupus affects several hundred thousand people in the United States. It strikes women more often than men, and blacks more often than whites.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that involves severe fatigue (often of sudden onset) and other symptoms. The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome must last for at least 6 months and seriously interfere with a person's ability to function for a diagnosis to be made.
Other symptoms (which must also persist for at least 6 months to make the diagnosis) include memory impairment, sore throat, swollen lymph glands, headache, aching muscles and joints, and disrupted sleep. There must also be extreme worsening of symptoms after exertion. Finally, there must be no evidence of a large number of illnesses that can cause fatigue.
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not known. There is evidence that mild, nonpermanent abnormalities occur in the brain, that there is a low level of activation of the immune system, and that in many people with this condition, energy metabolism is abnormal. About half of all people with chronic fatigue syndrome also experience a psychiatric illness, typically starting after the symptoms of the illness have begun.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus. The flu virus enters your body when you breathe in air containing infected droplets, usually generated by someone else's coughing or sneezing. Outbreaks occur nearly every winter, and vary in severity depending on that year's strain of the influenza virus.
If you are like most people, you have had the flu at some point in your life. You may have felt awful for a week or so, but you got over it. Some people, though, develop serious complications such as pneumonia. Some even die from the flu. Those most at risk for complications include infants, people over age 60, and those with heart disease, lung disease, or chronic diseases that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes.
The influenza virus can cause severe pneumonia. It can also weaken the lungs, allowing harmful bacteria to take over and cause bacterial pneumonia. This can happen even to healthy young adults.
The flu is a good example of how medical myths can get in the way of good medical care. When it's flu season, take the necessary steps to stay healthy. That includes separating fact from myth.