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Common misconceptions about immunity

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The very concept of "immunity" appeared in the 19th century thanks to the Russian scientist Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov and the French microbiologist Louis Pasteur. Initially, however, immunity was understood as the immunity of the body to infectious diseases. But since the middle of the 20th century, as a result of research work, it has been proven that immunity protects the body not only from microbes, but also from any other genetically alien cells (parasites, foreign tissues used for transplantation, as well as its own tumor cells).

Immunity is the body's ability to maintain its integrity and biological identity by recognizing and removing foreign substances and cells (including pathogenic bacteria and viruses).

There are two types of immunity: innate and adaptive.

  • Congenital (nonspecific, hereditary) immunity is an innate ability to destroy someone else's.
  • Acquired (specific, adaptive) immunity is immunity acquired after real “combat operations” – that is, a direct fight with an infection, or after “big exercises” – that is, a battle with a weakened pathogen introduced into the body in the form of a vaccine .

And if we have hereditary immunity all our lives, then adaptive immunity sometimes persists for life, and sometimes for several years, or a year or two, as, for example, after the flu.

Since the immune system is very complex and is still under study, even among doctors there are often misconceptions about immunity. What can we say about ordinary people who do not have a medical education. Therefore, we propose to consider the main misconceptions about immunity.

Common misconceptions about immunity

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1. All diseases are due to weakened immunity

Of course, the immune system is one of the most important systems of the human body. However, the assertions that all diseases are due to the fact that "immunity is weakened" are not entirely correct. With the same success it can be said that "all diseases are from the nerves." To some extent, this will also be true, but usually several factors are needed for the development of the disease. One of these factors can be a weakened immune system.

There are also diseases that develop regardless of the state of the immune system, but later lead to weakened immunity (an example of such a disease is diabetes mellitus).


2. For the purpose of prevention, it is necessary to take medicines that strengthen the immune system

Currently, in pharmacies you can see a lot of drugs that promise that they "strengthen the immune system." In fact, no more than 20 drugs of this purpose are used by specialists. But, perhaps most importantly, none of them is used as an independent medicine. They are prescribed only, we emphasize, only in combination with the main remedies for a specific disease. As you can see, there can be no question of any prevention here.

According to experts, it is practically impossible to strengthen the immunity of a healthy person with drugs for the simple reason that such drugs have a therapeutic and prophylactic effect only in patients and only in the complex treatment of their specific disease. But it is quite possible to harm the immune system by taking such drugs. The chemical balance in the body is a delicate and fragile mechanism.

It should be remembered that healthy people do not need to take such drugs. Immuno-modulators are highly effective drugs, but they have strict indications for use. They have a protective, preventive effect only in patients and only when used in complex treatment. It is impossible to stock up on health for the future.

Any person should be guided by common sense, especially when faced with another panacea like "we treat everything." Behind miracles in medicine, ordinary charlatanism and the desire to make money on someone else's misfortune are most often hidden.


3. The immune system will cope with infectious diseases on its own, so there is no need to treat them

To some extent, this is true, since the immune system copes with many viruses and bacteria on its own. But, unfortunately, even a very well-functioning immune system can not resist large amounts of viruses or bacteria, or even a small number of very pathogenic pathogens such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, measles and some other diseases.

And if the microorganisms have already managed to overcome all the protective barriers that immunity built on their way, then he already needs to help and treat the disease that has begun. And the treatment should be chosen based on the situation. Sometimes an auxiliary general tonic is enough to help the immune system quickly neutralize the pathogen (for example, taking vitamins for acute respiratory infections). Sometimes it is necessary to use antibacterial drugs, etiotropic (aimed at destroying the pathogen) or immunocorrective therapy.

Common misconceptions about immunity

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4. In medical examinations, first of all, it is necessary to diagnose immune deficiencies

Not at all necessary. Often, the appointment for such a diagnosis is explained by the fact that it costs a lot of money and its implementation is beneficial for numerous paid centers.

The main signs of immunity damage are frequent relapses of a chronic disease or frequent colds that cannot be treated. But this is still not enough to suspect immunodeficiency. Immunological tests should be carried out only when all these troubles occur despite adequate and timely treatment. And if a person is not treated or does not cure his cold, if the drugs prescribed by the doctor turned out to be ineffective, the matter is most likely not in immunity.


5. All immune drugs increase immunity

Such a statement is incorrect. The fact is that, in addition to drugs that increase immunity, there are also immunosuppressants related to immune preparations. They are used in modern medicine, for example, during organ transplantation so that the body does not reject a transplant that is alien to it.


6. Taking general strengthening drugs of non-specific effects, you can solve all the problems of the immune system

Such a statement can indeed sometimes be found in the popular science literature. 

However, in reality, everything is much more complicated. Of course, vitamins, adaptogens (ginseng, eleutherococcus), hardening procedures, optimal physical exercise etc. improve health, but often this is not enough when the immune system cannot cope with some serious problem.

In a number of diseases (pneumonia, tonsillitis, allergies, and others), a deeper intervention in the functioning of the immune system is still necessary, and here it is advisable to consult a doctor. Self-medication in this case can lead to inefficiency or side effects.


7. Only immune drugs affect the immune system

Those who think like this are delusional. Any chemicals affect the immune system. Another thing is that such an influence can be both oppressive and stimulating. It should be noted that with prolonged use, almost any drug can cause a weakening of the immune system, and therefore it is desirable to take preventive measures to maintain the normal functioning of the body's defenses.

Common misconceptions about immunity

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8. Immunity to recurring diseases is not formed

Everyone knows that there are a number of diseases (for example, chickenpox, measles or rubella), which a person gets sick only once in a lifetime, after which the body develops immunity to them (adaptive immunity). At the same time, many people think that immunity is not formed against diseases that can recur.

Such an opinion is not true, since our immune system "remembers" all the microorganisms that it had to meet. Antibodies developed to them remain in the body for a long time, and sometimes for life. And therefore, if the pathogen enters the body again, then the disease, although it can develop, the immune system already knows how to deal with it, as a result of which the disease proceeds in a milder form.

Immunologists note that if the immune system did not know how to protect a person in this way, then he would not “get out” of diseases.