Skip to content
Font Size
A
A
A

How to Use Your Immune System to Stay Healthy

By Mary Anne Dunkin
WebMD Feature

Do you seem to catch cold after cold, while your friends sail through winter unscathed? Maybe you need to think about strengthening your immune system.

You may pay more attention to the health of your immune system during the winter, when colds and flu surround you. But the truth is, your immune system has to work hard all through the year, whether it’s offering protection from a flu virus or an infection that could happen any time.

Recommended Related to

Viewers' Choice: Top 10 Videos of 2007

From the health benefits of coffee to tips for preventing a staph infection, find out what WebMD users were watching in 2007. View the list of the year's most popular videos. Then click on the links to see them for yourself. 1. Exercises for Better Sex 2. The Truth About Coffee 3. Is It Fatigue or Something More? 4. Preventing Staph Infections 5. Gallbladder Basics 6. Loss of Libido in Women 7. Foods That Trigger IBS 8. Gym Smarts: Awesome Abs 9. The Truth About Alcohol 10. Back Pain ...

Read the Viewers' Choice: Top 10 Videos of 2007 article > >

“We are endowed with a great immune system that has been designed evolutionarily to keep us healthy,” says Bruce Polsky, MD, interim chairman department of medicine and chief division of infectious disease at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is your body’s natural defense system. It’s an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that band together to defend your body against invaders. Those invaders can include bacteria, viruses, parasites, even a fungus, all with the potential to make us sick. They are everywhere – in our homes, offices, and backyards. A healthy immune system protects us by first creating a barrier that stops those invaders, or antigens, from entering the body. And if one slips by the barrier, the immune system produces white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins that attack and destroy these foreign substances. They try to find the antigen and get rid of it before it can reproduce. Failing that, the immune system revs up even more to destroy the invaders as they multiply.

The immune system can recognize millions of different antigens. And it can produce what it needs to eradicate nearly all of them. When it’s working properly, this elaborate defense system can keep health problems ranging from cancer to the common cold at bay.

When the Immune System Breaks Down

Sometimes the immune system makes a mistake and identifies a substance as being harmful when it’s not – think pollen or pet dander. When the immune system revs up to fight these “invaders,” you have an allergic reaction.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
Does your kid have symptoms?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.