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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Myths vs. Facts About Your Immune System

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Covering your mouth when you cough can keep germs at bay.

Fact. Coughing, sneezing, or even talking near someone who has the flu can make you sick when droplets of the virus get into the air. And you can inhale these droplets even if you are 2-3 feet away. If you’re the person who’s sick, stay home. If you must be around others, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze into your shoulder or the inside of your elbow. If you’re healthy and suspect others around you are sick, stand at least 4 feet away. Also, since germs can live on hard surfaces like doorknobs for hours, wash hands frequently, and keep them away from your face. 

Supplements can help you feel better faster.

Myth. Taking a daily multivitamin is probably a good idea to stay healthy if you eat poorly. But taking megadoses of a single vitamin or supplement has not been proven to help the immune system.

Kids need supplements to build a healthy immune system.

Myth. Vitamins and minerals matter for kids too, but they should get them from eating nutritious foods. If your child is a picky eater, a vegetarian, or a vegan, your doctor may recommend a supplement. Remember: Though you can buy children’s vitamins over-the-counter, they are still drugs. Taken excessively, they can be toxic.

Sucking your baby’s pacifier can make him less likely to develop allergies.

Fact. Do you cringe when you see a parent pick up a baby’s pacifier and suck it before returning it to the baby’s mouth? Don't. A recent study found that parents who suck their infant’s pacifier may lower the baby’s risk of having allergies. The thought is that germs transferred to the infant from the parent’s saliva will kick-start the baby's immune system. 

Exercise has no effect on the immune system.

Myth. While there’s no direct link between moderate exercise and keeping the average person’s immune system humming, there are lots of benefits to working out. Among other things, it lowers blood pressure, keeps body weight under control, and can protect you from certain diseases. So get moving. 

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Reviewed on November 07, 2013

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