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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Myths and Facts About Your Immune System

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Your immune system helps guard your body from germs, viruses, and other threats. What you do every day can help, or hamper, your immune system.

What works and what doesn't? How can you keep your immune system in top shape? Let's separate myth from fact.

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The Truth Behind Mom's Cold and Flu Advice

Mothers are celebrated (if sometimes vilified) for their eagerness to advise their children on matters big and small: how to behave, what to wear, whom to marry, when to have kids ... and, oh yes, how to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Does science back up what Dr. Mom told you about the common cold? Or was she full of hot air? Here's what real doctors have to say about 10 familiar cold-busting tips:

Read the The Truth Behind Mom's Cold and Flu Advice article > >

Fact: Lasting stress is bad for you.

Ongoing stress, such as being in a difficult relationship, living with a chronic disease, or being a caregiver can take its toll on your immune system. Over time, it can make you more vulnerable to illnesses, from colds and flu to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Chronic stress seems to age the immune system, studies show, making you more likely to get a cold or the flu, chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.

Everyone goes through stress. What matters is how you handle it. Getting better at managing stress can help. Even something as simple as deep breathing can lessen the effects of stress. Or try other relaxation techniques, such as:

Counseling can make a big difference, too.

Myth: Getting a flu shot weakens your immune system and makes you more likely to get the flu.

Totally untrue. Getting a flu vaccine prepares your immune system for the flu.

A flu vaccine teaches your immune system to recognize that virus as a threat. While some people may still get the flu after having a flu shot, they'll probably have a milder form of the illness -- and it's not because they got the vaccine. A milder form of the flu is still possible despite getting vaccinated because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can still provide some protection.

So why do people swear a flu vaccine gave them the flu? Some may mistake the occasional side effects of the vaccine (fever, aches) for flu symptoms. And the time of year people are most likely to get the vaccine is when colds and other respiratory illnesses are common. If you get the vaccine and then get sick with an unrelated bug, you may assume, incorrectly, that the vaccine caused the illness.

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