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What is a cytokine storm?

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Aging is one of various risk factors for death from COVID-19; and, there’s no doubt that as we age, we have a decline in our immune system. Other conditions that are linked to poor outcomes with COVID -19 also are associated with being immunocompromised.

Our immune system has 2 arms to help us fight infections. One produces antibodies to reduce the ability for viruses to replicate, and the other arm produces chemicals called cytokines from cells of the immune system such as lymphocytes or monocytes.

These chemicals help signal and regulate our immune system and inflammation. Normally, this system is kept in balance by the body. Yet, sometimes the reaction becomes uncontrolled, and too many immune cells are activated in a single place. When this happens, a significant amount of damage can happen to the body and its organs. If it happens in the lungs, for example, fluids and immune cells such as macrophages may accumulate and eventually block off the airways, potentially resulting in death.

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario on March 25, 2020
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario on March 25, 2020

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