It’s inevitable that we’re all going to get sick sometimes. But, how do you know how well your immune system actually works? Here’s how the immune system fights illness and some things that may indicate that you have a pretty strong one working to protect you on the daily in a germy, germy world.
How the Immune System Works
Your immune system is equipped to naturally identify when your body is at risk from a foreign pathogen, like a cold virus. Your saliva and skin are some of the key barriers at the forefront of your immune system, working to keep out invaders (called antigens). The immune response to these invaders involves the production of antibodies, plus your B-cells and T-cells working together to destroy antigens.1
The immune system is obviously an important defense mechanism for keeping you healthy. So how do you know if you have a good one?
You don’t get sick very often.
Sure, you probably get some colds throughout the year and maybe some stomach bugs - especially during peak cold and flu season - but it’s not excessive. If you notice that people around you are getting sick more often, and you’re not really catching it, you probably have pretty good immunity. This especially applies if you’re lucky enough to be a parent of small children who bring home an incredible amount of germs daily, and you’re still faring pretty well, all things considered.
When you do get sick, you recover quickly.
Colds tend to linger around longer when your immune system is bogged down, which can be amplified when you’re under a lot of stress, not sleeping well, or not eating the best. If you notice that your colds and illnesses are only intense for the first couple of days, and then noticeably improve, your immune system is probably doing its job well.
The common cold typically lasts about one week before going away on their own.2 If you’re down for the count for days with little improvement, on the other hand, that’s a sign that something may be off (and you may need some extra help, like a prescription medication).
If you start feeling run down, you notice your immune system promptly kicking in.
Sometimes signs of a strong, working immune system are the same signs that we cringe at because it means an illness is on the horizon. For instance, some of the first signs of a common cold are a sore throat and sneezing. Even though they’re annoying, these are signs that your immune system is working to get antigens out of your body, especially if you end up not getting sick at all.
Your skin surface injuries heal quickly.
If you notice that scrapes or other wounds take forever to scab up and heal, your immune response may be impaired. The typical healing process involves things like redness, swelling, and itching, which are signs of your immune response kicking in to close the wound and kill any pathogens.3 If your wounds tend to scab over and heal pretty quickly, that’s a good sign that your immune system is working well.
If you’re looking to boost your immune system or simply keep it working strong, consider adding a product like Daily Start to your healthy lifestyle, which is full of superfoods and antioxidants.
Yours in Health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian
- Nicholson LB. The immune system. Essays Biochem. 2016;60(3):275–301. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5091071/
- InformedHealth.org. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Common colds: Overview. 2006 Feb 14. Updated 2018 Nov 15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279543/
- Larouche J, Sheoran S, Maruyama K, & Martino M. Immune Regulation of Skin Wound Healing: Mechanisms and Novel Therapeutic Targets. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2018 Jul 1;7(7):209-231. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29984112