Have you ever noticed how you get a tear in your eye when a speck of dust gets in it? Or have you ever suddenly sneezed when you stepped outside? These are just two parts of your body’s amazing defense systems that work every day to protect you. But there are even more cool things to learn about how your body takes care of itself!
There are germs everywhere, and your skin is the biggest protection against them, as well as injuries (read more in Good Health Begins with Your Skin). For your body to take care of you, it uses three types of immunity: the kind your body knows how to do on its own, the kind your body learns as it fights with germs, and the kind that you received from your mom before birth (or perhaps through blood transfusions for certain diseases). All of these are necessary to keep you healthy.
Immunity your body knows
Almost everyone is born with one or more kinds of innate immunity or defenses against things that could hurt us. Examples of these defenses include our skin; tears (to get rid of dust/bugs/germs); mucus (like snot to trap germs/ dust, which we sneeze and cough up, or swallow and excrete); saliva (to break down pathogens, or disease-causing germs); and stomach acid (to kill foreign particles that we’ve swallowed). When you get a fever, it’s your body’s way of fighting the infection, because by raising our body’s temperature, we make it difficult for pathogens to multiply. More examples include the way that blood clots work to stop bleeding, and how scabs form over wounds as they heal. These are all ways your body works naturally to protect you!
Immunity your body learns
Adaptive immunity is when your body learns to fight a certain germ … and “remembers” it for later! When you first get infected with a germ, your body makes Y-shaped proteins called antibodies to fight back. These tiny proteins recognize the germ that caused the disease, so that the next time this germ attacks you, you’ll be able to fight it off without becoming sick. Vaccines work in a similar way, by mildly infecting you so that your body can identify and fight off the same infections later. This is like a “Wanted” sign that helps people identify a certain suspect. A vaccination (or previous infection) helps warn your immune system when an old enemy returns!
Immunity from others
Passive immunity is immunity to infection from antibodies that were not produced in your body. This protects you only for a short term (not for life). For example, antibodies passing on to a baby from the mother will go away a few months after birth as the baby develops their own immunity.
Given the incredible things our body does for us, it deserves the same love and attention from us. Promise yourself to eat nutritious food with lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Maintain good hygiene by washing hands and brushing your teeth regularly, getting enough sleep, showering daily, etc. Enjoy learning about “The Healing Power of Chemistry”!