The Immune System v. COVID19

Posted on April 17, 2020


One thing the Corona virus pandemic has made evident is that far too many Americans are scientifically illiterate. Pseudoscience and charlatans abound, waiting to profit from vulnerable folks who are looking for a way to have some control in a world where they’ve lost control of so much. For the low, low price of whatever you can pay, they will sell you completely unnecessary “immuno boosters.” I’ve seen two chiropractors going viral because of their dangerous misinformation campaigns, and don’t even get me started on the utter nonsense coming from POTUS– or the religious leaders, who openly declare that their belief that they are immune will save them, creating hot spots of contagion and death. Science and science education save lives, period. It’s time for the era of American science denial and the silencing of experts to end.

I appreciate the scientists and science communicators who help me understand the processes involved in contracting and fighting disease. Yesterday, I discovered an excellent science writer and advocate while listening to WUOM: Matt Richtel.


In the 4/16/20 episode of 1A, Matt Richtel addresses the idea that people need to “boost” their immune system and explains the basic process involved in the immune system response to Novel Corona virus.


The Immune System v. COVID19

A lot of people share the misconception

that the immune system lays waste to everything alien.

That is wrong.

Our immune systems are constantly calibrating what’s around us,

measuring the microbes around us.

The immune system is a combination of

Bouncer and Ballet dancer,

doing damage when necessary–


as LITTLE damage as possible

to not harm the tissues.


Along comes Novel Corona virus:

a genetic combination

never seen before

in the scientific community.


The virus is Novel

to the immune system.

None of the microbes

it has ever met before

prepared it for this.


Why is it so dangerous?

Your lungs

are the most exposed organ

in the body

to the outside world.

For you to survive,

your body must allow the exchange of air

through these delicate sacks–

or you die.

It’s not like food, and it’s not like water,

where you can wait.

You’ve got to have it now.



for the immune system,

because it has to make this trade-off:

the lungs have to allow the exchange of air,

but also RUSH to deal with a problem as soon as it erupts,

because if those works get gummed up,

you will die.

The LUNG is the most delicate organ.


Can we “boost” immunity?

I got a counter. I’m bringing in the heavies.

Dr. Fauci told me,

“It almost makes me chuckle.

First, it assumes your immune system needs ‘boosting,’

which it very likely doesn’t.

And if you DO do something

to boost your immune system,

you might ‘boost’ it into doing something bad.”


In the immune system,

if the Bouncer gets too strong,

it leads to auto-immune disorders and allergies.

In the ICU, when people die of lung infections,

what ultimately kills them is TOO MUCH immune response.


The phrase “boost your immunity”

is Marketing Mumbo Jumbo.

Where did it come from? Why do we say it?

Because we like BIGGER and MORE.


Immunology is complicated.

Immunologists are studying

how to restrain the immune system

from over-reacting.

It’s VERY complicated.


BALANCE, not “boost” the immune system with

these FOUR THINGS that are scientifically proven:

1. Breathe & De-Stress

Stress shifts resources away from the immune system.

If you’re being chased by a lion, a head cold can wait.

Don’t imagine a lion that isn’t there.


2. Eat a Healthy Diet.

3. Get Regular Exercise.

4. Get Good Sleep. (See #1)


Note: Day Drinking is NOT an immune booster;

it is an obeso-genic, sugar-filled experience that

can lead to imbalance in the immune system.

Take a deep breath for fifteen minutes: it works.

Related Link: April Is Citizen Science Month activities to do at home.

20200316_174659lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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