Colds and flu are the most common human ailments. The average adult suffers two or three colds per year, while children can get two to three times that many.1 The term “cold” is just an umbrella expression for hundreds of similarly behaving viruses – a host of pathogens so vast that doctors diagnose more or less exclusively by symptom, if they diagnose at all. By the time a doctor figured out which virus was responsible, your cold symptoms would be gone!
The Immunity Challenge
Given the challenge, it’s no wonder we don’t have a cure for the common cold. Instead, it’s up to our own immune system to help fight back. Cold and flu viruses change their makeup continually, so our bodies need time to recognise the “new” virus as a threat and prepare an adequate defence. When our immune systems take too long to respond, or when the virus is especially aggressive, we get ill.
How a Virus "Thinks"
Strictly speaking, viruses are not even alive. They are more than a thousand times smaller than bacteria and are little more than a strip of genetic material with a protein coating. Upon entering the body, they attach themselves to human cells and force the host cells to produce virus DNA. When the host cells eventually burst, new viruses spill out and attack new, healthy cells.2
How Your Body Fights Back Against Cold and Flu Viruses
When enough of these cells have been damaged, the immune system swings into action and begins sending out virus-fighting cells and proteins, which can cause inflammation. This is why you might get a high fever if you have flu. Most of the cold and flu symptoms we experience are the result of our bodies trying to fight the infection, rather than the infection itself.
Be sure to keep smiling, even when you’re feeling down. Researchers have found that a positive attitude and social interaction strengthen the immune system and make illness less likely. It’s a great way to help your immune system help you throughout cold and flu season.
1 Understanding the Symptoms of the Common Cold and Influenza. The Lancet Infect Dis..
2 Apex Learning Science. Are Viruses Alive? http://www.beyondbooks.com/lif72/2c.asp