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Although it is not always possible to prevent a virus from taking hold in the body, we can still help the immune system do its job. One way is to avoid dehydration by drinking more fluids and eating more high-fiber foods. If we have recently been exposed through a cough or sneeze, wash hands frequently with soap and water to minimize contact with respiratory viruses.

Types of Immune Systems

There are two types of immunity: innate and adaptive. Innate immunity is the first line of defense against infection and is nonspecific, meaning it does not distinguish between different types of invaders. This type of immunity is present at birth and includes physical barriers such as skin and mucous membranes, as well as chemical defenses like stomach acid. Adaptive immunity is specific to a particular pathogen and develops over time. This type of immunity is acquired through exposure to a pathogen, either through vaccination or natural infection. The immune system uses a variety of cells, proteins and organs to protect the body from infection.

Common Causes of Viruses

There are many different types of viruses that can cause illness, and they are often spread through contact with respiratory secretions, contaminated surfaces or infected animals. Some of the most common causes of viral infections include the flu, caused by the influenza virus (symptoms include fever, chills, body aches and fatigue. The flu can be serious, especially for people that are at high risk for complications, such as young children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with chronic medical conditions); the common cold, which is caused by several different viruses (symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and a cough. Most people recover from a cold within a week or two without any complications); shingles, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox (it usually affects adults over the age of 50 and can cause a painful rash on one side of the body); and rotavirus, which commonly affects infants and young children, and can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Ways to Boost the Immune System

We can help our immune system fight a virus by taking steps to boost overall health and wellness. Some simple tips are: eat a nutritious diet full of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats; exercise regularly; get enough sleep; reduce stress levels; and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. By following these tips, you can help keep your immune system strong and better equipped to fight off infection. Also try supplements like vitamin C or elderberry to boost the immune system. Be sure to consult with a doctor before taking any supplements, especially if there is an underlying medical condition.

Dr. Roman E. Finn is the owner of The Center for Integrative and Traditional Medicine, located at 22 Madison Ave., in Paramus. For appointments or more information, call 201-291-0401 or visit citm-drfinn.com.

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