Can social distancing weaken my immune system?
In an age of dodging other shoppers at the grocery store and crossing to the other side of the street to avoid a fellow pedestrian, some social distancing adherents have begun to wonder whether these practices to avoid COVID-19 could have negative impacts on their immune systems as the pandemic drags on.
Some worry a lack of contact with others will weaken their immune system by reducing its active contact with germs.
Researchers, however, say there's little cause for concern. Even when we’re staying 2 meters or 6 feet from others or spending most of our time at home, our bodies are continuously responding to plenty of bacteria and other germs that inhabit indoor and outdoor environments.
“We’re constantly exposed to microbes,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immune system researcher at Yale University. “Our immune system is always being triggered.”
The effects of childhood vaccines and other built-up immunity are also long-lasting, Iwasaki said, and won’t disappear overnight because we’re keeping our distance from others during the pandemic.
A seasonal flu shot will also help protect you from one more potential illness.
Experts say anyone looking to boost their immune health during the pandemic should practice habits such as stress management, healthy eating, regular exercise and getting enough sleep.
“These are the things that actually affect the immune system,” Iwasaki said.