BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – New research from Johns Hopkins University Hospital shows a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could be a way to improve immunity in immunocompromised patients, especially for organ transplant recipients.
Health experts said solid organ transplant recipients tend to have weakened immune systems.
“When you have an organ transplant, you get put on very powerful drugs to suppress your immune system because it’s your immune system that can otherwise lead you to reject those organs that you’ve received, and therefore when they’re given a vaccination, the vaccine doesn’t induce immunity. It doesn’t create an immune response,” said State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, Dr. Scott Harris.
But a new study from Johns Hopkins University Hospital shows a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could improve immunity response in these groups.
“We’ve had these people with immune system problems like organ transplant patients who are allowed to take a vaccine, but whom we really didn’t expect the vaccine to work, and so, it’s encouraging to that perhaps there is a way to induce immunity in these patients,” Dr. Harris said.
The study followed 30 solid organ transplant recipients.
Almost all of them had low or no immunity to the vaccine.
But after a third shot, 33% of patients with no immunity, and 100% of patients with low immunity, increased their antibody levels.
“We also know that because of their medical conditions, in many cases, they’re at even more risk of serious illness if they do get COVID compared with the average person. We want to protect them even more, in a way, than the average person. So, it’s encouraging to think that we may have a way to do that,” Dr. Harris said.
Health experts said this 30-patient study isn’t big enough to be a formal patient trial, but it’s enough preliminary data to show promise in future studies.
They still recommend organ transplant recipients get the vaccine, but still take precautionary measures to ensure protection.
Amid criticism over Covaxin being priced ₹1,200 per dose in private hospitals, Bharat Biotech on Tuesday defended its higher pricing of the covid-19 vaccine in private hospitals, saying that the price is aimed at recouping its costs and that private procurement of doses is discretionary when the government is providing shots for free.
“Unlike most medicines and therapeutics, vaccines are provided free of cost by the Govt of India to all eligible Indian citizens. Thus, the procurement of vaccines by private hospitals is optional and not mandatory, albeit it gives a choice to citizens who are willing to pay for better convenience,” the company said in a statement on pricing of vaccines.
The company has currently priced its indigenously developed covid-19 vaccine at ₹150 per dose, while private hospitals are charged ₹1,200 for securing a dose. While states are currently being asked to pay around ₹400 per dose, this will be done away with when the Centre’s revised policy of procuring 75% of total doses on behalf of itself and the states comes into effect on Monday.
The remaining 25% will be procured by private hospitals, and the Hyderabad-based company argued that the company should be allowed to charge higher prices for the vaccine in the private market as supplying 75% of its vaccines at ₹150 per dose is not sustainable in the long-term.
The vaccine developer said that it has invested over ₹ 500 crores at risk from its own resources for product development, clinical trials and setting up of manufacturing facilities for Covaxin, and also has to pay royalties on product to the Indian Council of Medical Research and Pune’s National Institute of Virology, both Centre-run institutes, as they providing support to the company in its product development stage.
Bharat Biotech also has to pay royalties to US-based firm Virovax for use of the adjuvant—chemical used to boost immune response—it developed for the vaccine, it said, adding that not allowing dual pricing for the vaccine may hinder innovation in India.
“It may well be argued that the low-price realization for home-grown innovators constraints innovation and product development in India. In the absence of a dual pricing system, Indian vaccine and pharmaceutical companies risk being reduced to mere contract manufacturers with intellectual property licensed from other nations,” Bharat Biotech said.
The statement comes amid the backlash the company has faced over the last two months after the company announced ₹1,200 per dose as the price of vaccine for private hospitals. The criticism was especially directed at Bharat Biotech chairman and managing director Krishna Ella, who had in August last year claimed that the vaccine will be priced cheaper than a bottle of water.
It also comes at a time when India is facing an acute shortage of vaccines, especially since the government announced the opening up of vaccination to all adults of age 18 years and above—which accounts for over 900 million people. Since then, the shortage has become more acute as the ballooning demand has not been able to match the supply.
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Among children who get COVID-19, a small proportion develop multisystem inflammation syndrome (MIS-C).
This serious complication can appear weeks after the initial infection.
MIS-C causes widespread inflammation that can affect multiple tissues and organs.
While COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than in adults, some kids do become seriously ill with the disease or related complications.
Among young people who contract the coronavirus, a small proportion develop multisystem inflammation syndrome in children (MIS-C). This serious complication can appear weeks after the initial infection.
“MIS-C is a postinfectious inflammatory condition, where your body’s immune system kind of goes into overdrive,” said Dr. Christina Johns, MEd, FAAP, a pediatric emergency physician and the senior medical adviser for PM Pediatrics in Lake Success, New York.
“The ripple effect of that means that there can be lots of inflammatory processes going on in many different organs,” she said.
In a study published last week in JAMA Network Open, researchers looked at 1 million cases of people under age 21 who contracted the coronavirus and later developed MIS-C.
“While it is rare complication — and the numbers from this new study certainly support that — it is not one without consequence. It is not a small deal to get MIS-C,” Johns said.
The new study was conducted by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The researchers analyzed MIS-C surveillance data from seven jurisdictions: Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York (excluding New York City), and Pennsylvania.
They found that among people under age 20 in those jurisdictions, 248 cases of MIS-C were reported from April to June 2020.
Among children who developed COVID-19, Black, Latino or Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children were more likely than white children to develop MIS-C.
“We previously knew that MIS-C cases seem to be higher in Black Americans or Latino Americans, but we also knew that those groups have a higher risk of COVID,” said Dr. Lorry Rubin, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.
“Now this study shows that certain racial groups are at higher risk, independent of their risk for getting COVID,” he said.
MIS-C causes widespread inflammation that can affect multiple tissues and organs.
“It triggers inflammation that affects a lot of the systems in the body: the heart, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, the eye, and so forth,” Rubin said.
One of the most common symptoms is a fever that lasts for at least 3 to 4 days.
Other potential symptoms include:
red or swollen lips
The specific symptoms can vary from one child to another.
Several cases of the syndrome have also been reported in adults (MIS-A).
If you think your child might have MIS-C, the CDC advises you to contact their doctor, nurse, or clinic right away.
“What really concerns me about MIS-C is just how quickly children can go from seemingly completely OK, to not feeling well, to being highly critically ill,” Johns told Healthline.
“If parents have some significant concerns that something just isn’t quite right, trust that instinct,” she said.
Healthcare professionals treat MIS-C with supportive care, such as:
medications to reduce inflammation
treatments to improve heart function and breathing
“Inflammation involving the heart is perhaps the most serious feature, and many children come to medical attention with the severe impairment of heart function known as cardiogenic shock,” said Michael Grosso, MD, medical director and chair of pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Long Island, New York.
“In such cases, children will require admission to a pediatric intensive care unit and life support,” he continued.
MIS-C is only one of several complications that children and adolescents can potentially develop from COVID-19.
“I want to sort of debunk the argument that if you’re in a pediatric age group, COVID’s no big deal,” Rubin said. “It is still a source of a lot of infection, morbidity, and even death in the pediatric age group.”
The only known way to prevent MIS-C and other COVID-19-related complications is to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
“That is best done by doing all the things we did throughout the pandemic: social distancing, hand hygiene, and masks,” Grosso said.
“Most important is getting immunized, at least for pediatric patients greater than 12 years of age,” he said.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone ages 12 and up get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Scientists are still studying COVID-19 vaccines in younger children. As more findings from those studies come out, Grosso expects that a vaccine will be granted emergency use authorization for younger kids “in the near future.”
New Jersey now has more than 4.5 million residents who are fully vaccinated but the state Health Department reports about 8% of people who get their first Pfizer or Moderna shot never bother to show up for the second one.
Dr. Stanley H. Weiss, a Rutgers University epidemiologist and professor at the Rutgers Medical School, said the second dose of the mRNA vaccines give a 15-fold boost in the antibody level.
He said the first dose of vaccine provided 50 to 70% protection against the original COVID virus.
“But you now take into account the variants, which are somewhat more resistant, then the higher level of protection afforded by the second dose can be extremely important,” he said.
National COVID expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated one dose of Pfizer or Moderna is about 30% effective in stopping the emerging Delta variant from India. After the second dose, protection rises to about 88%.
Weiss said the second dose “not only boosts the antibody levels, but boosts the innate immune system with cellular memory,” which can play an important part in the body’s ability to fight off infection.
While the first shot gets the body ready to begin to develop reactivity to the foreign substance, the second dose quickly revs up the immune response.
He said the two-shot regimen is highly effective but with the continued circulation of different variants “we may need to be able to boost the immune system further , that would mean giving another dose of vaccine sooner than we would otherwise have to.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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When ill, one’s body undergoes a taxing time, as it is depleted of nutrition and energy in its battle against the infection. Not only is immunity compromised but overall health deteriorates as the body tries to overcome the disease and recuperate. The body’s response in the case where one has tested positive for the coronavirus is similar, with the infection affecting different people with different levels of severity. Also Read – Milkha Singh’s Wife, Nirmal Kaur, Dies Due To Covid-19 Complications
As the second wave of COVID-19 infections continues to sweep through the country, it has impacted thousands of people to date. With symptoms ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to severe cases affecting the lungs, respiratory system, heart, and even the brain, the short- to long-term impact of the virus on one’s body are pronounced. From debilitating weakness to the loss of smell and taste, the infection often leads to the loss of overall appetite. All of this, combined with multiple lockdowns imposed by the government to curb the spread of the infection and suggestions of home quarantine in case of mild to moderate COVID positive cases for otherwise healthy individuals might result in the alteration of normal food-related practices. With access to markets is limited, the accessibility to fresh produce too might be impacted leading to the potential of consuming more highly processed foods that are high in sugar, fats and salt. Also Read – Tamil Nadu Lockdown Eased, Unlock Process in 27 Districts From Monday | Check Details
At times like this, when one’s immune system needs to be stronger than ever, good nutrition is a must. Not only one must continue to be mindful of what they consume but planning a healthy and wholesome diet that meets the daily nutrition requirements of the body is absolutely essential. A balanced diet along with basic exercises to aid deep breathing and relaxation of both, body and mind, goes a long way in aiding the body’s fight against the COVID-19 infection and getting you back up on your feet. Also Read – Sputnik V Rollout in Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo Hospital by Next Week
Shona Prabhu, Sports Nutritionist and founder of NutrifyMyDiet & Supporter of Right To Protein shares key factors to keep in mind while planning and managing your diet during COVID-19 infection which will boost your overall recovery process.
Known as the building blocks of the body, proteins help build muscles and tissue, repair cells and boost immunity. Proteins are essential to overcome the wear and tear of your body’s cells, which is especially accelerated when COVID positive, and it is critical to include adequate sources of protein in one’s daily diet during the recovery and post-recovery phase. In addition, proteins replenish energy, making them the perfect nutrients to overcome weakness, while improving gut health and overall digestion. Therefore, meeting one’s daily protein requirement is of the essence when affected by COVID-19. A daily protein intake of 1 g per kg body weight throughout the day on a regular basis can play a strong role in recovery.
Be it warm lentil or chicken soup to soothe a sore throat; milk and milk products such as cheese, paneer, and yogurt to whip up healthy salads and comfort curries; soybean products such as tofu and soy chunks to recreate flavoursome Asian stir-fries to satiate the tastebuds; baked fish casseroles such as salmon and mashed potatoes on the side for a balanced helping of proteins. Soybeans are also rich in vitamin C, folate as well as omega-3 fatty acids that help build and maintain a healthy body. You can make keema with soy granules or bake with a healthy twist of soy flour and soy milk, the options, are plenty.
While most of us count our daily intake of calories during other times, for those suffering or recovering from COVID-19, the absence of calories in one’s diet could actually cause more harm than good when your body is in dire need of energy. Important for the smooth functioning of the heart and lungs, the inclusion of calorie-dense foods in your diet is critical. Ensure that the calories being consumed are healthy – be it whole grains such as wheat, maize and rice, potatoes, cereals, bread, and pasta – add a daily dose of calories to your meals to recover faster. Including nuts and dry fruits such as almonds, walnuts, dates and more as mid-meal snacks when one’s appetite is waning can be beneficial. Also, a lot of these foods contain proteins in varying amounts; therefore they contribute to one’s overall protein requirements.
Along with a protein-rich diet, it is imperative to intake an adequate amount of Vitamin C during the course of recovery. It is key to the recovery process as it contains anti-oxidants and boosts overall immunity. With COVID-19 known to affect one’s respiratory system adversely, a daily shot of Vitamins C is crucial. Fresh fruits such as oranges, muskmelon, mango, pineapple, or even guavas, avocados, kiwis and grapefruit, which are also rich in protein are ideal sources of Vitamin C. Toss them into a healthy smoothie made of regular milk, soy or almond milk or create a rainbow-hued fruit salad – make sure you get your double dose of Vitamin C and protein.
With an adequate intake of protein to keep our immunity in order during COVID, it is equally important to consume a sufficient amount of fiber, and soy is one of those ingredients that can take care of both protein and fiber at the same time. Recently, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India detailed the importance of adding soy foods to our diet. Soy foods are made from soybeans, a wholesome source of high-quality protein, making them a perfect option for those who follow a strict vegetarian diet.
In addition to all of the above, ensure that you remain hydrated throughout the day. Drink plenty of water as it contains zero calories and has proteins and Vitamin C – it is important that your body receives enough and more hydration. To further maintain a healthy diet, limit your sugar and salt intake and replace saturated fats such as butter and ghee with healthier and unsaturated fats such as olive, soy, or sunflower oil while cooking as recommended by the Government of India.
Exercise routinely, be it basic breathing exercises or meditation; follow all recommended medications; and eat healthy home-cooked meals to not only try to beat the COVID-19 infection but bounce back on your feet faster, not too worse from the wear. Stay safe, take all necessary precautions and be #HealthyAtHome!
With COVID-19 possibly going to be around for a long time, exercising precautionary measures like staying home, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distance isn’t enough. Working on boosting immunity is equally important so our body has enough strength to fight back. Rishabh Chokhani, Founder, Naturevibe Botanical, says, “With lockdown implemented in most parts of the country and the ongoing shortage of most medicines, it is difficult to go out and buy regular multivitamins. In this case, it is recommended to explore the goodness of botanicals and indulge in rich vegetables and fruits to boost immunity.”
Speaking about one such plant, Chokhani says moringa is a miracle immunity booster that is widely used in India and can be easily grown at home. It is also versatile – it can be included in regular food and moringa capsules can be consumed as part of morning routine too. Chokhani shares some of the benefits of moringa.
• Rich In Antioxidants Free radicals in the body are a threat to the immune system; antioxidants help clear free radicals and are even said to help prevent cancer. Chokhani says, “Moringa reduces oxidative stress and works as an excellent anti-ageing agent. Moreover, moringa is rich in iron and vitamin A – nutrients that enhance the functioning of the immune system.”
• Anti-Inflammatory The corona virus is said to cause inflammation in the respiratory glands. Regular use of moringa may prevent inflammation, as the plant is rich in anti-inflammatory properties. It can also prevent arthritis.
• Packed With Vitamin C The goodness of vitamin C has been overemphasised for building immunity and working to fight off viruses. Moringa is exceptionally rich in Vitamin C. One cup of fresh, sliced pods (100 grams) contains 157 percent of your daily requirement.
• Rich In Other Nutrients Chokhani says, “Consuming any part of moringa – the leaves, fruit, or seeds – is beneficial in offering rapid recovery. The plant is rich in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, and magnesium, all of which help in getting back body strength and eliminate weakness and fatigue.”
As we’ve learned over the last year, one of the hardest things about tackling a novel virus is dealing with the unknowns. COVID-19 spread in what felt like an instant across the globe, and here we are a year later, still learning about what the fallout of all those infections may be.
Because it’s not just death those infected with COVID-19 have to worry about. It’s also the long-term health impacts far too many are currently facing—to include adolescents.
One such impact, it seems, may be an increased risk of immune-mediated depression.
What is immune-mediated depression?
Immune mediated depression refers to the relationship between the immune system and depression, specifically inflammation,” licensed clinical psychologist Jenna Palladino, PsyD, recently explained.
Researchers have looked into this potential link and have discovered that malfunctions with the immune system can, in fact, contribute to increased rates of depression. This seems to be especially true in individuals with autoimmune diseases.
Neuropsychiatrist Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D., explained that, “In the case of autoimmune diseases and infections, the level of inflammation is much greater, leading to pronounced rates of depression that is often treatment resistant by conventional antidepressants in the face of such pronounced levels of immune overactivation.”
He went on to say that the rate of clinical depression seen in patients impacted by Covid-19 have been “staggeringly high.” A fact families of those infected by Covid-19 need to be paying attention to.
What We Know So Far
Doctors and scientists are obviously having to learn as they go when it comes to the long-term impacts of Covid-19, but Palladino theorized that the prolonged inflammation that occurs as a result of Covid-19, alongside the effects on the immune system that can persist after exposure, may be to blame for the heightened risk of depression doctors are noticing in patients post-Covid infection.
“At this point, long haulers are defined as those who have symptoms for weeks after having COVID-19, which casts a wide net,” Kaplin said. “While there’s still research being conducted on the impact of the illness on long-haulers, the evidence of immune system persistent activation and its relation to depression have made a compelling case.”
Those two pieces of information, he explained, make for a compelling argument that what COVID-19 patients are experiencing is truly immune-mediated depression.
Of course, there are other possibilities to consider as well.
“Pandemic related stress, such as an increase in sedentary lifestyle, psychological stress, social isolation, and less healthful food intake can also impact the immune system’s functioning,” Palladino said. “The combination of pandemic related stress and the direct impact of COVID-19 on the immune system can exacerbate the likelihood of depression in long haulers.”
Either way, those infected with COVID-19—and especially the “long haulers” who are still symptomatic weeks down the line—have an undeniable increase in risk for depression.
Combatting Immune-Mediated Depression
With vaccinations now open to kids 12 and older, one of the best ways to prevent this symptom in those who have not yet contracted Covid-19 is to vaccinate your family.
But Palladino said it is also important to remember that depression can impact anyone. If you or anyone in your family is dealing with symptoms of depression, regardless of the cause, she suggested these coping skills to help work through it:
Exercise: Finding ways to move our bodies through walking, running, dancing, biking, hiking, yard work, or whatever works for you can help us manage stress and improve wellbeing.
Healthy choices: Taking care of our physical health by eating healthy and limiting alcohol or other substance use is important. Trying out a healthy new recipe is a great way to nourish our bodies and try something new.
Sleep: Continuing to practice helpful sleep practices, such as limiting time in bed and avoiding napping, can help us get more restful sleep at night and feel better throughout the day.
Structure: Maintaining structure and routine helps provide certainty and stability.
Connect: Finding ways to stay connected with loved ones in social distant ways, such as small group gatherings, going for a walk with a friend, calling a family member, or joining a local video support group, book club, dinner party, etc.
Disconnect: Although it is important to stay aware of current events, limiting time on social media and news outlets can help improve wellbeing and minimize stress.
Breathe: Participating in Meditation, deep breathing, or a brief yoga practice can help manage stress and increase calmness.
Get outside: Having fun by spending time in nature, spending time with pets, fostering creativity, trying out a new hobby, or spending some time reconnecting with an old hobby can also help improve our moods and bring some joy into daily life.
“The public should understand that if they’ve had or had a loved one who is exhibiting depressive symptoms, it is because of the impact of inflammation from the infection upon the mood regulating functions of their brain,” Kaplin said. “In essence, it is a just another effect of COVID-19, and not due to a personal weakness or character flaw. And just like other consequences of COVID-19, depression must be evaluated by a trained health professional and treated.”
As parents, especially, it’s important to pay attention to changes in mood and behavior your children may be exhibiting post-infection. Don’t wait it out if you, your partner, or your child is experiencing depressive symptoms. Help is available, and everyone deserves to utilize that help as soon as possible.
So pick up the phone and call a doctor. The sooner you do, the sooner your family can get back to a healthy place again.
As more of the population becomes vaccinated against COVID-19 and variants emerge, the question of whether or not booster shots will be needed continues to surface.
The University of Rochester Medical Center is participating in a new nationwide clinical trial that will examine whether or not a booster shot is needed, and if the body will create a more robust immune response if original vaccines are mixed with a booster from a different manufacturer .
Dr. David Dobrzynski, one of the co-leaders of the local trial, said as the nation enters into a new phase of the pandemic, different vaccination strategies are important to help combat the evolution of the coronavirus.
“I think the tough thing is right now, we don’t expect this virus to disappear magically, anytime soon; we expect it to kind of still be in circulation,” Dobryznski said. “So a lot of effort is being placed into vaccines.”
The study will enroll 500 volunteers nationwide ages 18 and older, including 50 from the Rochester area. Researchers are looking for both vaccinated and unvaccinated participants.
The unvaccinated will receive the Moderna vaccine series, and will later receive a Moderna variant booster. Those who have already completed a vaccine series will get a Moderna booster regardless of what their original vaccine was.
Dr Ann Falsey said her trial team believes the mixing of vaccines will strengthen the body’s immune response to the COVID-19 virus, which will help future variants.
“This study is a critical step, and will show if doses from different vaccines are safe, tolerable, and sufficiently boost the immune system enough to fight off reinfection by SAR-CoV-2 and variants,” said Falsey.
For more information on how to enroll in this study and other vaccine studies go to www.bringrockback.com , or call 585-273-3990.
Staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic was an invaluable public health measure that helped to greatly reduce transmission of the virus and save many lives (at least more than the incredible amount of people we lost).
But life in lockdown certainly isn’t typical for most of us. It has raised questions about what a year of relative isolation, masking and just general germ-avoidance may have done to our immune systems. Have they been wrecked? Are we basically just babies reborn? Do we need to behave differently now?
Of course, many people have been working and learning in-person for months now, while others are just starting to re-emerge. So here is what we know about what happened to people’s immune systems during the pandemic, as well as what to expect as even more people dive back into their old routines.
Most adults’ immune systems will NOT have been weakened by isolation
Perhaps you’ve heard about the hygiene hypothesis, which is the idea that exposure to certain viruses, bacteria or parasites in childhood helps the immune system develop. Based on that theory, some people are worried that people’s immune systems will be walloped when they go back out into the world, because they haven’t been exposed to many germs over the past year-plus. But experts aren’t concerned.
“There is no cause for concern that social distancing has weakened our immune systems,” Sindhura Bandi, an allergy and immunology specialist and associate professor of medicine and pediatrics with Rush University Medical Center, told HuffPost. “By adulthood, we have come into contact with many types of viruses and bacteria. Our immune system has created memory to these pathogens, so that when we come into contact with them we can make antibodies to fight off the disease.”
In other words, your body has already spent a lifetime developing antibodies to common illnesses through direct exposure or through vaccination, Bandi explained. One year of staying home and masking (which again, helped fight a deadly pandemic) is not going to drastically change that.
That said, you might come down with a cold when you head back into the office ― because you’re going to be around more germs again, and because, yes, your immune system is a bit out of practice.
“Our immune systems have not been exposed to common everyday pathogens,” explained Monaa Zafar, a doctor of internal medicine with Westmed Medical Group. She also noted that people’s immunity may have been hampered by other lifestyle changes over the past year — like the fact that many people have been drinking more, sleeping less, coping with chronic stress and not getting outdoors and getting sufficient vitamin D.
Experts also have questions about what the 2021-2022 flu season could be like after being virtually nonexistent this past year. There’s some speculation it could be particularly bad as experts struggle to predict which strains to target with next year’s vaccine, though no one really knows.
But concerns about a potentially tough flu season don’t have anything to do with people’s immune systems and being sheltered in 2020.
People who had COVID-19 might have long-term immune system changes that we don’t totally understand yet
While most adults’ immune systems haven’t been changed by the pandemic, some people who were infected with COVID-19 and recovered could, indeed, experience some long-term alterations to their immune system function.
“Some patients experienced a significant inflammatory response as the immune system worked to fight the disease,” Bandi said. “Recovery from the illness has led to long-term effects ― commonly referred to as ‘long-haul COVID’ ― which may be tied to the immune system.”
Experts are still unraveling what causes some people to come down with long-haul COVID ― or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) as it is now officially known ― as well as what causes it. One working theory is that lingering symptoms may stem from a persistent inflammatory or autoimmune response.
What all of that means in terms of people’s immune system function as they head back out into the world is still a question — and a pressing one. Estimates suggest up to 1 in 4 COVID-19 patients are long-haulers. And of course there have been more than 33 million reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States alone. So understanding the potential broader impact on the immune system in people who’ve had the virus will be important.
Kids might get more colds
There is a chance that young kids who’ve missed out on a year of day care or preschool could be prone to more colds and other infections when they begin spending more time together again.
“There are studies that demonstrate that toddlers who attend congregate child care settings, and presumably are exposed to more germs, are less likely to develop viral illnesses, allergies and autoimmune diseases in grade school,” Bandi said.
But context is really key here. Sure, young kids might have a harder time fighting off some common illnesses when they get back to their old routines, but it was essential to keep them isolated for much of the year because it lowered their risk of getting — and spreading — COVID-19.
Also, they still have ample opportunities to be exposed to germs down the road.
“As the general population becomes vaccinated and we are able to open up again, these young children will have plenty of opportunity for their immune systems to become exposed to and make antibodies to common childhood cold viruses,” Bandi said.
Sleep, socialization and staying home when sick will all be really important
Ultimately, there’s no clear scientific evidence that if you engage in certain habits or behaviors you can really directly “boost” your immune system, but taking care of your overall well-being certainly won’t hamper how it functions. Doing things like getting plenty of sleep and loading up on nutrients are always good ideas.
“Getting six to eight hours of sleep nightly, 150 minutes of exercise weekly, eating whole grains, lean protein, fruit and vegetables in a balanced diet all help strengthen our immune systems,” Zafar said.
“I believe the most powerful immune-booster is regular physical activity,” echoed Tuvana Bain, a doctor of internal medicine with Westmed Medical Group.
There’s been a lot of talk about how important social connection is for our mental health and well-being, but there may be an important immune-system element to reconnecting with friends and loved ones as the world slowly reopens as well.
“As people are able to connect again with family, friends and colleagues, this can have an indirect effect on boosting the immune system,” Bandi said. Indeed, research has linked loneliness to all kinds of poor physical outcomes, from heart disease to decreased levels of certain antiviral compounds in the body.
Lastly, it’s going to be really important over this next stretch to avoid the tendency to go into the office or send your kid off to school when sick. Staying home and resting not only gives your own immune system a chance to fight back, it also helps keep other people safe.
“In the past, we may try to stick it out for the workday or give our child some Tylenol before sending them off to school to suppress the fever,” Bandi said. “We have to remember there are vulnerable people around us.”
The good news is, most of us have become much more attune to how our own behaviors impact the health of others, and we’ve become pretty darn good at basic preventive measures.
“Nothing beats frequent hand-washing as the ultimate protection from infection,” Bain said.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.