Human bodies are equipped with an immune system that fights infection. “It produces chemicals and releases cells called macrophages that swallow these foreign organisms, thereby protecting us,” says Dr Rajeeva Moger, Senior Consultant Physician, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru. But not everyone has a strong immune system and such people are the immunocompromised. “Their body may not produce enough chemicals and macrophages to fight the infection and so they are more likely to get an infection,” he explains.
Many factors can make one immunocompromised. It can be diseases, treatments or age. “People having diabetes, kidney failure, HIV and cancer are immunocompromised. So are those undergoing treatment after organ transplant or cancer and those who take steroid medication. Babies and the elderly also have a weak immune system. But immunity can bounce back for a person who has HIV under control or if he is cured of cancer and no longer under treatment,” explains Dr Moger.
Now, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the immunocompromised are at a higher risk. He warns that people with lung issues like asthma or bronchitis have a higher chance of complication if they contract the disease. “COVID-19 affects the lungs and theirs are hypersensitive with a low oxygen diffusion capacity. Therefore, they should be extra careful. They should maintain distancing norms and wash their hands with soap and water regularly.”
Though there is nothing much that can be done to drastically improve the immunity within a short time, there are lifestyle changes that we can make. “Have a balanced diet rich in micronutrients (fruits and veggies). Sleep for six to seven hours a day, do regular exercise. Also, drink at least two litres of water every day. It is also important to maintain personal hygiene and to keep one’s surroundings clean,” he says.
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