Overwhelming Attack – This is when we get hit by an extremely virulent germ or such great quantity of germs that the healthiest of us is likely to get sick. For example, if you are exposed to Ebola you are going to get sick. If you have 10 people with a cold sneeze in your face you are probably going to get sick.
Underwhelming Immune System – This is by far the more common pathway to illness. We are all constantly exposed to low levels of flu viruses, cold viruses, and other pathogenic viruses and bacteria. You have more bacteria in your mouth at this moment than the total number of all the humans who have lived on planet earth, many billions, and that’s just in your mouth. 99.9% of germs are not disease causing, and some are synergistic. We need those in order to survive. For example, humans cannot digest vitamin B12. We require a bacterium to process it for us in our gut so that we can absorb it. Without that bacteria, we would eventually die of pernicious anemia (the end result of vitamin B12 deficiency).
But there is that .1% hanging around, present all the time, just waiting for an opportunity. They are called opportunistic infections. This last week for me is the perfect example of the Underwhelming Immune System infection. Last weekend my wife and I spent the weekend at her mother’s (Pat) in Nevada. I have grown to love my Sleep Number bed but the negative effect is that I hate all other beds. So, Friday night in Pat’s guest room bed was a horrible experience, leaving me with only 3 hours sleep. That’s just not enough for an old guy like me. In the morning I went for a hike and then began 6 straight hours of labor in her garage reorganizing the entire thing. In the afternoon, the hot Nevada sun was streaming through the door and by the end of the afternoon I was completely spent.
Perhaps Saturday night could have rejuvenated me, but I was only able to finagle 5 hours sleep that night making it 8 hours over 2 nights. By Sunday morning I was done. Whatever virus that has attached my throat (pharynx) and my voice box (larynx), was likely already hanging around waiting for the right opportunity. And I provided it. I did not catch this from anyone and it is unlikely that I would give it to anyone either, being an opportunistic germ. But since you might not be at tiptop form right now, like me over the weekend, I will wear a mask.
Preventing illness starts with rest, time for your body to recover from each day, and continues with exercise, proper diet, and plenty of water. These are the most important basics that we should all be working on every day.