Health & Environment by Débora Miranda

Opening the Cold Season

I was actually sneezing and coughing when I bumped into “How not to fight colds: is it really that clear cut?“, where Melinda Wenner Moyer analyses an article by Jennifer Ackerman on The New York Times.

It is disappointing to be faced with the argument that these sneezing and coughing are caused not by a virus – as most people would believe since their childhood – but by our own body and its inflammatory response. It becomes even more disappointing when Jennifer Ackerman denies what our mothers have taught us: “the supplements, remedies and cereals that claim to strengthen immunity (and thereby protect you from colds) do no such thing.”

But isn’t it hard to believe that, after all, eating vegetables and drinking orange juice won’t prevent you from catching a cold? This appears to be Ackerman’s idea, but Melinda Moyer states this is no fair conclusion. Because: we need to distinguish two types of immunity.

While reading Moyer’s explanation, I compared the human body to an overcrowded open-air festival like the Love Parade in Duisburg, Germany, that killed 19 people earlier this year. The first active immunity is the security set installed around the festival location, which attempts to control the entrance of the massive crowd. They cannot allow too many people in at once – it would endanger their safety. This happens the same way our immune system tries to stave off infections.

But just as we have seen in Duisburg, no matter how strong the barrier is, intruders may end up breaking it. That is when the second type of immunity kicks in. Security guards spread around the festival venue and make use of their weapons for the sake of participants’ safety. However, they may become aggressive and increase panic among the crowd. The same happens in our body: the immune response produces inflammatory molecules that cause cold symptoms such as throat ache.

The tragedy in Duisburg could have been avoided if there was a better management of the security forces outside the venue.

In order words, please keep drinking orange juices and eating healthy salads and soups.


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