According to weather forecasts, winter is almost here, and according to virologists, flu epidemic is right behind it. And with cold weather coming people start thinking of their immune system and how to improve it. But, there is one unfortunate detail -  there is no magic pill, able to strengthen the immune system in five minutes. Doctors never fail to remind that the immune system must be trained continuously and without regard to the season and epidemiologic situation.


In theory, one can meet the epidemic in complete isolation, screening himself from viruses to the maximum, but living several weeks under lock and key is hardly possible in real life. As of today, vaccination is considered to be the best protection against flu, but due to some recent scandals, involving vaccination, Ukrainians do not hurry to take a shot. Well, reasons may vary - no time, no will, no money, but the result is always the same - the vaccination rate is not successful in our country. Therefore, immune stimulants, not very welcomed in the West, by the way, have been on everyone's lips recently. Such drugs hike the level of immune defense, but foreign doctors use it mainly for serious patients, and not against banal flu.

"To improve the immune system there are special drugs - immune stimulants, and included instruction explains the dosage regimen. These drugs can protect against influenza and acute aspiratory viral infection. I don't know whether they are banned in Europe and US. Maybe, they are just not in common use there. The fact is that the immunizations schedule in both Europe and US includes influenza vaccine, thus it is compulsory even for children down to the age of six months. Moreover, vaccination coverage makes 80-90% there, therefore they simply do not need these immune stimulants. In Russia, for example, more than 30 million people get vaccinated annually, while in Ukraine it is only 500 thousand," director of the Groashevski Institute of epidemiology and infectious diseases Viktoria Zadorozhnaya told ForUm in a comment.


When vaccination is not an option, many people seek folk remedies to improve their immune system. Internet offers numerous recipes, promising "perfect health naturally", including herbs, portions, cold training, etc. However, keep in mind that self-treatment can be dangerous to health. In opinion of epidemiologists, the secret of strong immune system is simple. "It may appear banal, but healthy lifestyle (ultimate nutrition and no bad habits) is the best option," Ihor Marychev, chief of the immunology and preventive vaccination laboratory of the Groashevski Institute of epidemiology and infectious diseases, says.

The specialist recommends to use time proved products, though they cannot provide 100 percent protection anyway. "Such folk remedies as rosehip, garlic, onion, lemon do strengthen immune resistance, but still cannot guarantee that you will not get infected,"  Ihor Marychev points out.

Moreover, highly publicized aromatic oils may also have certain effect. "As a virologist and epidemiologist I can say that aromatic oils can beat the virus, but only indoors. As soon as you are out the effect disappears. Besides, there are no proofs that aromatic oils improve the immune system. At the same time, we know that stress has a negative impact on the immune system, while oils help to de-stress and relax. Therefore they can be used for this purpose, though they are not a panacea," Viktoria Zadorozhnaya adds.  

Recommendations for the future

"There are no rapid methods to improve the immune system. Stressful situations and weather changes can be underlying reasons for poor immune response, but if a person has good general condition he has more chances to resist the infection," Ihor Marychev says and recommends to take care of your health the year round.

Moreover, mood is of no less importance. If you cannot avoid stress, rush, depression or any other bad for the immune system factor, you can always minimize the consequences, using aromatherapy or a good rest.

"I cannot tell you an immediate measure to improve the immune system on the eve of the epidemic. The usual measures, however, include regular life, healthy eating, a lot of vitamins. In fact, it is better to replenish the stock of vitamins in summer, though there are still fresh vegetables and fruits. Immune competence relies heavily on nutrition, considering that weakened organism  is more susceptible to viruses," Viktoria Zadorozhnaya sums up.

Well, annual flu epidemic is considered a regular event for winter period, and sneezing and coughing citizens, doing New Year shopping, come as no surprise. However, maybe it is time to turn to a different trend, when such picture is considered wrong, and people take care about their immune systems regularly, not only on the eve of the epidemic.

Valentyna Dudko


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