Showing posts with label immunity. Show all posts

Keep Viruses and Germs in Check

viruses and germs

Many believe that the way one catches a cold is through the air via small droplets that are sneezed or coughed out by an ill individual. This isn't quite accurate. Most colds are caught by way of touching a contaminated object (including any number of common ones like a doorknob or a shopping cart handle) covered with those droplets.

There are ways of preventing colds and making your home environment "cold free".

Wash up!

The best way to prevent colds from occurring is to wash one's hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. During cold season, you may want to do this a second and third time.

If possible, fingernails should be scrubbed by a scrub brush to remove all that's caught underneath. Fingernails tend to harbor not only dirt, but also bacteria and viruses. If using a washroom is impossible, consider carrying around sanitizing towellettes. These are a good substitute in lieu of washing when ouotside.

If you do need to cough or sneeze, do so into your arm or tissue. This will help to prevent the contamination of the area by you. Be also careful about touching your eye. Viruses can enter the eye easily and can cause myriad problems, not the least of which is conjunctivitis or "pink eye".

Breathe in...

Other methods of prevention include the breathing in hot steamy air, or even warm air for that fact. If you can find one at a local gym, a 20-minute sauna session is most helpful. The hot or warm air seems to kill the cold virus fairly well. If one doesn't have access to a sauna, just breathing in the air from a hair dryer may do the trick. (But take care!)

Or try filling up your sink with hot, boiling water, covering your head with a towel and breathing the steam, taking care not to get any hot water on your skin. You can also add a bit of Eucalyptus oil or something like Vicks Vapo-Rub to help clear out any congestion.

One can also help prevent colds by taking certain supplements. Vitamin C, Zinc and a herb called Andrographis can be helpful.
Getting a good night's sleep and decreasing one's stress can also aid in healing. Sleep boosts the immune system, while stress decreases it. Think positively or do activities that help to relax one's system. Exercise can also bolster immunity. Three days of moderate exercise should prove sufficient. But if you're very ill, rest is best.

Cleanliness is key

Another way to minimize colds is to decrease the amount of germs in your home. Clean the phones and doorknobs daily during cold season. Place tissue boxes out in your highest-trafficked part of your home. Consider leaving the window open a crack in the most populated rooms to help drive away germs. Lowering the temperature 5 degrees and keeping humidity at 50% will also help maintain a steady germ-free environment. Viruses thrive in the heat.

By keeping the temperature down, it will keep viruses at bay. Also heat tends to dry mucosal tissues in the nose, making them more prone to allow germs to gain entry here. Finally toothbrushes and towels should be changed reugularly, especially if someone just recovered from a cold, to help keep everyone healthy.

By following the above your chances of becoming ill will decrease. Your odds will improve that you'll escape unscathed during cold season.

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Nitric Oxide

nitric oxide
Nitric oxide is a very simple molecule consisting of one atom each of oxygen and nitrogen. It should not be confused with nitrous oxide which is made up of two nitrogen atoms and is commonly known as laughing gas – once a common anaesthetic.

Outside of the body it often occurs as a pollutant with the potential for causing illness. Much of this pollution comes from car exhaust.

Chemical Nature of Nitric Oxide

Because it is a small and simple molecule, nitric oxide is particularly suited to its function as a chemical messenger both between cells and within cells, easily passing through cell membranes.

Its chemical structure also includes a double bond, this makes it a reactive compound, which means it reacts with other chemicals easily and breaks down quickly. This is a further attribute of a good chemical messenger in that it can quickly be got rid of. However, it is this reactivity that makes nitric oxide a pollutant in the environment.

Biological Role of Nitric Oxide

There is a great deal of research currently being carried out on the many roles of nitric oxide. Sometimes these roles seem contradictory for example in the case of apoptosis – cell death, with nitric oxide sometimes promoting the process and at other times inhibiting it.

Two major areas of physiological function have emerged as having a particular reliance on nitric oxide. These areas are control of blood vessel action and immune function.

Nitric Acid and Blood Vessels

The walls of blood vessels incorporate a thin layer of muscle. Like other muscles in the body this muscle can contract and relax in response to signals from chemical messengers.

Key among these is nitric acid which causes the muscle to relax and therefore dilates the blood vessel to allow more blood to flow. This is important to maintain adequate glucose and oxygen supply to various tissues and organs and to regulate blood pressure.

This function of nitric acid has therapeutic value. The nitrite drugs such as glyceryl trinitrite are used to treat angina. This drug is converted to nitric oxide in the body which in turn relaxes the blood vessels supplying the heart and thus eases the pain.

Nitric Acid and Immunity

Phagocytes are white cells which are central to immune function. They ingest bacteria and destroy them. Phagocytes can produce nitric oxide which is toxic to bacteria. An unfortunate side-effect of this is damage to the body's own cells as well. This is the one of the reasons that inflammation – an integral part of the immune response – is so painful: there is quite a bit of cell damage going on, our own and bacteria.

The reactivity of nitric oxide comes in here. Because it's so toxic to all cells it needs to be produced quickly when needed and rapidly destroyed when its job is done. The body has a number of control systems that regulate the switching on and off of toxic but necessary substances like nitric oxide.
Because of the central role of nitric oxide in inflammation research has looked at the possibility of using exhaled nitric acid gas as a marker for inflammation in certain conditions such as asthma, atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

This article is for information only. If you have any health concerns you should consult your doctor.

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