This month ushers in a potentially dangerous time of year

It’s the start of cold and flu season, and a time when we can be vulnerable to other infectious diseases. It’s particularly important at this time of year to keep up your body’s defenses to protect yourself from these threats to your good health.

Strengthen Your Immune System

In addition to keeping your immune system functioning, managing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep can be key factors in strengthening your body’s defenses against seasonal illness.

In a 2009 study, people who slept an average of fewer than seven hours per night were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged eight hours or more. Stress has been linked to a number of health problems, including suppression of the immune system and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Make sure you’re armed with the knowledge and expert advice you need to fight off the scourges of seasonal illness and to keep yourself healthy and strong during the months ahead.

Out of sight and out of mind, your immune system is working to protect you from infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that cause disease, suffering, and death. If you didn’t have a functioning immune system, simply brushing your teeth would introduce enough harmful bacteria to kill you.

Luckily, your immune system can usually handle a stunning variety of pathogens and microbes that could make you sick.

However, once the battle between a pathogen and the immune response swings into high gear, the result determines whether the outcome is sickness or health.

Understanding your immune system and how it works, and learning how to protect yourself, is an important step in keeping yourself healthy and strong.

Harvard Immunologist Michael Sternbach, Ph.D., replies to common questions about the immune system

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