You need to seek out coughing and sneezing displays from a distance

man the hatches flu bugs in townYou’re standing in one of those slow, barely moving ques – patiently waiting your turn, okay maybe not patiently, but there you are WAITING.

It is mid-winter, the people who you are sharing your space with are snotting and sniffing, coughing and spluttering. You seriously contemplate leaving the building and mumble under your breath about how inconsiderate and selfish people are, but the need to get your business done, keeps you glued to the spot. You try to hold your breath or breathe through your scarf, in a feeble attempt to avoid “catching” a cold.

Manning the hatches is the default response

You will be pleased to know, it is not just your head that is having a panic-based reaction to those germ spewing humans. The immune system is taking one look at the situation and freaking out as well.

What is even more amazing is your immune system is so sensitized to the dangers of sick people, it is able to sound the alarm to get the body’s defence system mobilized, even if you are just looking at a picture of a sick person, not a REAL person.

This fabulous insight comes to us from a team of researchers based at the University of British Columbia.

Visiting the photo gallery

The team showed volunteers two 10 minute slide shows. Before and after the slide show viewing, a blood sample was drawn.

The first slide show, which was viewed by all the participants was designed to be pretty neutral – so it was 10 minutes of beds, chairs etc. The second slide show was designed to evoke some kind of emotional response – there were two options.

The “disease” slide show, was a collection of photos of “sick” people – images included people whose bodies were covered in soars, people snotting, sniffing and sporting red running noses. The kind of images medical textbooks tend to be full of. The second slide show was more a “skiet and donner” affair – it focused on guns.

Half the people viewed the “disease” slide show, the rest viewed the “guns blazing” slide show.

Sick people pictures make bacteria sick

The team took the blood samples they had drawn following the slide show viewings and popped in a few bacteria.

They then measured the immune response playing out in each tube. The chemical they used as a marker of the overall immune response was interleukin-6, which is associated with a strong inflammatory response.

Looking down the barrel of a gun may have unnerved the psyche a bit, but the immune system didn’t bat an eyelid. Being in the firing line of germ ladened spit balls from visibly sick snotty, sneezy people on the other hand, evoked more than a ooh, yuk head response – it got the immune system springing into action in anticipation of an imminent onslaught of the microbial kind.

Start your day “right”

Experts are always suggesting spending a little quality time focusing your thoughts and jotting down your to-dos before you hit the road, running.

You may want to keep a few shots of seriously sick individuals on the bed side table, especially during “flu” season. I suggest you glance at these horrific images, the worse they look the better to get your immune system primed for anything it may encounter during the day. Once you’ve got you immune system out of bed, worry about getting your head in tune – so that your day is as productive as possible.

NB. Of course, don’t monkey around with your respiratory health, make sure you fumigate your lungs with a little vitamin D spray too.

Mere Visual Perception of Other Peoples Disease Symptoms Facilitates a More Aggressive Immune Response. Psychological Science (2010) 21(5): 649-652. Mark Schaller, Gregory E. Miller, Will M. Gervais, Sarah Yager, Edith Chen

Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind those “invasions”  ?

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Further reading

war games with the brain as the general grocery bag a little germ infested broccoli building gut defences
The body is a master of war games most of the time Are you bringing home the bacon in a bagful of germs ? Broccoli builds a guard of honour along the gut highway

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

balance eicosanoids rein in insulin dial down stress sleep vitamin D microflora think
Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

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