While the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world inside of their homes, many people were worried about the long-term effects that staying separated and staying inside would have on our immune systems. After staying inside for so long, wouldn’t we immediately be hit with a tidal wave of viruses and illnesses once the world opened up again? Fortunately for us, no. That simply isn’t the reality. 

Many people have heard of the hygiene hypothesis which states, “that childhood exposure to germs and certain infections helps the immune system develop.” However, this is unproven and remains a theory, but many people have heard this and take it as fact. If anything, early exposure can help combat developing allergies or autoimmune disorders, but there’s no proven evidence that upholds the fact that it strengthens the immune system.

German virologist Sandra Ciesek has described how, specifically, people live in balance with viruses, “”It just shows how we usually coexist with viruses. And it shows how artificial conditions, like limiting personal contacts, can influence [the spread of] viruses, and that rates of infection can get artificially moved from [one season to another].” The important part of this statement is that these infections are transferred from one season to another. In Germany, pediatricians have reported a slight increase in the number of RSV infections after opening up again after the pandemic. Following this idea, we can look back at the record-setting flu season that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous three flu seasons ranged across a peak of 26% – 30% of tests showing a positive result for influenza, while this past flu season only resulted in a 0.2% of tests showing a positive result for influenza.

Alongside this, Carsten Watzl, the secretary general of the German Society for Immunology, emphasizes that “the immune system is not like a muscle that’s become weak during the pandemic”. It doesn’t need to undergo constant training to work to the best of its ability. It makes sense then that our immune systems would have to “catch up”, and there would be a shift to a slight increase in viruses or infections now before resetting back to the expected rates. 

Soon we’ll return to the natural balance between people and viruses, but hopefully people have learned how to keep themselves healthy. Just look at the results of this flu season. The number of influenza cases is miniscule, and it’s because of the methods people were taking to stay safe. Obviously, you don’t have to lock yourselves in or sanitize anything you’re going to touch, but it’s a good idea to continually wash your hands and be aware of how or what you’ve been in contact with. Another way to stay healthy is supporting a strong immune system with supplements. You can try BodyK’s Strong Immunity Boost Box, which contains supplements, such as Vitamin D3, Galactomune, and Immunothera, for a powerful boost to your immune system.