Lack of sleep will not affect my immune defence

FALSE! Both poor sleeping habits and stress may put your microbiota out of balance, making you more susceptible to infections.

My immune system is not connected to my gut

FALSE! Several mechanisms link gut health to your immune system. The fact is that most of your immune system is located in your gut, and a well-balanced gut and microbiota are essential for your health.

Antibiotics help my immune system fight disease

FALSE! Antibiotics kill all types of bacteria, including pathogens that cause infection, as well as good bacteria that are necessary for your immune defence.

Your immune system may be negatively affected by antibiotics, increasing your risk of infection after you finish the course. There are instances when antibiotics are needed, but they should only be taken when absolutely necessary. After taking antibiotics, it is always a wise idea to take measures to support your gut bacteria and immune system.

The immune system of babies and small children is not fully developed. Therefore, it is important to keep them in a sterile environment.

FALSE! An overly sterile environment may prevent the normal development of the immune system. Babies establish their gut bacteria and intestinal microbiota from birth and continue to do so for the first three years of life. If kept in an overly sterile environment, a baby will miss out on the bacteria that build up their microbiota. These bacteria train the immune system and provide a barrier against infections. Therefore, it’s imperative that babies and children are exposed to harmless bacteria during their first three years of life.

Taking vitamin D supplements is only important for small children and the elderly

FALSE! If you don’t eat enough fatty fish like salmon, don’t spend time outside during the day, or if you live in a region where there are long winters and a lack of sunshine, you are likely to experience low vitamin D levels. In fact, most people don’t get enough vitamin D. Those with dark skin and the elderly are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Bacteria are bad for my immune system

FALSE! Your good bacteria are the first line of defence against bad bacteria (aka pathogens). Your good bacteria educate your immune system, making it ready to fight unwelcome invaders such as pathogens and toxins.

Using hand sanitizer all the time will help me fight off colds and diseases

FALSE! Obsessive hygiene, such as using germ-killing soaps and showering several times daily, reduces your immune defense by depleting good bacteria. Hand sanitisers also have a drying effect, which may actually make your skin more sensitive and vulnerable.

Athletes are less likely to get sick from common infections

FALSE! Exercise can lower stress levels and keep the immune system healthy, but exercising excessively can have the opposite effect. High-performance athletes actually have a higher risk of infection than the average person.

Antibiotics can treat colds and the flu

FALSE! Common colds and the flu are caused by viruses, which antibiotics cannot treat. Taking antibiotics should only be done if your doctor diagnoses you with a serious bacterial infection. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria and can damage your healthy microbiota, putting you at risk of other infections.

Stress keeps your immune system active and helps you defend against infections

MOSTLY FALSE! Stress triggers your body to produce the hormone cortisol, which triggers inflammation and can help fight infections in the short term. Over time, too much cortisol can lead to chronic inflammation, which can lead to autoimmune diseases. Additionally, stress reduces white blood cells, making you more likely to catch a cold or the flu.

You should feed a cold but starve a fever

FALSE! Whatever type of respiratory infection you have, it’s important to keep your immune system and gut microbiota healthy by drinking water and eating healthy foods.