Look around you. Are coworkers sneezing and coughing? Someone in your family developing a case of the sniffles? Maybe a bug is circulating in your social circle and a friend has a scratchy throat.
Your body, it seems, isn’t going to take any chances and wait to get sick before mounting its defense against a circulating bug. Researchers say it can initiate a protective immune response just because you see sick people nearby.
After all, you don’t wait to get drenched before grabbing your umbrella. You make sure it’s handy when you first notice storm clouds.
A researcher at California’s Chapman University says the human brain, a magnificent and intricate machine, follows the same principle. Highlighting research on the topic, she noted this defensive response is seen in different species in the animal kingdom including, of course, humans.
The brain, through our senses, is getting information about sick people, the report notes. It then communicates that somehow to our immune defenses, which run to the ramparts to battle invading virus or bacteria. This happens, according to the researcher, when disease risk is high.
Potential proof of this involves studies that have found markers of an immune response in the blood of people shown images depicting behavioral cues of disease, such as video of a person sneezing.
Precisely why our bodies respond in this way is still shrouded in mystery, and the Chapman scientist calls for more study of the phenomenon.
All this, of course, has implications on how diseases spread and the treatment of not just humans, but also of animals as well.
Your coworkers might take a sick day. But your immune system is always on the job.