The immune system might be complex but if you’ve already read our guide to the immune system you’ll have a basic understanding. It’s your body’s defence against illness and is made up of several components including white blood cells, skin, mucus and the lymph system.
A common question that is often asked is whether immunity is innate. In this article, we’ll reveal that immunity can be innate but it can also be adaptive.
What does innate immunity mean?
Innate simple means “present from birth”. When babies are born, their immune systems are already programmed to be able to deal with certain bacteria and viruses so can act instantly. Their white blood cells will find invaders in the bloodstream and neutralise them before they can do any harm.
If there is an infection, the immune system will take action and the area around the infection will receive a boost of blood, so can become inflamed.
What does adaptive immunity mean?
The immune system has to learn to recognise some types of bacteria and viruses before it can act. This is known as adaptive immunity or acquired immunity. The older you get, the more instances your body will have had to adapt or change.
It can take a few days for your immune system to detect and attack new types of bacteria in your body. However, once it has learnt how to deal with a particular type of bacteria, for example, it will remember this for the future so if you’re attacked again it will be able to act straightaway by sending in a specialised team. Different types of white blood cells are suitable for different types of bacteria and viruses.
Doctors use adaptive immunity to protect us from diseases such as polio and whooping cough by giving vaccines containing a weakened or inactive dose. This teaches our immune systems what to do if we’re attacked in the future.