Staying active with primary immunodeficiency

If you're living with a primary immunodeficiency disorder — any one of a group of disorders that weaken the immune system and allow infections to occur more easily — staying fit is important to your overall health.

People who are physically fit and regularly exercise tend to get sick less often than do people who don't exercise. Being active and participating in recreational activities that you enjoy also can help relieve the emotional stress and anxiety caused by primary immunodeficiency.

If you have a primary immunodeficiency disorder, get your doctor's or your immunologist's OK before you begin a new activity or exercise program. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, biking, running and walking might be good options for you because they promote lung function, muscle development, strength and endurance.

However, some activities pose health risks for certain types of immunodeficiency disorders. For example, if you have chronic granulomatous disease, an immune system disorder that occurs when a type of white blood cell (phagocyte) that usually helps your body fight infections doesn't work properly, your doctor might recommend that you swim only in well-chlorinated pools. Brackish or briny water can cause exposure to organisms that are dangerous to people with this disorder.

Also, take precautions during physical activity and exercise — especially in a gym setting — to prevent infections. For example:

  • Wash your hands regularly and shower immediately after activities where you have direct skin contact with people or shared surfaces.
  • Avoid activities with people who have signs of an obvious infection.
  • Whenever possible use a barrier, such as a towel or clothing, between your skin and the surface of shared equipment.
  • Don't share personal items, such as towels or clothing.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with bandages until healed.
March 29, 2016