What does the immune system do?

The immune system protects the human body against germs, which are microorganisms that cause sickness and disease. There are four major types of germs— harmful bacteria (pathogens), viruses, fungi, and protozoa. This defense system begins with the skin, which stops germs from getting into your blood or tissues. If germs get into your body, for example through your nose or mouth, white blood cells called phagocytes and lymphocytes attack them. Phagocytes scout out and destroy invaders, and long-living lymphocytes remember the invaders and release chemicals called antibodies to make the body resistant, or immune, to them.

White blood cells live in the bloodstream, lymphatic system, and spleen. The lymphatic system (or lymph system, for short) is a far-reaching network that extends throughout your entire body. A clear liquid called lymph runs throughout the system, washing the body’s cells with nutrients and water and detecting and removing pathogens. Lymph is filtered through the lymph nodes, and then passes into the body’s bloodstream.

What’s an Achilles heel?

Muscles are attached to bones by tendons, the longest and strongest of which is called the Achilles tendon in your heel. This thick band of tissue attaches the muscles of the calf to the heel bone and is the key to the foot’s ability to flex.

The Achilles tendon allows you to push off of your foot when walking or running. In ancient Greek myth, the hero Achilles died from a wound to his heel, so the popular expression “Achilles heel” often refers to a physical weakness or limitation.