10 Interesting Body Reactions That Are Defense Mechanisms

body reactions that are defense mechanisms

The human body is designed to survive against all odds. The body has various of defense mechanisms that function with the primary goal to protect itself from potential danger. We are surrounded by distressing agents in the form of pathogenic microbes, toxic substances, and stressful life events that could always pose a risk to our well-being. Over the course of evolution, the human body has mastered certain ways to defend itself as a natural survival skill.

Here are the top interesting body reactions that are not weird bit instead of an integral part of the body’s defense mechanisms.


1. Fever

 fever is a defense mechanism to protect us

A marked rise in body temperature often leaves us scurrying for medications. Antipyretics are the medications are used to lower body heat and are just your regular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Many individuals have suffered health consequences from repeated intake of anti-pyretics. Although the initial days of fever can be very discomforting with high temperature and body pain, it is actually the body’s way to combat infectious microbes.


A rise in temperature will reduce the potency of the pathogens and prevent them from multiplying and spreading the infection. Studies have even found that high body temperature helps in the rapid transformation of immune cells like lymphocytes to their functional form so that they can combat the pathogens faster.1

2. Scabbing

scabs are a part of wound healing


Scabs on wounds are often unsightly and itchy, but we are advised against picking on them. Researchers have proved that greater the level of tissue damage, more chances of scab formation. Scabs serve three major functions, they prevent bleeding, they protect the wound and they give the wound a renewed structural stability.

When you remove a scab, you are also removing some of the newly regenerated tissues that your body has just repaired, thereby interfering with your body’s healing process to protect yourself.2


3. Sneezing

sneezing protects the respiratory system

Resisting the urge to sneeze is the worst way to hamper your body’s defense mechanism. A sneezing reflex arises when the respiratory system has encountered allergens like dust, pollen or pathogenic microbes. Stifling a sneeze can push infected mucus back into the eustachian tube and middle ear, leading to middle-ear infections.


As sneezing can transmit infectious microbes from your body to several miles away, it is best to cover your mouth and nose while sneezing.3

4. Hiccupping

hiccups help to expel air from stomach


The term ‘hiccup’ is derived from the sound of created with hiccupping. It’s a natural reflex in all suckling mammals especially to help in releasing air that got trapped in the stomach while feeding or eating too quickly. Similar to burping, it moves the swallowed air out of the stomach, so that gasses trapped in the stomach doesn’t cause pain in the young and old alike. That’s the reason why it’s also considered a self-defense mechanism.4

5. Pruney Fingers

pruney fingers give a better grip on wet surfaces


When our fingers and toes get wet, they act pretty weirdly by puckering up. Studies have proven that this phenomenon happens not just due to osmosis but also has a functional significance attached to it. The widely accepted theory surrounding ‘pruney fingers’ is that it was a behavior that developed since the time of our ancestors to have a better grip on wet surfaces.

Normally, the skin over finger pads and toes is smooth but when they are wet they pucker up which makes them creased so that they get a better grip to walk without falling or grab without slipping.5

6. Blinking Eyes

blinking lubricates the eyes and protects it

An important and involuntary activity is blinking of the eyes. Frequent and gentle blinking the health of the eyes and optimal vision. Tears keep flushing the eyeballs with nourishing proteins, moisture, and oils. This aids in lubrication between the eyeball and eyelids. The lack of which will lead to irritation and dry eyes.

Lack of blinking is pretty rampant among individuals who are glued to the screens of their computers and phones. People should consciously take an effort to blink every 1 hour for healthy eyes.6

7. Goosebumps

goosebumps help in body heat regulation

When we listen to our favorite music or experience a cold wave of air, we feel shivers running down the spine and of course goosebumps on the skin. A behavior noticed from the time of our ancestors, it helps in reducing the heat lost from the skin pores in cold weather.

The contraction of arrector pili muscles located around the hair follicles in the dermis of the skin leads to goosebumps.

8. Yawning

yawning helps to cool the brain

A yawn is not always an indication of boredom, it is also due to a bodily reaction to protect against climatic changes. Blood vessels surrounding the brain carries warmer blood than what’s present in the extremities and lungs. When you yawn, the stretching of jaw and facial muscles leads to a rush of blood to the face, head, and neck. On inhalation of cool air, causes a downward flow in cerebrospinal fluid and an increase in blood flow in the major veins. Both the processes help in removing blood in the cerebrovascular system and introduce cooler blood from lungs and extremities to reach it.7

9. Inflammatory Processes

inflammation aids in faster cell repair and regeneration

Redness, pain and swelling are the main inflammatory processes that indicate that the body’s immune systems are on fire. When we get hurt by trauma or insect bites, the area around the wound appears red and swollen. This is a defense mechanism from the body to attract our attention. At a cellular level, a lot of immune cells and mediators of inflammation like prostaglandins and cytokines flood to the area to aid in cell regeneration and repair.8

10. Selective Memory Loss

memory loss can help to heal from traumatic episodes

Forgetfulness can have more disadvantages when it comes to conducting our daily lives however selective memory loss plays a crucial role in our overall well-being. Selective memory loss is a natural defense mechanism that helps us to forget the psychological trauma we suffered due to abuse, violence, bereavement or other distressing events. that helps protect against psychological damage after an emotional or psychological trauma.

This is a characteristic trait of many resilient individuals. In fact losing the ability to recall a traumatic event completely or partially plays a significant role in helping us to heal emotionally and move on in life.9

Next time you are experiencing any one of these body reactions, you know that your body’s defense mechanism is active and is doing it for your sake.