Fall has started and so has the season for colds and the flu. Perfect timing to start our introduction to day-care. It took a whole week before the little man started sneezing and his nose started running non-stop. I fell ill soon after. We are now going on three weeks, I can’t tell when one cold ends and the next begins.
Children fall ill more often than adults. Every mom and dad can attest to that. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly, viruses and bacteria can spread like wildfire in day-care. The inability to blow ones nose, cough into ones elbow paired with licking the same toys means constant spread of the disease inducing agents.
Secondly, the immune system of children is still being educated and improving. With each infection, the immune system is mounting a pathogen-specific response of T and B cells. The responding immune cells fight the invading pathogens and mount a immunological memory, which if the same invader is encountered again leads to a quicker response and elimination of the virus or bacteria before we fell sick. Adults have already had plenty of colds and therefore get sick less often.
Quite simple, but why did I get sick then?
The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tracks. Unfortunately, we do not get immune to the cold, as up to 200 different viruses (and virus subtypes, called serotypes) can cause the disease. Most often rhinovirus serotypes are to fault, but coronaviruses and influenza viruses are also common causes. So it could simple be chance that I got ill – I hadn’t seen this specific virus serotype before.
Additionally, viruses tend to mutate quickly, changing their outside layer, thereby hiding from the immune system. So while you may have already had immunity against this virus, it may have changed and you get ill again while your immune system mounts a new response and memory. This is also why you should get the flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is predicting the mutations occurring on the influenza virus this year in order to protect us.
Lastly, sorry moms, but things like stress and sleep-deprivation – a common side effect of motherhood- increases your chances of getting ill as it weakens your immune system.
Can I prevent getting ill?
Difficult. Statistics say that adults get 2-3 colds a year and children 6-8. But by looking out for hygiene – washing your hands and so on, and eating healthy (lots of vitamins) to keep your immune system happy you may dodge the odd one. Sleep would also do wonders, but suggesting more rest to a new mom is just mean.