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Author Topic: Why do some people never catch colds?  (Read 8127 times)

Offline thedoc

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Why do some people never catch colds?
« on: 28/07/2013 04:30:01 »
roycroft asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I am a living ostensive demonstration of immunity to the common cold, but can I get anyone interested?! The evidence: since 1962 I have only once developed a cold, and that was during a one-off trip to Latvia. Up to 1962 I had lots of catarrhal colds and sore throats. Since then I have occasional first symptoms, but nothing develops. Logic -- well, common sense -- says that my body has antibodies (or some unidentified equivalent) that do their work, and if they could be identified and made available, the country (the world, too, maybe) would save billions in whatever currency you like. Do you agree or disagree?

So why (and this is my real question) has nobody collected a group of immune individuals (one would only have to advertise country-wide) and find out what they have (or don't have) in common that confers immunity? Being fairly mobile (public transport) and with some spare time I'm willing to participate in this etiological research (ie NOT a 'clinical trial'), but I'm a male Londoner pushing 84 and time is short! :-)

Looking forward to an authoritative and positive response!!

Sincerely,

JohnR.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 28/07/2013 04:30:01 by _system »


 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #1 on: 25/08/2013 02:37:06 »
My daughter is the same way. I was amazed how rarely she ever had a cold with sinus congestion. I don't ever remember her having a runny nose her entire childhood. She did however get croup occasionally.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #2 on: 26/08/2013 08:22:45 »
I think the clue is in the questioner's age. By 84 I guess you will have been exposed to pretty much every virus there is, and having survived, you must have developed all the corresponding immunities. It is also noted from case-match studies that employees suffer far more colds and other minor illnesses than the selfemployed, and I think we can assume that our octagenarian is not an employee. I noticed an immediate improvement in health on becoming selfemployed.

Cheryl strikes me as a very sensible person, so I guess her daughter had plenty of exposure to fresh air and garden dirt. My children spent most of their childhood covered in mud, snow, fish slime or dog slobber, and consequently didn't suffer from respiratory ailments either.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #3 on: 26/08/2013 12:15:03 »
Age does seem to make the number of colds slow down. Moving to a new location, seems to temporarily increase them. And oh my God, ask any new teacher what their first year was like! They are sick constantly.

In my daughter's case I wondered if perhaps the cells in her nasal passages lacked receptors for the cold viruses, or just didn't respond with a big inflammatory response and mucus, but she was still vulnerable to the effects of viruses in her larynx. If she did get an infection, it was always there.

Croup can be a little frightening because they act like they can't breath, and you race them to the emergency room and the cold outside air opens up their airways and they are almost normal by the time you walk in the door.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #4 on: 26/08/2013 20:22:19 »
Certainly one's exposure to the cold and flu viruses varies throughout one's life.  School kids always seem to have a new virus to donate to their family and relatives.  Likewise, the army can bring large groups of people living together who otherwise wouldn't be living and sleeping nearby, often originating from, and visiting different parts of the country.  And, of course, sending the soldiers around the world. 

I do wonder if our exposure to new cold and flu viruses has increased over the last couple of centuries with better transportation, and a greater population.

In retirement, one's exposure to the viruses may drop considerably, or perhaps one might get just enough exposure to develop antibodies, and not the cold or flu.

Anyway, there is likely more money in selling antihistamines, decongestants, cough syrups, and etc, than "curing" the cold. 

It is quite possible that each person experiences the cold or flu differently.  I've met some individuals that nearly always develop painful sinus infections with headaches.  I certainly can get coughing and a runny nose, but never the sinus congestion.  Perhaps some individuals are more likely to get just enough exposure to develop immunity, without the respiratory symptoms.

 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #5 on: 28/08/2013 18:36:40 »
I'm curious whether switching to year round schooling makes the seasonal aspect of colds and flu disappear. I'm sure spending more time in doors in the winter increases transmission for everyone, but even in September and October when the weather is still fairly hospitable, people start getting sick as soon as the kids go back to school.
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #6 on: 04/09/2013 13:56:01 »
It is quite possible that each person experiences the cold or flu differently.  I've met some individuals that nearly always develop painful sinus infections with headaches.  I certainly can get coughing and a runny nose, but never the sinus congestion.  Perhaps some individuals are more likely to get just enough exposure to develop immunity, without the respiratory symptoms.
I used to have quite bad asthma as a child, and colds would always go 'into my chest', often resulting in a bacterial infection. With increasing age (and steroid inhalers) the asthma is no longer a problem, but colds have started to migrate to my sinuses instead. The resulting inflammation causes headaches that last for weeks. I'm not sure which is worse, having chest or sinus affected...
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #7 on: 06/09/2013 05:47:11 »
As far as the original question is concerned, the UK Common Cold Research Unit was closed after some 40 years of human subject research - all great fun for the volunteers in post-war Britain who got a free country holiday in exchange for a few blood and sputum samples (and the possibility of catching a cold).

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/common-cold-research-unit-salisbury
The unit looked like a cross between a military and a nudist camp in the grounds of Harvard hospital. They identified the general family of responsible viruses but since the bugs turned out to be rapidly evolving (one in the eye for creationists) and the symptoms are rarely lifethreatening (unlike flu) I guess there was no future in developing a vaccine.
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #8 on: 22/10/2013 22:31:16 »
It's an interesting question because everyone who's not in isolation will get infected - but some lucky individuals can eliminate the virus before noticeable symptoms appear. So how severe must the symptoms be before you 'have a cold' ?
 

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Re: Why do some people never catch colds?
« Reply #8 on: 22/10/2013 22:31:16 »

 

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