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Why Do We Catch a Cold and He Doesn’t?

catch a cold

People are generally enthusiastic about catching things – from a prized marlin, to a fly ball, or even a future spouse. But when it comes to landing the common cold, we want no part of it, and can even get a bit vindictive.

When we’re in abject misery with congestion and a scratchy throat, the question often becomes:

Why do we always catch a cold and others don’t?

Of course, this question most frequently arises in the presence of pronounced symptoms. It’s never just a cold – but a full-tilt, nose-dripping, ears-clogged ordeal, and we pediatric providers frequently field the query in regards to children.

Many parents say, “My son has been sick for the last two months,” citing excessive coughing and fever, and wondering why there has been no improvement. What they mean is that their child has pronounced symptoms, caused by exposure to a virus and a subsequent inflammatory response.

The important thing to remember is that viruses do not produce a runny nose or a cough. Our bodies generate this reaction in response to an invasive virus. The simple reason that some people seem to “catch a cold” more often than others is directly related to their body’s unique response to the viral infection. External elements are completely non-discriminatory. Our cold experiences have everything to do with the symptoms we personally manifest.

A prime comparison would be allergens. KinderMender has recently seen an uptick in allergic reactions as springtime slowly emerges. People who walk outdoors and immediately start sneezing did not “catch” an allergen any more than people with pronounced symptoms “catch” a cold.

There is also a genetic component involved. Parents generally begin to notice an onslaught of viruses after having their first child. As we enter our adult years, we tend to have less contact with small children. Until we get married and have kids of our own, that is. Then we begin to relive many childhood ailments.

The key to a cold is exposure. You must be in contact with someone who has the virus – i.e. a toddler hauling home germs after their first day of preschool – before you can contract it, yourself.

Or think of it this way – it’s only when you venture outside of your bubble into the rainforest and are surrounded by mosquitoes that you endure mosquito bites. We often hear people say, “I never get bitten. Mosquitoes love me.” That’s a ridiculous notion. Everyone gets bitten by mosquitoes. But only those who have a pronounced reaction to the bite notice – and then discuss – it.

Though the magnitude of our reactions may differ, we all get bitten. And we all get colds. Knowing that we’re in this together is a small consolation, admittedly, but in the scheme of things – it’s nothing to sneeze at.

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