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Rochester Science

Eschew the wee ones! @UofR study finds just being around children can make you sick.

I used to joke around with my parents, saying that when I was born, they must have dipped me in garbage and sat me in the middle of a field somewhere because I somehow seemed to be immune to everything.  I was the epitome of a healthy kid, even evading normal childhood ailments such as chicken pox and ear infections.  It wasn’t until I hit my mid-twenties (when the immune system is supposed to be stronger than it was during childhood) that I finally began experiencing allergies, colds, and even harsher infections like Shingles.  What gives?

According to a recent study conducted at the University of Rochester, exposure to school-age children greatly increases the odds of someone experiencing cold symptoms – especially for those who already suffer lung disease.  At face value, this doesn’t seem too profound. Contagious kids pass their germy colds onto others, right? Sure, but that isn’t part of the findings; consistent with the study, just plain old contact is the only contributing factor, not whether the children were sick or not.

The study’s senior author, Dr. Ann Falsey, professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester and an infectious disease expert at Rochester General Hospital, has admitted that she, herself, is even shocked by the study, saying,

Before we conducted this study, I would have expected other factors, perhaps the severity of underlying disease – the state of the patient’s general health – to indicate who would actually suffer symptoms from their colds. Instead, contact with school-age children is the only risk factor we found, and it increases both the risk of infection and also the risk of suffering symptoms once you’ve caught a cold.

The study was conducted by closely monitoring and sampling 127 people with emphysema who were evaluated six times each during one year. At all visits, nasal secretions were sampled, and sputum samples were obtained when available. Further analysis of the data showed that the people who were infected with cold symptoms were about twice as likely to have contact with school-age children as people whose infections did not become symptomatic.

Fortunately, I do not suffer from emphysema or any form of lung disease, and Shingles is a little bit different from a head cold. However, I was working directly with children 3 times a week when I contracted it. Could my former part-time job, and the children there be to blame? Sounds like as good of an explanation as any to me.