Cough and Cold: Parenthood Protects Against Common Cold Viruses

Published Online: Friday, August 17, 2012
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The latest research on cough and cold finds that pertussis cases are dangerously high in many states, pets might confer and immunity boost, and parenthood protects individuals from the common cold.

Being a parent reduces a person’s risk of developing a cold, according to the findings of a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University that was published in the July 2012 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

For the study, investigators from the University of Virginia Health Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine administered nasal drops containing 1 of 4 common cold viruses to 795 healthy adults aged 18 to 55 years.

Participants reported their parenthood status, and analyses were controlled for immunity to the experimental viruses, viral strains, season, age, sex, race, ethnicity, marital status, body mass, employment status, and education.

Parents with 1 or 2 children were 48% less likely to get sick than nonparents, whereas parents with 3 or more children were 61% less likely to fall ill. Even parents with children living away from home appeared to enjoy the protective benefits of parenthood.

The investigators had some difficulty explaining this association. “Because we controlled for immunity to the virus, we know that these differences did not occur just because the parents were more likely to have been exposed to the virus through their children,” said Sheldon Cohen, PhD, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon.

“We expect that a psychological benefit of parenthood that we did not measure may have been responsible.”


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