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   Jan 20

Why some people NEVER catch a cold and how YOU could be one of them

The average Briton will catch around 200 colds in their entire lifetime

Brits also take 150 million sick days each year due to the symptoms of colds

New study from Harvard University reveals DNA drives 40 per cent of diseases

The results found that twins were more likely to suffer from similar illnesses

They live among us: those astonishingly lucky individuals who never seem to get a cold. Strong as oxen, they glide through winter without so much as a cough or sniffle, while all around are submerged in piles of soggy tissues.

The average Briton will catch 200 colds in their lifetime, and we take off a cumulative 150 million sick days each year due to sore throats and blocked noses.

But, anecdotally at least, there are some who never seem to suffer.

So what is their secret? It could be simple genetics.

A 24-year study from Harvard University, the results of which were published last week, found twins were likely to suffer similar illnesses, suggesting that DNA drives 40 per cent of diseases.

Respiratory diseases expert Professor Ron Eccles, who heads the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, is convinced that genetics are the reason some people never catch the cold virus.

He says: ‘We are each born with a unique immune system, akin to a fingerprint. Those who don’t suffer colds are probably infected with the virus, but their immune system kills it so they don’t develop symptoms.’

Common cold viruses primarily target the lining of the nose, the throat, larynx – or voice box – and sinuses.

Conquer the common cold in any season

Brits take off a cumulative 150 million sick days each year due to sore throats and blocked noses

University of Sussex immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi says: ‘There are more than 160 different cold variants and new ones appearing all the time, so it’s entirely reasonable for the average person to get one or two colds a year.

‘When a virus enters our airways, the delicate respiratory tract is attacked by it, resulting in a bunged up nose, sneezing, coughing and a sore throat.’

Dr Macciochi agrees that there are those who, for genetic reasons, are able to fight off colds better than others. But could the rest of us do something to protect ourselves?

THE MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT THE FLU SHOT

It is a myth that the flu shot can give you the flu.

‘There isn’t any live virus in the influenza vaccine so it’s impossible to get the flu from the vaccine,’ said Dr Tosh from the Mayo Clinic.

‘There was a live vaccine that’s not available any more, but it was impossible to get the flu from that too,’ he added.

CDC officials insist it is not too late to get the flu shot, despite evidence that this year’s vaccine is only 30 percent effective against H3N2.

The H3N2 strain of the virus has so far killed 85 adults and 20 children in the US.

Health officials say that the vaccine could be even more valuable now since it is more effective against strains which are only just emerging – including the H1N1 strain and various B viruses.

CDC figures show the majority of Americans do not get the flu shot and more and more parents are refusing to vaccinate their children.

The answer is, yes. And the first target should be to get enough rest.

‘Our immune system relies on sleep to generate a robust number of healthy immune cells and weed out cells that are getting old and potentially dysfunctional,’ says Dr Macciochi.

She also warns that smokers and those who drink alcohol regularly will increase their risk.

‘Alcohol is a known sleep-disturbing factor, while smoking affects the cells of the lungs which are targeted by cold and flu viruses.’

Daniel Davis, author of The Beautiful Cure, and Professor of Immunology at University of Manchester, says: ‘Some of us are better at fighting off a particular year’s cold than others, but the same person might not be as good at dealing with next year’s virus.’

According to new studies, stress is also a factor. Prof Davis says: ‘Worry, in the long-term, affects the immune system, weakening its ability to fight off the cold virus.’

Dr Jeff Foster is a GP with nearly 17,000 patients on his Leamington Spa surgery list.

He believes those most vulnerable to colds are usually under-nourished – and that the diets many of us try to maintain as part of our New Year’s resolutions don’t help.

‘People who don’t eat properly, or rely heavily on ready meals and takeaways, get ill more,’ he says. ‘There is also some evidence that being obese increases the risk of getting viral illnesses.

‘Obesity mimics a chronic inflammatory state, which suppresses immune response.’

For those of us who do ‘get anything that is going round’, however, Dr Preethi Daniel, clinical director at London Doctors Clinic has some reassurance. He says: ‘Evidence shows that contracting the odd cold virus does help build immunity by stimulating our natural defences.

‘A few infections a year is probably quite healthy.’

Nothing can beat a good night’s sleep

Health comment by Dr Ellie Cannon

There is a common theme among almost all patients I see who suffer a lot of colds: they work too hard, struggle to sleep and are generally burnt out.

While evidence isn’t clear about how diet and exercise affects the immune system, plenty of robust studies show the impact of lack of sleep and stress on cold-like infections. Of course, our susceptibility isn’t only a result of the environment. I’m convinced genetics play a role, as many of the experts here state.

My daughter, for instance, sleeps for fewer hours than my son and is more stressed, yet rarely picks up infections.

My son, on the other hand, seems to pick up everything going, despite sleeping nine to ten hours each night.

Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was slightly deficient in immune-boosting vitamins, as he lags behind his sister on the fruit and vegetable front.

And contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding – often hailed as the secret to a bolstered immune system – didn’t seem to make much difference either. My sniffler son was breastfed for twice as long as my cold-free daughter.

I give them both the same advice I give my patients: when it comes to colds, there is nothing more medicinal than a good night’s sleep.

Source: Daily Mail

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