If you have kids, you invariably get ill more often—but how often, exactly? A new study by scientists at the University of Utah School of Medicine reveals that big families have viral infections for an amazing 87 per cent of the year.
The Utah Better Identification of Germs-Longitudinal Viral Epidemiology study — or BIG LoVE to its friends — is one of the first long-term studies to use modern diagnostics to track the presence of common viruses in kids and their families. The year-long research project kept track of viruses like influenza, parainfluensa and rhinovirus — the cause of the common cold.
The team found that people living in childless houses are infected with viruses just 3-4 weeks per year. Meanwhile, adding a single child to the household bumps that figure up to 18 weeks—which is 35 per cent of the year—and a second to 29 weeks. By the time a family has six children, there’s a virus in the household for up to 45 weeks per year. The results are published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The correlation is clear, but the cause is harder to ascertain. The researchers did find that young children may be to blame: those under five had viruses in their nasal mucus for 50 per cent of the year, and when infected were 1.5 times more likely to display symptoms, such as coughing. that would spread the infection.
There is, however, a little good news. The study also shows that only half of those people who tested positive for viral infections actually displayed symptoms like coughing and fever . Which is something, right?
Image by trumanlo under Creative Commons license