Colds and Getting Sick: More Symptoms Means You Have a Better Immune System!

My significant other and I always catch a cold from the kids, or we catch it from each other.

What makes me so mad is that when the house gets sick I’m deathly ill for like 2 weeks to a month. I can’t breathe out of my nose at all, I get a sore throat, hack up phlegm, my ears hurt and itch, my eyes are all red and teary, I get a slight fever, my body aches, and I’m exhausted. Every single time I get a cold without fail (and no, body aches and fever are not just the flu).

When my SO gets sick, he says his throat is scratchy and then sleeps for a day, takes some Alka Seltzer Cold, and is completely better the next day… Occasionally, coming home from work, the next day, saying he feels a little run down, and then by 48 hours is completely good.

Do I just have the worst immune system ever? Why is it that he doesn’t have to suffer and miss work, and everything else, while I feel like I’m in hell on Earth?

According to Science

“The intensity and duration of symptoms during a given sickness provide important clues of immune system health status. Ideally, infections should bring symptoms that are intense but which have a short duration and resolve completely. Intense symptoms such as a sore throat, lots of mucous, a fever and even a strong, productive cough indicate that your immune system has the vitality to be mobilized into action and has the capacity to launch a full assault.”

Yeah, right. Tell that to my SO, who doesn’t get anything but mild symptoms, because if that were true, he would not get better but worse, this theory is so wrong.



Cold symptoms including sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and phlegm are caused by your body’s immune system responding from the virus, not the actual virus itself causing damage.

So why is it my SO’s immune doesn’t make him completely miserable for a month, while mine does?

recent study at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in the US suggested, “The amount of nasal bacteria (specifically staphylococcus and moraxella), as well as the amount of cold virus present in the body, may influence the type and severity of the cold symptoms people develop.”

As we know there are all types of bacteria that live inside and outside of our bodies, that protect us and aid us, like in digestion for example.

“This is an interesting scientific study with good data, but it is always important to be clear about the difference between bacteria and viruses,” he says. “The majority of the infections that we see in children during winter are viruses.”

“There are other germs that cause infections, and staphylococcus and moraxella are two bacteria, which may require antibiotic treatment, but there is no evidence from this or any other study that giving antibiotics prevents colds or helps people with a cold or influenza.”

“The study suggests that people could have more, or different, bacteria that may be linked with them getting more severe colds. The bacteria may be the cause or it could be that a third factor causes these people to get both the bacteria and the virus – we are a long way from finding out how this works.”


Another Study

A new study suggests, that catching colds or not may now depend on the “stressors” your nose and airway passages come in contact with.

We have defense mechanisms in our nose, cells in our airways that protect us from external threats. Some of these protect us from viruses, like the cold and flu, and others protect against “oxidative stress” like pollen and smoke.

Some people have more of one than the other, there is a trade-off though. You either have more of the one that protects against “oxidative stress” which means less protections against colds, or vise-versa. You have more of one that protects against colds, and then have more issues with allergies.

This makes sense too, because I have no allergies, like none, but get the worst colds ever. My SO on the other hand, has constant sneezing and snorting from allergies, but gets colds like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, none.


“Your airway lining protects against viruses but also other harmful substances that enter airways,” senior study author Dr. Ellen Foxman, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a statement. “The airway does pretty well if it encounters one stressor at a time. But when there are two different stressors, there’s a trade-off,” Foxman explained. “What we found is that when your airway is trying to deal with another stress type, it can adapt, but the cost is susceptibility to rhinovirus infection.”

Respiratory viruses cause 500 million colds in the US every year, but some people have exposure and don’t even get sick. The cells that line the airways rid the viruses before they cause the host to get sick. For most of us though, this doesn’t happen and we get sick as a dog.

It was also found that the lungs are better equip to handle “oxidative stress”, while nasal passages were better fitted for viruses.


The common cold (Rhinovirus), seems to not be well understood once inside the human body. Little by little there are studies where they come up with theories that support data, but no absolute reasons why some people get sick as hell and some don’t.

Thanks for nothing science! Once again the cold baffles even the best…


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