Avoiding the Sniffles

As with any business, WilsonDailyPrep is always conscious of keeping the office clean. With sniffling students bustling in and out, hand sanitizer becomes the office companion. Except for me. I mean to use more hand sanitizer, I really do! But a recent New York Times article, “How Not to Fight Colds,” by Jennifer Ackerman caused me to feel a little better about my bad behavior.

The article introduces the kind of person everyone knows: the never sick friend or relative. I have to admit that I am one of those people.  I have no explanation!  I do not sleep more than 5 hours per night; I have over 200 kids coming through my office weekly, and I do like to cuddle with my always sick 8 year old. Yet, I have not had a serious cold in over two years.  My husband, on the other hand, drinks a “therma-flu” concoction every morning with his coffee, uses hand-sanitizer obsessively, and fills up on vitamins daily.   And, he gets at least three serious colds per winter! Why does this happen? Why am I like Teflon woman?

Interestingly enough, according to the article, healthy people (not me) do have super-powered immune systems, but it is these healthy immune
systems that can be causing them to feel sick! According to the article, recent scientific experiments show that the symptoms associated with the common cold are really the healthy body’s fight against the cold virus.  The more severe the cold, the harder one’s immune system works.   The runny nose and watery eyes are the signs that the healthy immune system is hard at work.   The cold, itself, does not produce the annoying, sickly feeling; it is the immune system fighting the cold that sends you to bed with a tissue box!

Then the article references people like me.   The people like me who do not get sick.   Jennifer Ackerman suggests that people who do not show serious symptoms of a cold might not be producing the normal amount of inflammatory agents.  Since we are not fighting off the cold, we don’t exhibit the cold symptoms.   As I read this article, though, I wondered where this virus afflicting me goes, and how I get rid of it if my unhealthy immune system is not putting up a fight! Yet, if we listen to Jennifer Ackerman, perhaps we should shrug immune system aids off and just say “no.”   According to Ms. Ackerman, there is no need to go crazy trying to build a superhuman immune system.   Instead, your body might actually show fewer symptoms if we don’t boost.

“What does this scientific data have to do with standardized testing?”, you may ask.  Your child’s health plays a key role in his/her test
results- it is hard to do your best if you are sneezing and coughing throughout the test!  This is why it is so important to take the ACT or SAT numerous times, as it is difficult to predict a child’s health in October when signing up for a January test date.  The
health of others in the testing room affects your child as well.  What if the kid next to yours is hacking up a lung or sniffling the entire time?   How will your child be able to focus?   Luck plays a significant role in test scores.   Yes, studying is essential, but a lot is out of one’s control.   We don’t like being out of control, and this is one of the reasons we find colds so frustrating.

So I don’t know what to recommend.   Do we give up on boosting ourselves and our children this winter?   Do we allow ourselves to be “out of control?” As Ackerman states, “It seems counterintuitive, but there it is:  People with more active immune systems may be especially prone to cold symptoms. So getting a cold may be a positive sign that your biochemical defenses are working normally – a glass-half full view of getting the sniffles.”  Yes, maybe we should listen  to Ackerman and let our children be a little “unhealthy.”  Then again, don’t blame me when your child comes down with a cold because you did not greet him or her at the door with that hand sanitizer!   I do know, though, that you can control what to bring to the SAT test site – tissues for the sniffling student next to yours.

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