Does a Strong Immune System Make Colds Worse?

Does a Strong Immune System Make Colds Worse?

[♪ INTRO] We all have that friend or coworker who insists
that they never get colds because their immune system is just so strong. But research shows they might want to hold
off on that boast. People with more robust immune responses may actually be more likely to show symptoms
of a cold. And that’s because cold symptoms aren’t
caused by cold viruses, but by your body trying to show those viruses
the door. The common cold is usually caused by a class
of viruses called rhinoviruses. Unlike many other viruses, like the flu, rhinoviruses don’t damage or destroy the
cells of your airway, though some do fall away. Instead, the symptoms you experience, like
a sore throat and stuffy nose, are actually caused by your own immune system
responding to the virus. Not everyone who is infected by a cold virus
actually shows symptoms. In fact, about 25% of rhinovirus infections
have no symptoms at all. And it’s not because these people have built
up immunity to those particular viruses. A 2003 study looked at healthy infants who
visited the doctor either for a routine checkup or for a respiratory
infection. They found that of the infants who seemed
healthy and were just there for a check-up, 20% of them showed evidence for a rhinovirus
infection, but no symptoms. And those babies hadn’t had much time to
build up immunity, to colds, or anything at all, really. In people who do have cold symptoms, the severity of those symptoms often correlates
with markers of inflammation. These markers include cytokines: molecules
secreted by immune cells that are involved in cell communication and
interaction. A cytokine called IL-8 has been shown to increase in people with viral inflammation of the nose. IL-8 is involved in recruiting white blood
cells to infections. This in turn heightens your inflammatory response, resulting in pain and a stuffy, runny nose. And a number of studies have shown that there
are greater levels of IL-8 in people with more severe cold symptoms. In one 1998 study, volunteers were inoculated
with a cold via virus-filled nose drops. Whether or not they developed an infection
was measured by flushing their noses with saline in the
days after the inoculation, then checking to see if that fluid contained
viruses that could infect other cells in a lab. People who did get an infection either showed
no symptoms and no IL-8 increase, or they felt sick and their levels of IL-8
went up. In other studies, severity of symptoms similarly
didn’t seem to correspond with how many copies of the virus are present in
your body. In fact, in a 1994 study, washing healthy
subjects’ noses with IL-8 was enough to induce cold-like symptoms; no
virus needed! This makes it seem like the bigger your immune
response, the worse your symptoms will be. Taken together, the evidence suggests that
people with stronger or more reactive immune systems may actually
experience worse cold symptoms. So the next time you find yourself sniffling
and sneezing, surrounded by tissues, blame your immune system. But don’t be too hard on it. You probably want your body to respond to
colds with a bit of zeal. It’s a sign that your immune system will
take invaders seriously, and therefore, might just help protect you
better against things way more dangerous than the
common cold. Thanks for asking, and thanks to our patrons
for helping us bring you the answer. If you want to help support SciShow and join
our awesome community of patrons, check out [♪ OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “Does a Strong Immune System Make Colds Worse?”

  1. Are there no benefits to having a strong immune system then? Are you saying that if you have a strong immune system the ONLY thing that happens is you have worse symptoms? That's it? Something doesn't sound right. Like we're only getting half of the story.

  2. I invent a new virus class: Smartviridae. Smartviridae are viruses that trick your immune system to KILL you, like Marburg and flu. Members of this class are the flu viruses and filoviridae (Ebola,Marburg,etc)

  3. I had a cold 1 month ago. One day I had that feeling in my throat that I was going to get sick. The next day in the morning I had a stuffy nose, and later on the same day a headache and mild fever, the next day of that day barely any symptons, and the following none at all. Does that mean I have a quite strong immune system?

    PS: I have a cold again, and it's following a similar progression

  4. I haven't been sick in about 10 years and everyone I know hates it. They say they get sick around 3 times a year.

    All I can say for what may have stopped me from getting sick is that I stopped swallowing any of my loogies. So if you feel a drip just spit it out.

  5. I don't get sick very often. Maybe once a year. And when I do get sick it isn't very bad. I'm guessing I've just gotten good at avoiding getting sick in the first place via good preventative hygiene and generally avoiding contagious individuals.

  6. I get 2 or 3 colds a year. The full symptoms last a month! Starts with a runny nose and sore throat for a couple days. Then sinus congestion and cough. The cough can last for weeks and weeks. I still have rib pain from the one in November which was already two months ago. I've had another cold since then. I honestly cannot take this anymore. I miss too much work and miss out on things I want to do. I was sick over Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2019. Every single plan and trip had to be cancelled. I have tried different medicines and remedies. Nothing makes it better.

  7. On a similar note to strong immune systems, I have heard or been told that it is not uncommon for people with auto-immune type diseases to also have very strong immune systems. I myself have MS, it was a late diagnosis and lucky has had very little impact on my life but it is there. I also, very rarely get sick. Maybe once every other year, maybe 3. And as this video was pointing out, when that one does come along I do think it hits me pretty hard. I have actually had years, hanging around all the sick people at work, where on an afternoon I would start to get that little tickle in the back of my throat thinking I might actually be coming down with something, only to have it completely clear up by that night or the next morning. I haven't seen any actual literature or studies on Auto-immune to Strong immune systems to know it if really is a thing or not, but always sounded like an interesting thing. I always say that my immune system is so good at fighting off the weak little bugs trying to infect me that it needs a real challenge and so it fights itself to keep it's practice up.

  8. And here I’ve been saying my immune system sucks

    Guess what you one-day snifflers, no I didn’t bring the wrath of the cold onto myself by looking out a window when it’s cold outside! I’m dying bc I’m healthy, hah!

  9. Does this have anything to do with the “man cold” phenomena where men act as if they are dying when they get the cold?

  10. This means that when you do start feeling a sickness coming on you can act on it quickly. Step into a sauna or into an ice cold bath and kill the germs before they overwhelm you.

  11. Was this not the reason (or similar) the Spanish Flu was so lethal and struck so hard against healthy and young people? The partiular strain made people with good/excellent imune system have an over-reaction to the flu and fight it untill the point where the symptoms and reaction was the cause of death?

  12. IL-8 isn't the entire immune system, just a small part. The inflammatory response is useful to get more fluid into infected tissues, but it's not what actually fights the infection. Not to mention, that inflammation can get deadly (younger people with stronger immune responses sometimes die to the flu due to cytokine storms). A stronger inflammatory immune response isn't necessarily better (and it's especially annoying for those of us with allergies, as allergies are just an immune response like colds, but to pollen instead of a virus)

  13. Sound like my experience with colds, fevers, and etc. I usually only get sick about 1-3 times a year. Usually around this time of year. I'm still getting over a cold with a bad cough and minor mucus build up which got a little worse due a cold front…

  14. I get colds all the time. I’ve been saying for years I must have a terrible immune system… guess I actually have a great one

  15. 1:30 So, is it fair to say that people who want to reduce their rhinoviral cytokine reactions to nothing have an IL-8 problem?

  16. YES having a stronger immune system increases the severity of 'symptoms'. The stronger your immune system is, the more aggressive its reaction to infections becomes.

  17. Sounds to me that a over reaction is similar to a person with allergies. They may not have a better immune system they just over react. So really the title of the vid was bs.

  18. I don't get colds. ever. Last time I got sick, the docs had to put me on vancomycin to fight the infection. I was hospitalized for two weeks and needed my lungs reinflated after the infection collapsed one.

  19. I only seem to get ill when I help myself to the communial biscuit tin with a cup of tea….most people do not understand the importance of hand washing…excellent video and thankyou for uploading…liked and subbed

  20. I used to get terribad colds all the time as a kid to the point of annoying everyone else. After I left school I eventually found out I had IBD which is this immune system disease where my immune system is over active (resulting in more problems) now I have meds for it

  21. Ok, so whenever I get a cold I immediately get bronchitis. Is that a strong or weak immune system? Or just a pitifully weak pathology?

  22. I remember having colds every summer and winter, now I have been cold free for a couple years… I guess my immune system is just taking vacations.

  23. Interesting! Not sure I'd equate a strong immune respone to a robust immune system though. An allergic reaction is a very strong immune response, yet I'd argue that you're immune system is kinda flawed if you have a lot of allergies. How do people who don't respond to rhino virus respond to other infections? Just because they don't respond to a specific pathogen, it doesn't mean their immune system is less capable of strongly reacting to others. At first glance, not reacting to a pathogen that does not do any damage to the host seems like the smarter thing to do. Just like how people without pollen allergies don't have antibodies against pollen, while people with pollen allergy do. The pollen is not dangerous, so there is no need to have a reaction. But that doesn't mean that the immune systems of people without pollen allergy are worse or unable to react well to actually dangerous pathogens.

  24. Please do a video on whether frequent gym pratice does give you better flu immunity than non-gymers.
    Does regular exercise jack up your T-cells or make your endurance against the flu symptoms really long?

  25. The closing statement is that this is something one might want – a more reactive immune system – but is it possible that ideal health and comfort come from an immune system that is generally a little busy – a little less reactive from having just a little more variety of matters at hand?

  26. So… if I live in a house full of flu-ridden whiners for two weeks but don't catch it in any way that I might notice, that means my immune system is weaker than theirs? Okay, SciShow. I'll just keep my weak ass immune system then.

  27. A very contrived way to explain symptoms are allergic reactions that does not link strong immune systems to more intense infections, click bait!
    I am far more active and healthy than most people around me and my body rarely shows reactions to rhinoviruses, that don't do damage anyway, according to the video. A very notable exception to my immunity occurred during the years my son was attending public school. Somehow these hill williams around here would cook up a nasty bug over the year, since the last one and every fall, they'd share it with the community, through the education system. I was always quite certain that this was the vector from which the big one would kill us all, but it never came.
    Now, those years are past and I no longer get seasonal colds.

  28. I show cold symptoms thrice a year at max, usually more like 2 or 3 times. I never had a single sick day in school, except for one period where I had to fight with temporary migraines. I have thus a really bad immune system.

  29. So is there a difference between a strong immune system and an efficient immune system? If I am not gettin cold symptoms because my immune system doesn’t react to common ailments, isn’t that working more efficiently then an immune system that reacts strongly to everything?

    And how does this impact my immune system’s preparedness for stronger viruses?

  30. Well I rarely get any fever or fall sick. But whenever I happen to visit new places and drink water over there, I catch cold very easily. And it lasts usually 2-3 weeks

  31. I don't understand why every video on YouTube has a dislike. even this video, after being posted for 16 hours it has 137 dislikes. why !?! Where are these people coming from? I don't see any comments explaining why they would dislike it

  32. You're lumping innate and adaptive immunity together and making a distinction between the two is key here, otherwise people might get completely inaccurate conclusions from this video. A weakened innate immunity may result in less severe symptoms of the common cold as well/or make you more prone to catching it, depending on which components are at fault (anatomical barriers, complement, inflammation etc). A weakened adaptive immunity usually results in a much longer duration of symptoms, significantly higher risk of recurrence and chronification, as well as proneness to complications such as other viral or bacterial infections, which is the case with most patients with immunodeficiency (HIV, leukemia, lymphoma, chemotherapy, post-surgery).

  33. Are you f*cking stupid? Do you really think people with strong immune systems get sicker? You understand that this is completely backwards. Morons!

  34. What does it mean if you haven't been sick in 5 years?
    Am I sick with no symptoms?
    Or is my immune system at just the right strength,
    to keep me not sick, and not give me symptoms?

  35. This most likely means that these people would be more likely to have complications from diseases such as the flu.

  36. Last time i was really sick was 2013 I was out for about 3 days. Even with that I dont think it was nearly as bad as what most people get 3-4 times a year. But I also have always taken really good care of myself. I workout 4-5 times a week, eat healthy consistently and have very little unnecessary psychological stress.

  37. I haven't had terrible symptoms for any virus in years. I had a mild response to a strain of norovirus a few years back but I haven't been symptomically ill in years

  38. Hmm I feel targeted specifically one being I've had a cold the past two days since this post and my immune system over reacts to everything good to know you guys are watching me 🙂

  39. My mom gets a cold once per decade, not one major one, but literally one of any severity. I'm going to say that she really does have a strong immune system. (Each time she gets one, my family tends to make jokes about the plague having arisen.)

  40. This video is basically the kryptonite to every vegan out there claiming that "since becoming vegan 3 years ago, I haven't had a single cold".

  41. Probably need more studies to see if this effect generalizes to other viral infections, or even to bacterial ones. But I'm just guessing.

  42. If you want to know what to do about colds/flu/life threatening illness, listen to the wise words of Dr. Tom Levy.

  43. When I was a kid i always had runny nose throughout winter
    And now From 4 years i never get cold, i don't even wear winter wear from these 4 year

  44. Spent most of my life boasting about my strong immune system and how I barely got any noticeable symptoms when everyone was pretty much dying from cold symptoms… lately I've had a few bad cases of mean mean colds though, and figured I was likely getting weaker with age… And then this episode came in! Perfect timing to reconsider my former beliefs! XD

  45. If you're not getting sick like cold symptoms at least once a year your immune system isn't strong I'd say. Weak immune system won't even detect the pathogen to fight hence you won't get sick. Modern diet and stress are the number once cause for the increased sickness in today's world.

  46. I'm really trying to wrap my head around this. So symptoms are an immune response. In their theory a stronger immune system means more symptoms. Wouldn't a strong immune system prevent the cold in the first place (kil it early) and a weak system mean your body struggles fighting the virus?
    I get a sinus cold maybe once a year, never get the flu or vaccinated for it and don't consider myself to be healthy (poor diet, couch potato)

  47. Huh, I guess my immune system is crap because I never seem to get colds. Guess it is too busy giving me terrible allergies…

  48. I really wonder how this plays into how men and women experience the cold and flu differently. Men experience dramatic symptoms, yet women on average have better immune systems than men.

  49. Well in that case I'm so glad, that my immune system is that bad, that I never have any symptoms when I get the flu or a cold….

    yeah right.

    just had a bypass-operation. according to my blood values, my immune system is working really hard. caught a cold while in the hospital. only symptoms were a runny nose for three days. a few years ago i ususally had a cough for a couple of weeks.

  50. It's amazing how most people just accept what someone else tells them. These people putting out this info don't know everything. Isn't it weird how every few years they change their minds about what this means and what that means. It tells me that no one actually knows what they think that they know. C'mon people don't be so easily convinced just because you feel like someone else knows something that you don't. Everyone is different and nothing can be fixed with a blanket diagnoses or treatment. What's good or true for 1 isn't always good for all. Think for yourselves!

  51. I always get cold so, my brother teases and boasts that he has great immune system whereas mine is not. Now the jokes on him😂😂😂

  52. 🔥🔥 Weaker immune system : Somehow catches disease, you aren't going to survive.
    🔥🔥 Stronger immune system : Catches disease , you too aren't going to survive.

  53. Had a cold a few weeks ago. Haven't had one in over a year. This last one made me feel like I got hit by a bus 2 times after fighting the chicken from family guy.

  54. I actually just think I have a crappy immune system because a simple cold can put me out for 2-3 days, sometimes more. I used to get sick multiple times a year during school until I became an online student. It was crazy how much a difference it made once I stayed at home. I rarely ever got sick at all.

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