Adventures in Ethics and Science

I have a question for the scientifically informed hive-mind:

Why is it that no matter what I do, I end up with a head-cold by a few days after Thanksgiving?

Back when I was doing the frightening make-fifteen-dishes-to-bring-to-the-potluck Thanksgivings (with graduate classes and teaching and research in the background), I could kind of understand the sneezy fallout as a natural consequence of too little sleep and too much stress. Whose immune system wouldn’t strike back against such rough treatment?

Similarly, when the kids were smaller and they brought home every exotic virus they could from daycare, it made sense that some of these would be new to my immune system as well.

But this year, the kids were gone for a week. The stuff I made for Thanksgiving dinner at Uncle Fishy’s house was easy to bang out quickly. I slept more during Thanksgiving week than I do some months — I was practically a house cat!

And still, by Sunday I was sick. Green tea and DayQuil are what holds me together in some semblance of a functioning academic.

Could it be that my immune system is relatively insensitive to things like sleep, stress, and nutrition? Could it be that my immune system is entrained by the changing of the seasons, either the change in amount of sunlight, or average temperature, or amount of rainfall, or all three? Is there some other plausible explanation for my post-Thanksgiving head-cold besides a regularly scheduled dip in my immune capacity?

Or does the universe just have it in for me?

Comments

  1. #1 MissPrism
    November 28, 2006

    Maybe you’re allergic to something you only eat at Thanksgiving.

  2. #2 k
    November 28, 2006

    my personal theory is that i just have a crappy immune system that can’t stand up to even the wimpiest virus that floats through town, and with the new fall cold fronts, maybe that’s how new stuff is floating through town. the up side to this is that my crappy immune system also fails to react to most common allergens. mosquito bites only itch for a few minutes. poison ivy doesn’t bother me (or at least it didn’t last time i ran across it in high school). no spring time sniffling. at least this is what i keep telling myself as i suffer through my second cold so far this fall.

  3. #3 J Daley
    November 28, 2006

    I propose that with the huge amount of travel that occurs around Thanksgiving, you are exposed to a larger array of novel cold viruses than you otherwise would be. It’s an off-the-cuff hypothesis, though.

  4. #4 Uncle Fishy
    November 28, 2006

    I think you’re just allergic to Sauvignon Blanc type things from the Loire Valley.

  5. #5 JF, scientist
    November 28, 2006

    I think it must be the exposure to people who’ve been exposed to different things than you have- I think I caught a cold from my schoolteacher cousin.

  6. #6 David Harmon
    November 28, 2006

    I always assumed it was just a matter of being in close contact with lots of people — all those “kissing cousins”, maybe some kids, passing food (and “hot air”) around the table, etc. Funny, I managed to avoid getting actually sick this year, possibly because by some lucky chance none of the family seemed to have anything. I did need a couple of days to recover from the overstimulation….

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