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August 21, 2017

Why do the young and the elderly get sick more easily?

Why do the young and the elderly get sick more easily?

Babies get sick more often than older children or adults because their immune systems are not fully developed and functioning at full capacity. The common cold, which is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus, is the most frequent malady. Doctors say that normal, healthy babies get up to about seven colds before they reach their first birthday. Another common affliction is the flu, caused by a different family of viruses, which bring on high fever, chills, fatigue and sometimes digestive symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, in addition to the respiratory symptoms of a cold.

Interaction with other children also causes problems

Another reason babies get sick so often is that they are frequently around other children, often siblings, and this exposes them to viruses and bacteria in school and daycare. Children in schools and daycare get more colds, runny noses, and ear infections than children cared for at home. However, their earlier exposure to these diseases also leads them to develop immunity earlier.

Lot of germs in baby mouth

Babies are also curious about the wide, wonderful world they are born into. So they will stick anything and everything into their mouth as a means of exploring that world. You can imagine the enormous amount of germs that ride along.

Furthermore, babies have not developed the immunity to the many different viruses that cause colds, because they have not had time to acquire the antibodies to fight off viruses. Babies do have some of their mother’s antibodies when they are born, which were transmitted through the placenta during pregnancy. This kind of immunity is not permanent, but breastfeeding can extend it, because many of the mother’s antibodies are present in her milk. This is why breast-fed babies tend to have fewer colds and flu symptoms than bottle-fed babies. Babies, like other people, also develop their own antibodies in response to germs they are exposed to; in fact, it is a mistake to try to eliminate all pathogens from a baby’s environment.

sick baby cartoon

Winter and babies

Winter is the toughest time for babies, because it is the season when colds spread nationwide. Also in winter people spend more time indoors, where viruses are more likely to spread from one person to another. The less humid air of indoor heating dries nasal passages, which allows viruses to thrive.

All people, both adults and children, are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. Bacterial infections include meningitis, cholera, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and anthrax. Vaccines for these dreaded ailments were developed decades ago but when the very young and very old get sick, it is most often from viruses. A prime example is the common cold.

There is no cure for the common cold, because many different viruses cause colds and even if a medicine is developed for one of them people would still catch colds from other viruses. Many people who have colds, or whore children have colds, ask their doctor for antibiotics, because they do not understand that these drugs do not work against viruses. But there are medicines that can relieve the symptoms of cold and flu so babies can get better sooner and not suffer as much. Recent research has developed medicines against some viruses; for example, the vaccine that helps prevent the flu can also treat it if given soon enough after a person develops symptoms.

Why Elder People get Sick

Elderly people get sick more often because their immune systems are weakened or breaking down. They also tend to have existing conditions that make them more vulnerable. Some have heart disease, kidney problems, asthma, diabetes, and a whole host of illnesses that no one looks forward to. Many of these diseases, as well as their treatment, suppress the immune system.

That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC advise that children under five years of age and people over sixty-five years of age have flu shots when each new strain begins to spread. Most people who contracted the H1N1 swine flu virus in 2009 came down with a mild illness, but the fatality rate was high. According to the world Health Organization 284,500 died from the H1N1 virus, the majority being from Africa and Southeast Asia.

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