Objective: To determine whether parenthood predicts host resistance to the common cold among healthy volunteers experimentally exposed to a common cold virus.
Methods: Participants were 795 healthy volunteers (age range = 18–55 years) enrolled in one of three viral-challenge studies conducted from 1993 to 2004. After reporting parenthood status, participants were quarantined, administered nasal drops containing one of four common cold viruses, and monitored for the development of a clinical cold (infection in the presence of objective signs of illness) on the day before and for 5 to 6 days after exposure. All analyses included controls for immunity to the experimental virus (prechallenge specific antibody titers), viral strain, season, age, sex, race/ethnicity, marital status, body mass, study, employment status, and education.
Results: Parents were less likely to develop colds than nonparents were (odds ratio [OR] = 0.48, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.31–0.73). This was true for both parents with one to two children (OR = 0.52, 95% CI = 0.33–0.83) and three or more children (OR = 0.39, 95% CI = 0.22–0.70). Parenthood was associated with a decreased risk of colds for both those with at least one child living at home (OR = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.24–0.87) and those whose children all lived away from home (OR = 0.27, 95% CI = 0.12–0.60). The relationship between parenthood and colds was not observed in parents aged 18 to 24 years but was pronounced among older parents.
Conclusions: Parenthood was associated with greater host resistance to common cold viruses.
Abbreviations: OR = odds ratio
CI = confidence interval
RV = rhinovirus
URI = upper respiratory infection