To determine whether parenthood predicts host resistance to the common cold among healthy volunteers experimentally exposed to a common cold virus.
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.
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.
Parenthood was associated with greater host resistance to common cold viruses.
OR = odds ratio
CI = confidence interval
RV = rhinovirus
URI = upper respiratory infection