Do you feel your child catches every cold, bug, and virus that comes along?
Does it feel like every Friday you’re playing another round of “Name That Cough”?
Does the staff at the pediatrician’s office shout your name when you walk through the door like you’re Norm from “Cheers”?
Guess what? Your child may be atopic.
“If your child gets sick more than others, there’s usually a reason that’s not related to the outside world,” says Dr. Keyvan Rafei, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Culex Wellness.
“We tend to blame daycares, other siblings in school, and other exposures for why one kid gets sick all the time. But the truth is many, many other children have similar exposure and don’t get as sick.”
Certainly, whatever virus your child is exposed to plays a role, but the key differentiator is the individual’s body and how it reacts to the illness.
The body’s natural inflammation response is responsible for the cold and flu symptoms that make everyone miserable. In respiratory viruses, inflammation causes cough and congestion to rid a virus from our airways. Inflammation from gastrointestinal viruses results in cramps and diarrhea to rid the body of infection.
“Atopy” refers to the predisposition in some children in which the inflammation response becomes overactive.
“Atopic children cough more than the other child. Their nose runs more than the other child. Their fever runs higher than the other child. Their stomach hurts more than the other child. Not because the virus is different, but because the way their body responds to the virus is much more dramatic.”
Dr. Rafei draws the parallel of a mosquito bite.
All children are bitten by mosquitos at one time or another. But for approximately 20% of children, these bites result in significant swelling, redness, and a whole lot of itchiness. Those affected feel like they’re being singled out.
But mosquitos, Dr. Rafei says, are not that smart.
“They bite everybody the same,” he says. “It’s how one person swells up and notices the itching that makes them so much more aware. They didn’t get bit by bigger mosquitoes or more mosquitos. But they reacted to the same mosquito in a very dramatic way.”
Similarly, your sick child doesn’t catch more colds, or bigger colds, or bigger viruses – but their body is reacting to an invading illness with much more dramatic symptoms.
“Knowing that helps us focus not on the mysterious big mosquito or this perceived big bacteria they caught – but on actually reducing the symptoms and cooling down the inflammation,” Dr. Rafei says. “It’s a whole different approach. Instead of giving one antibiotic after another to make this infection go away, we can reduce the inflammation, making the child feel better, without risking the harm that can come from unnecessary antibiotics.”
A recent study of more than 9,000 children reported that atopic children were diagnosed with more cases of head and chest colds, strep throat, influenza, pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, chickenpox, and even urinary tract infections.
Higher levels of inflammation are caused by a combination of genetics, environmental exposures, and our microbiome – the bacteria that live inside us.
Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to modulate the inflammatory response. At Culex Wellness, our goal is to help families discover how to take charge of their symptoms. By understanding common patterns of illnesses, we can connect the dots of what may seem to be unrelated symptoms and help families prepare for issues that may arise, and ultimately lead healthier lives.