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Children Under Stress Develop More Fevers

tion. (Natural killer cells are part of the immune system that exists before a new germ is introduced; it is the first line of defense for the body until the immune system adapts to fight a specific bacteria or virus.

"It may have something to do with the fact that children’s immune systems are still developing," Caserta said. "Or maybe they’re compensating for a defect someplace else. More research is needed to figure out why."

The study followed 169 diverse 5 to 10 year olds for 3 years. Children and their parents were recruited from a population already participating in a study of childhood infections at the University’s Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. The study involved seven visits about six months apart. Parents were given digital thermometers and they were asked to record their children’s health status every week and every time their children were ill.

Parents also completed surveys to assess their own and their family stress over the course of the study. They were asked about psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, and they were asked about their relationship with their children, such as whether they felt detached from their child or overwhelmed by their parenting responsibilities. In addition, parents reported on external stressors such as exposure to violence and unemployment.

Building on this study, the researchers hope to determine what types of parental and family stress lead to increased illnesses and what biological processes control susceptibility to infections. "Once we understand these connections we can design interventions that lower family stress, or help families to better manage stress in their interactions – and lead to healthier kids," she said

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