Why am I sick… Again?

Andrew has been telling us all semester that we should be getting a head start on our blogs before the end of the semester arrives where people start to get all kinds of sicknesses. I, along with plenty of other students heard this advice and thought “oh that isn’t going to happen to me.” Well here I am at the end of the semester with a runny nose and a vicious cough to accompany my overwhelming amount of work to do before grades are due. It seems ironic that I am sitting here writing this blog post about advice that fell on deaf ears with a tissue box to my right and a bag of cough drops to my left. But I am left wondering why is it that every year students are getting sick at the same point in the semester. Why am I suffering from the Penn State Plague once again?


Without fail, every year students get sick around the end of the semester so there must be a reason for it. While brain storming the reason of such a sudden wave of sickness, I thought about the time of the year and made an assumption that maybe stress from the end of the semester affects students’ immune systems in a negative matter. The null Hypothesis is that stress does not affect the immune system where as the alternative hypothesis is that stress is lowering the immune system. Stress would be the independent variable and the Penn State Plague would be the dependent variable but there are plenty of confounding third variable possibilities as well,  one of which could be lack of time. You are stress because you don’t have enough time to get all your responsibilities done and the lack of time puts a toll on personal hygiene which makes you sick.  While researching my hypothesis I found a study that followed medical students during their schooling. The study found these students immunity decreased during the 3 day period when they were taking a test. They also found that these students also have a lower level of Killer T-Cells.  Killer T-cells are a type of white blood cell that has the ability to attack and kill other viral or abnormal cell in the body. This study opened up a slew of studies researching this area. After all these studies were complete, Suzanne Segerstrom conducted a meta- analysis on all of the studies completed. This meta-analysis of over 300 studies concluded that stress all around weakens the immune system. We know from class that a meta-analysis is considered strong evidence, much stronger than anecdotal evidence.

While stress is definitely a key factor of why people are getting sick, I don’t think it is to only variable causing these sicknesses. This could be caused by student’s lack of cleanliness or even the change of seasons as I have found in the article. You might notice the atmosphere starting to get colder but this is not directly the reason why people are getting sick. As it turns out, this has some link to why we are getting sick though. When the temperature starts to change different viruses thrive in colder environments leading to higher exposure of the virus. Therefore the change of seasons allows viruses like the flu to infect more people.

Overall there could be many reasons why I have come down with flu-like symptoms. Do I think that stress from 3 exams this week might be one of those reasons? Absolutely. With evidence of meta-analysis, stress is definitely one of the factors to why I am sick along with the change of seasons. The take home message would be not to procrastinate on your blogs because no matter how strong your immune system is, you never know what virus you might catch in the latter part of the semester.

7 thoughts on “Why am I sick… Again?

  1. Justin Passaro

    Matthew, I have also witnessed many students have been getting sick within the last couple weeks. Could it be because students are going home and coming back to school? Therefore, having more contact with the general public outside of the Penn State community. Maybe it could be a result of your diet and amount that you exercise. Exercise could lower your stress levels. Here is something I found that explains how exercise helps prevents illness like the common cold.


  2. Maura Katherine Maguire

    Really great post. I have been sick for what feels like two months now, literally. I first had strep, then bronchitis and now a never ending cough. It probably doesn’t help that I am still trying to adjust to college life and the changes it has brought me. I have found my sleeping patterns to be completely off and I feel that is one of the key reasons for my deteriorating health. I wish I saw this post in the beginning of the semester so I could of possibly avoiding this dreaded plague. Overall nice post!

  3. Reetu Shah

    So overall I thought this was a good post. You should talk about x, y, z (variables), and chance to talk go a bit more in depth on your topic. When you started to talk about it, all I could think of was all the possible 3rd variables. Stress is really a broad topic and could be many different things, so maybe if you picked one aspect of stress that would have been interesting. I think it would be beneficial to explain what Killer T-cells are so we know what effect it has on people in the study. I definitely agree, this was a good study to pick, because it has over 300 studies done in it.
    So I do like how you expanded on the one 3rd variable about the changing temperatures. That is very important to include in an article about sickness, which is very broad too.
    I did some research about this topic and found an article about stress causing colds by Amanda Gardner from CNN Health. Garnder talks about how cortisol, the stress hormone has to do with the way people get sick and their immune systems. It really depends on how sensitive it is to cortisol. As stress weakens the body’s effects to cortisol, symptoms of the cold go crazy.

    Gardner, A. (2012) Why Stress Makes Colds More Likely. CNN Health.

  4. Alexandra Nicole Iaccino

    This is a really interesting topic. I’ve had an ongoing cold for what seems like weeks now and I wasn’t sure why I always felt run down. The idea that stress can cause sickness seems very logical because I have been extremely stressed with school work over the past few weeks. I found this article (http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/what-is-stress-related-illness) that discusses more on the correlation between stress and illness.

  5. Michael David Harding

    Great post! I was lucky enough to be hit with the penn state plague weeks ago right around the last blog period. I just procrastinate because it is one of the few things that I am good at. One thing I might infer about this post is that stress, as much as direct cause of sickness, can it also be an indirect cause of sickness. As science shows stress especially takes a toll on your digestive system and your immune system,which will lead to illness. But for example an indirect cause of stress can be ignoring your body’s needs. For example I spent about 24 hours in the library last week, about 8 consecutive hours a day and did not eat or hydrate myself in that time that can deteriorate your immune system as well. Also, when I am stressed I tend to smoke more often, and eat less healthy when I am stressed, which is also not good for you. the following article offers information on stress and illness, check it out if you would like. Good luck on finals. http://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html

  6. Olivia Anne Browne

    Great post! I think this is super relatable and relevant to everyone. Luckily, I have yet to get sick at all this semester (knock on wood). Last year, first semester of my Freshman year, I was ALWAYS ILL. I am unsure if it had something to do with the transition, the stress, living on my own and taking care of myself for the first time… Probably a combination of all factors. I agree with all being said here, especially the procrastination part. I told myself I would get a majority of my work done over thanksgiving break. That being said I got none done. I now suffer the consequences with an exam Thursday, these blogs due Friday, as well as a final paper due Friday too! YIKES!
    Check out this article on time management!

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