“Never had so much as a cold in my life!”

I occasionally meet people who claim they’ve never been sick, or, sometimes, that they’ve never had a cold.

I don’t buy it. There’s more than a whiff of brittle insistence in these claims.

But has there ever been a documented case of a human being who appeared to have some sort of significant immunity to all ~200 viruses that cause colds?

I’m not a physician or microbiologist, but given my (limited) understanding of the human immune system, this seems exceedingly unlikely.

They probably just tell themselves their symptoms are from things other than colds, like allergies, stress, lack of sleep or food, etc. It’s a point of pride so it becomes an impenetrable delusion to them.

It isn’t just a question of immunity. You can avoid colds by not touching your face/nose/mouth, washing your hands, things like that. If you don’t have to interact with other people or hang around in close proximity to them, you aren’t going to have the same level of exposure. I can’t remember the last time I had a cold. I no longer work in an office where I’m rubbing shoulders with a lot of people. Even then, I didn’t catch whatever was “going around”. I think it’s mostly from keeping my hands off my face. I don’t know.

Also, some people might not appreciate that a cold is a cold. A bit of a mild headache and a bit of a sniffle can be put down to allergies. Some people don’t seem to laid low by “feeling sick” the way others are. Somebody’s perception that they haven’t caught any infectious diseases might be how they see it.

Speaking for myself, I have had colds, but not very often. Many times my friends have been laid waste by some nasty bug going round and I’ve only ever gotten a mild version of it, if anything. Last time I had a real, proper, nasty, fever-ridden illness must have been about six years ago.

I read that research teams that spend the winter in the Antartic always go down with colds during the first couple of weeks. After that, they have immunity to the viruses they bought with them and do not suffer any more.

I had a guy in my team who inisisted that he never got colds, ever, because he took a spoonful of ‘Grandma’s onion juice’ every day (I’m not kidding, it was some recipe he had where onions and brown sugar are fermented in a jar).

He took more sick leave than anyone else - often with symptoms that looked exactly like a common cold, but were always blamed on weather, heating, stress, or some other factor.

Sure, it’s possible to avoid infection if you isolate yourself from the herd, or reduce the risks by observing good hygiene, but when you have a cold, you’re getting immunity - your body is learning to kill the virus (including killing off your own cells when they are infected, sometimes) - the wreckage of that battle is what makes you feel unwell.
For a person to have immunity without having acquired it, they’d need a different kind of system.

Ok, but “a real, proper, nasty, fever-ridden illness” sounds a lot more like influenza than the common cold. I mean, people aren’t usually laid waste by colds.

Maybe a large subset of the people who claim not to ever get colds are either confusing colds with the flu or perhaps defining “cold” so narrowly/idiosyncratically that they succumb to the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. (I’m not necessarily suggesting that you fall in this category, Malden Capell).

A very small number of people have idiopathic resistance to some viruses (like HIV), but it seems unlikely to me that anyone’s immune systems would somehow be primed to keep a whole class of viral infections subclinical. Do any physicians or others with professional expertise care to weigh in?

Any of us could be infected with a cold virus and not know it. If you’ve never missed a day of school or work, never seen a doctor for treatment, never been held back in your life by illness, then it’s reasonable to say you’ve never been sick, never had a cold. Whether or not it’s a scientifically accurate statement isn’t important in that context.

I don’t know of any comprehensive studies that looked at immune systems/antibody production among people who allegedly never get sick.

There was one a few years back that found some association between chromosomal telomere length and susceptibility to infection, and it was postulated that stress/trauma might contribute to shorter telomeres and more likely infection. It wasn’t all that definite an association.

As in multiple past influenza threads, those who boast of sooper-immune systems should know that severe and sometimes fatal flu bouts in younger people with strong immune systems have been traced to “cytokine storm”, where the body’s defenses are so active that they produce deleterious signs and symptoms (as apparently happened in the Great Influenza of 1918-19 and more recent H1N1 outbreak(s).

I’m sure there are individuals who get sick far less often that others for a variety of reasons, but I think there’s a strong mental aspect to the “never had a cold in my life” group. Their bodies may produce fairly mild symptoms when they do get sick, and that combined with a socially-induced I’m-tough-that’s-nothing-keep-going-it-doesn’t-hurt way of thinking allows them to brush of minor bumps, cuts, or colds and they actively believe those things don’t affect them.

I’ve noticed people like that seem to be more common in lower-income or physically demanding work areas… I know of one farm laborer/handy man who broke his arm, and within a couple days of being in a cast cut if off himself so he could go back to work doing whatever manual labour job he had at the time. “Can’t sit around, gotta keep working, bills need to be paid” kind of attitude. Of course his arm healed poorly and is still messed up today, but it doesn’t matter to him.

Of course we’ve all met at least one person who falls on the opposite end of the spectrum - who’s laid up for days at a time when they get the sniffles or who simply can’t function the next day if they get 7.75 hours of sleep instead of their normal 8 hours.

As a kid I’ve had mumps. Since then I’ve had plenty of “colds” some influenzas with fever (a bad one that I remember about five years ago). I’ve never seen a doctor for an illness. I’m 90. Not bragging, just telling what it is.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, I rarely get a cold. According to it, fever is rarely a symptom of a cold in adults, but I only rarely get even moderate cold symptoms without breaking into the 100s. By moderate I mean regularly having to cough or use a tissue. It’s possible I’ve had mild colds that only cause me to occasionally cough or sniffle.

Of course there is the opposite camp which holds that unless you’re put down in bed and literally unable to even get up to pick up a $100 bill, you have a cold but absolutely not the flu, which I find weird considering that when I was shaking in bed with a 103.5 fever (shortly afterward I would take Acetaminophen for the first time in years) I certainly would have been able to do so which makes me either greedy or indefatigable or both. Of course it could in theory be that I get mild fevers with major colds, and major fevers with mild flus, but the elegance of most of my “colds” being flus is more appealing to me.

Those people who “never miss a day of work” are the reason the rest of us get sick.