Some folks think that one of the benefits of getting a life-threatening illness is that it can help your kids go through a growth spurt?
How Can a Measles Infection Trigger a Growth Spurt in Kids?
While the theory doesn’t make any sense to me, as a skeptic, I’m going to research it and see what I find.
For one thing, the myth seems to have its origins among anti-vaccine folks who think that measles means “gift from a goddess” in ancient Sanskrit.
Most people think that the etymology of the term measles is Dutch
But that isn’t the only reason this theory doesn’t make sense.
We know that a recent measles infection can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick with other diseases. And this effect can last a long time, for up to three years!
“The measles virus can cause serious disease in children by temporarily suppressing their immune systems. This vulnerability was previously thought to last a month or two; however, a new study shows that children may in fact live in the immunological shadow of measles for up to three years, leaving them highly susceptible to a host of other deadly diseases.”A deadly shadow: Measles may weaken immune system up to three years
Now I’m thinking that having measles and then having a weakened immune system for up to three years isn’t going to help your rate of growth.
But still, that’s not evidence that it couldn’t happen…
“In Papua New Guinea a different pattern emerged again, with measles having an enormous effect on growth. Skin sores also reduced growth to some extent. The fact that measles was not important in The Gambia was probably due to the policy there of giving measles vaccine routinely.”Cole on Relating growth rate to environmental factors–methodological problems in the study of growth-infection interaction.
The effect on growth in Papua New Guinea wasn’t positive.
What other evidence is there, besides the fact that we know that folks with measles need a lot of extra energy while they are recovering from their infection, so likely don’t have a lot leftover for a growth spurt?
There’s the fact that precocious puberty can be a complication of some infections, including measles. What happens if your child has precocious or early puberty? An early growth spurt? Yes, actually, but then they stop growing earlier than they should and they end up being shorter than their genetic potential.
Some more indirect evidence against any kind of extra growth spurt from a natural measles infection is that the mean height of young adults today, most of whom were vaccinated and didn’t have measles, isn’t that different from those measured in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Mean height has gone down a little bit in recent years though.
No, it’s not because we don’t get measles anymore!
It’s because of poor diet choices and that obesity is also up. Genetic factors and immigration are also thought to play a role. And that previous increases because of improvements in nutrition and health conditions have likely leveled off for many people.
“An important number of decelerations was related to infection with measles which provokes initial wasting; later, recuperation was partly through increase of weight and arm circumference, and partly through delayed stunting.”Growth decelerations among under-5-year-old children in Kasongo (Zaire). I. Occurrence of decelerations and impact of measles on growth
Perhaps the best evidence against the idea of a growth spurt with a measles infection though is an actual study that shows that kids have actual decelerations in their growth during their infection and while recovering.
Some of these kids, those that survived, had a “permanent growth deficit.”
So much for the idea of a growth spurt…
More on How Did a Measles Infection Trigger a Growth Spurt in Kids
- Measles: A Gift from a Goddess?
- Study – Growth decelerations among under-5-year-old children in Kasongo (Zaire). I. Occurrence of decelerations and impact of measles on growth
- Study – The Constitutional Type of Precocious Puberty
- VAXOPEDIA – News on the Latest Measles Outbreaks of 2019
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- VAXOPEDIA – Who Dies with Measles?
- VAXOPEDIA – More Measles Myths
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- VAXOPEDIA – How Can the Unvaccinated Spread Diseases They Don’t Have?
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- VAXOPEDIA – Did Gregory Poland Really Say That MMR Vaccines Can’t Prevent Measles Outbreaks?
- VAXOPEDIA – The Brady Bunch Measles Episode
- VAXOPEDIA – Anti-Vaccine Points Refuted A Thousand Times
- A deadly shadow: Measles may weaken immune system up to three years
- CDC – Mean body weight, height, and body mass index, United States 1960-2002
- CDC – Mean Body Weight, Height, Waist Circumference, and Body Mass Index Among Adults: United States, 1999–2000 Through 2015–2016
- Study – Long-term measles-induced immunomodulation increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality
- Study – Relating growth rate to environmental factors–methodological problems in the study of growth-infection interaction.
- Study – Composition of weight gain by Kenyan children during recovery from measles.
- Study – Immunological recovery after measles.
- Study – Growth arrest of epithelial cells during measles virus infection is caused by upregulation of interferon regulatory factor 1.
- Study – Energy cost of measles infection.
- Study – Slow clearance of measles virus RNA after acute infection.
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