A snotty child is a common sight for many mothers - and potentially a warning that it's their turn next.

Mums will fall ill an average of 324 times during their kids' childhood, a new survey found - and most of the colds and bugs were passed on to them by their offspring.

In fact, 68 per cent of women polled said they had been more prone to getting sick since having children. Most have just 13 days per month where they feel completely fit and healthy.

However, when it comes to the battle of the sexes, women still fare better than men.


Not only are women less likely to take to their beds, their bodies seem to be programmed to suffer less severe symptoms.

A survey of 2,000 parents found mums will suffer from 54 colds as well as a total of 108 sore throats or runny noses.

There will also be 36 stomach bugs - two every year - and an annual bout of flu.

On top of that, mums can also expect to endure one bout of head lice a year thanks to their children catching them at school.

But 36 percent of mothers said they have to soldier on while ill themselves. Their partners, on the other hand, stay in bed if in the same situation.

Additionally, 72 per cent of women believe they cope better when they're ill than their partner does, the poll by supplements company Healthspan found.

Psychologist Dr Meg Arroll said: "This may be related to our innate drive to do everything we can to ensure our offspring's survival.

"In our ancestors' time, men would have needed to be fit and well in face of a threat. But women, having different roles, safeguarded their family.

"We haven't changed that much and so even now with differing gender roles, women's protective instincts kick in. They care for others (over themselves), whereas men maintain their own physical fitness in order to protect and provide for their families."

And it seems "man flu" may not be a myth after all.

"So-called 'man flu' is often thought to result from a tendency towards hypochondria - and a need to magnify the severity of cold symptoms to gain sympathy and reassurance," said Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director at Healthspan.

"But there is in fact some evidence that men do appear to experience more severe viral symptoms than women."

In a 2015 study conducted at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, lab researchers added the female hormone estrogen to cultures of uninfected nasal cells. The treated nasal cells were then put into contact with the influenza virus.

In nasal cells taken from women, estrogen boosted resistance against infection from the flu virus - but not in nasal cells from men.

Dr Brewer added: "This suggests there is a real gender difference in the way men and women respond to colds and flu. Men may really experience worse nasal symptoms (stuffiness, soreness, runniness, sinusitis) than women when they have a viral infection."


The study also found two-thirds of us tend to fall ill once we switch off a little, or take a break from work.

Stress can have a harmful effect on immunity. Especially at the end of a period of stress, you are more likely to get sick as your cortisol levels drop.

"The body switches from the 'fight or flight' reaction to a 'rest and digest' response and the high level of immune vigilance is relaxed," Dr Brewer said.

"This is why you experience a flare-up of existing conditions such as migraine or cold sores, and increased susceptibility to cold viruses."

She added: "Mums are often on the front line when it comes to the family's illnesses and, due to time pressures and putting others first, are often poor at looking after themselves.

"Prevention is key and it's important for mums to look after themselves by boosting their immunity to help prevent common illnesses as much as possible."

Dr Brewer said she 'swears by' pelargonium - a flowering plant that is very popular in homeopathic medicine practices and has been found to fight bacteria and viruses, as well as stimulate the immune system.

It is often an ingredient in herbal cough syrups but can be taken in the form of a liquid extract.

Although natural, it is not advised for children under 12 years old.


Dr Brewer gave her top tips to make sure you avoid getting sick as the weather changes.

1. Avoid smoking and air-borne pollutants which damage the linings of your airwaves and suppress your natural defenses against cold viruses.

2. Get regular exercise, but avoid over-training as excess stress has a direct immune-dampening effect.

3. Get sufficient rest - people who sleep for less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to develop symptoms on exposure to a cold virus than those who regularly sleep for eight hours or more.

4. Stay warm and cozy - chilling constricts nasal blood flow and reduces local immunity. Getting too cold can triple your chance of developing symptoms when exposed to a cold virus.

5. Encourage kids to wash their hands properly - using soap and rubbing all over the skin area for at least 20 seconds.

6. Wipe down door handles regularly. Another good strategy is to use anti-viral tissues with substances such as vitamin C, which kills 99 per cent of cold and flu viruses within 15 minutes.

7. Boost your diet by taking multivitamins and minerals to help to guard against micronutrient deficiencies. This is particularly important for older people. Research has shown that those taking multivitamins for one year had better immune function, mounted a better response to influenza vaccination, and had half as many days ill with infections compared with those not taking multivitamin supplements.