I recently cut my finger fairly deeply with a box cutter and had to have it stitched. During the healing process I contracted a strong cold/mild flu (a sore throat and runny nose with a high fever, aches and shivering). I doubt the two have anything to do with one another apart from happening to occur at the same time.

But they did occur at the same time. So I'm wondering: what is my body going to do?

If I recall my junior high biology, a cut is healed by platelets and [other stuff I can't recall], whereas a virus is fought with antibodies. Presumably in both cases it's a bit more complicated than just that. I'm also not sure if there is any crossover - are antibodies, for example, needed to protect the open wound from bacterial infection? Regardless, my question is:

Since the resources in the human body are finite, would having to fight off the cold have a detrimental effect on the healing of the cut?

If certain resources are needed for both tasks, would the body divide its resources or give one precedence over the other?

I'm guessing this is not something that is easy to measure, since it would be difficult to conduct a control experiment given the insane amount of variables. But presumably there is a consensus in the biological community on whether there would be an effect, even if it is not possible to determine the degree of said effect.

I should mention in closing that I am not remotely worried about any of this; it just piqued my curiosity.


1 Answer 1


First of all: No, there is no connection between these two incidents, correlation does not imply a causation. Cold and flu viruses affect the respiratory system and the infection route goes via it. A cut is a local wound, which does not affect the respiratory tract.

Then: Recovering from an infection is a task for the immune system (its both, the innate and the adaptive immune system, the last involves the antibodies), which is not doing much for wound healing. The wound attracts neutrophils and macrophages which are attracted by factors released by the wound and they react to bacterial infections (when they occur). See this Wikipedia article.

The ressources of a normally healthy person are quite big. This is demonstrated by the fact that many secondary infections only occur in a opportunistic fashion (for example viruses like Herpes or certain fungi) when the body is weakened by other infections. So there is a limit, but this will certainly not be reached with a severe cold.


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