The Common Cold, Influenza and Immunity in Post-Pandemic Times: Lay representations of Self and Other among older people in Sweden

B. Lundgren


The need for new knowledge about lay representations of contagions, immunity, vaccination, common colds, and influenza has become clear after the A(H1N1) pandemic and the resulting challenges regarding pandemic preparedness. This article analyses written responses from 67 persons, mostly women, to a semi-structured questionnaire about colds and the flu. Three themes are discussed: “Common cold and flus as ritualized experiences”, “Me, my body, and my immune defense”, and “Regulations of space, place, and behaviors.” Overall, the narratives were about trust, value, and respect in the body, in lived experiences, and in the capacity to ‘help’ and ‘nurture’ the immune system, but also about the feeling of powerlessness when perceiving inadequacies in other people’s parallel interpretations and actions. Pandemic preparedness policies need to acknowledge the multiple ‘immunity talk’ in the responses to create productive, ongoing relations with the ‘Other’, that rely on people’s trust and resilience, rather than on people´s fear.


common cold, influenza, immune system, pandemics, Sweden

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