Feeling cold causing colds?
Anyone who has lived through a winter (even an Australian winter) knows we are more likely to get sick in these chilly months. But why is this the case? Whenever anyone walks in the rain they think; damn, now I’m going to get a cold! Or when I leave the house without a coat my mum yells; “You’ll catch a cold!” So does exposure to cold weather really cause colds? What does the science have to say?
Woman sick in bed pixaby
The biggest culprit- Germs:
It’s actually a very common misconception that cold weather alone causes colds. It doesn’t. Germs are the actually the biggest culprits. So why are we more likely to get sick in winter? We’re indoors much more. Being inside increases your likelihood of getting sick, due to a few main reasons.
Germs are more likely to survive in dry air (rather than moist air outside) and the confinement of rooms increases likelihood you’ll be exposed to these germs. Germs lurk around on keyboards, doorknobs, sinks- you name it- so the more exposure you have to items inside the more likelihood you’ll get sick.
Does the cold contribute at all?
The germs are stronger:
So you’re probably thinking- does the cold air contribute at all to the likelihood of getting sick? The answer is yes, it does. Firstly, the flu virus transmits faster in cold weather. The lipid coating of the virus becomes tougher when its colder, which makes the virus more resilient and active, increasing the likelihood of infection.
Close up view of bacteria by AJCI Fliqr
Your immune system is weaker:
On top of the virus being stronger in the cold weather, you’re weaker. When it’s cold, your immune system works much more slowly. This could be due to the fact that people are more likely to be inside during winter, leading to lack of Vitamin D exposure. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is essential for immune defence activation. According to a study done at Yale University, in cold temperatures cells are less likely to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) to inhibit the spread to the virus.
A winters day by petalouda62 fliqr
So how can we use this information to avoid getting sick next winter?
-The golden rule is keep it clean. One of the most important and effective tools in keeping colds at bay is good old hand washing for at least 10 seconds with soap.
-Don’t touch your lips, eyes, nose or face.
-Eating probiotics can also speed up your immune system, so foods such as kimchi and yoghurt can be beneficial during the winter.
-Open your windows and get air circulating inside, to decrease the chance airborne particles are circulating your room.
Stay well this winter, but as well as putting your NorthFace jacket on and staying in front of the fire, remember handwashing is just as important!