In my last article I asked the question “does going outside into the cold with wet hair cause sickness?” and the results I found were lacking. However, during my research another question came up, why does it seem as though colder temperature cause sickness?
Most people consider winter “cold and flu” season, and associate cold weather with getting sick. It’s always been accepted that more people get sick in the colder months, but why? When you really think about it what’s different in the winter? The only reasonable response I can think of is that having a decreased body temperature possibly causes a decrease in the power of our immune system.
I found a study where 180 volunteers were randomly split into 2 groups, a control group and a variable group, and the variable group was to put their feet in cold water to lower their body temperature a few times a day and the other group did nothing. They were then to go about their daily lives. The results showed that after about a week twice the amount of people in the chilled feet group reported that they caught a cold compared to the control group. Source
I think this is an interesting study because it deals with lowered body temperature, but doesn’t actually force cold bacteria on the patients rather it lets the world take its natural course to see if they’d get sick. However, 180 people are a very small study and this could just be coincidence.
Another theory I found states that “when your body gets chilled the blood vessels in the nose and throat constrict. These same vessels deliver infection-fighting white blood cells, so if fewer white blood cells reach the nose and throat your defenses against a cold virus are lowered for a short time. When your hair dries off or you go indoors your body warms up again, your blood vessels dilate, and the white blood cells continue to fight the virus. But by then it could be too late and the virus might have had enough time to replicate and trigger the symptoms.” Source
So what this means is that if you already have the virus in your system, but no symptoms because your body is working to fight them off, and suddenly your body temperature drops then your body isn’t receiving enough white blood vessels to fight the infection and you’re more likely to become sick. If this theory is tested more, then I am pretty happy with my hypothesis, but there is still little evidence backing it.
I’m surprised that my research didn’t come up with any concrete answeres or larger scale experiments, I feel as though this is something that would help every human who deals with the cold and could help save a lot of hardship and money.