College is a time in life where going out at night in the winter does not call for a parka, gloves, a hat and scarf. “Frackets” are a phenomenon that I have never heard of before coming to Penn State. I suppose being warm is outdated, or everyone is just afraid of their nice coats being stolen. It is all understandable, but everyone tends to blame their annual winter cold on putting themselves through the agony of the frigid weather. My roommate has convinced herself that the pneumonia she acquired last semester was 100% a result of her duct tape Halloween costume that left her body without much protection on that late October night. Most people have probably heard from their grandparents or an elder: “You better wear a scarf and a hat or you’ll catch a cold!”
I usually don’t speak up when I hear this discussion, but in my head I always question if being cold actually does make you ill. It has always sounded ridiculous to me.
First I thought about the things I already know.
#1. A cold is a virus
#2. Viruses come from germs
My mom always used to tell me that “being cold doesn’t give you a cold”, but she also mentioned that the cold weather weakens your immune system.
So maybe being cold just leaves your body in a more vulnerable position to catch a cold? I have always had a lot of questions that I hope to answer for myself and everyone else within this blog.
After doing some research, I learned that colds are most definitely only caused by viruses, which derive from germs. In order to get this virus, you must come in contact with these germs. Illness is more common in the winter because people are more frequently inside, and not getting as much fresh air. According to a CNN article about cold weather and colds, Dr. Sorana Segal- Maurer says that when the air is dry and cold, people are more at risk of catching viruses due to dry mucosa. I have never heard of mucosa before but apparently it is located in the backs of our throats and sinuses. When it is dry and cold out, the mucosa is also dry and more vulnerable towards viruses.
In another article I found that cold weather weakens the nose’s immune defense. According to a team of Yale scientists, cold weather makes it harder to fight off infection. They conducted an experiment on mice, where rodents were infected with a strain of the cold virus and then tested the cells lining their airways to see if different temperatures affected the mice’s ability to fight it off. A conclusion was made that colder temperatures resulted in a weaker immune response, or more prone to infection.
Moreover, I think I had the right idea that the cold weather does not form a cold virus. However, there are factors in the colder months that contribute to the more frequent attainment of viruses. It is probably a smart idea to bundle up in the winter, but more so to protect from frostbite than viruses!