Up until high school freshman year physics, I had always listened to my mom’ s advice: put a coat on or your going to get sick. Cold weather and catching the common cold always seemed to be directly related until my physics teacher claimed it was an old wives tale with little science to support it. From then on, I blindly accepted that cold weather does not lead to you getting sick and that leaving the house without a coat would only cause temporary chilliness and no other ailments would arise. Now, four years later, as a freshman in college, I am turning back to my mom’s advice as new studies are showing that the weather can very well affect your health.
Previous scientific data supported that there always seemed to be a correlation between the low-temperature seasons of fall and winter and the rise in colds, however scientists often connected it to the indoor environment that cold weather creates. Human Health Line newsletter explains that catching a rhinovirus causes the common cold and the flu is caused my contracting the influenza virus.
As temperatures drop, people are more likely to come in contact with these viruses as the cold weather pushes people inside and into closer quarters with each other. The dry air mixed with the central heating also creates an environment that these viruses can thrive in.
George Washington University research suggested that by believing that cold weather directly causes one to be sick, people are failing to identify the actual causes of catching a cold. This could result in failure to take corrective measures to avoid viruses that are hiding inside warm environments.
So what is making me re-think a belief I have held for almost four years? A recent study from Yale University has discovered that the cold weather may actually have an affect on the human body’s germ-fighting abilities. These researchers took a strain of rhinovirus that had been adjusted to affect mice and injected it into the rodents. They then monitored the airways of the mice as they were placed in environments set at several different temperatures. They found that in the cooler temperatures, the mice’s cells failed to fight infection as efficiently as they did in the warmer temperatures. At the normal body temperature, the mice’s cells reacted well, sending signals to unaffected cells to form and immune response where as the mice with lower body temperatures had a much weaker reaction from their immune system.
Now this is one study and further research would be necessary to rule out chance. However, along with this potential direct causation being researched in the Yale study, there are other correlations surrounding the rise of colds during the cold seasons. Natural News reports that cold weather can dry out your nasal passage, expelling mucus, which serves as your immune system’s first form of protection.
The take home message: Personally I hate being cold and I hate being sick therefore I will make the effort to bundle up this winter. It seems that you can’t lose by taking this measure so I would argue that throwing on an extra layer is certainly worth it.