Does Being Cold = Catching Cold?

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.

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Influenza virus.

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Rhinovirus

 

 

 

 

 

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.

2 thoughts on “Does Being Cold = Catching Cold?

  1. Brandon Ross Armitt

    This is definitely an interesting topic especially here at Penn State where it is going to get real cold real quick and people fall victim to a cold. Personally I’m not a person that gets cold so even when the weather is low 50s or high 40s, I have a tendency to where shorts or just not the right type of clothing. Even thought I don’t feel cold at all, ultimately it is making me sick, I just don’t realize until its too late . Right now I am falling victim of an awful cold that I can’t seem to get rid of. With the cold weather slowly approaching, I am starting to take better initiatives to stay healthy any way possible. Your blog is defintely good at assessing all the different studies that your talking about and coming analyzing it in your own opinion.

    Attached is a link that talks about how scientist have possibly figured out why bad weather leads to sickness: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/scientists-finally-prove-cold-weather-makes-sick/

  2. Rachel Sara Anton

    Shannon,
    I think this blog is really well done! I have never even thought about the fact that cold weathers causes people to go inside more, therefore causing more germs to circulate through a room than usual. An interesting study would be if someone did a study at a college such as Penn State to see if this is true. I feel like here, less people would go to class if it were super cold or snowing. Maybe that would actually reduce the risk of getting sick in the classroom. I think you did a really great job at showing both sides of possibilities, as well as more than one reason for the fact that cold weather causes sickness (ex. the confounding variable of gathering in warm, enclosed spaces.) Since you and I both hate the cold and hate getting sick, here is an article from WebMD with the top prevention tips for the winter!

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